What's ahead for Clint Hurdle? A look at the Pirates' future
Could things get worse for the Pirates? Clint Hurdle is about to find out
New manager is excited for opportunity; let's check back in six months
What baffling moves will Pirates make? How many games will Pittsburgh lose?
The Pittsburgh Pirates hired Clint Hurdle as their manager on Monday.
In case you can't handle the suspense, here's how this one will play out:
November 15, 2010: At his introductory news conference Hurdle coveys all the optimism of ... John Russell. And Jim Tracy. And Lloyd McClendon. And Gene Lamont. And every other fool delusional enough to have previously accepted the gig.
"This was about taking an opportunity that felt sure and fit right," Hurdle said. "I felt comfortable with the people I was going to get after the job with. ... I'm proud to be a Pirate, and we're not going to back down from anybody."
The organization hires Joan Herz, long-suffering Pirate fan/certified sign language interpreter, to convey Hurdle's words to the deaf. Her translation: "I had no other offers. This job pays more than being a hitting coach. I've always dreamed of working with Lastings Milledge. If we win 70 games next season I'll be deemed a genius. Does anyone have some Skittles?"
November 16, 2010: Good news: On the day after Hurdle's press conference, the phone lines at PNC Park light up. Bad news: Ninety-nine percent of the callers are checking in to confirm they still don't care.
December 1, 2010: To show that the new Pittsburgh Pirates are indeed players once again, GM Neal Huntington tells the Post-Gazette's Bill Brink that "We are in serious negotiations to sign Lee."
December 2, 2010: Pittsburgh's 313,819 residents are shocked to pick up the Post-Gazette and see the headline: CLIFF LEE COMING TO PITTSBURGH. Huntington calls Brink and chews him out. "Where did you get that from?" he screams.
December 3, 2010: The Pirates hold a press conference to introduce Travis Lee. Though Lee hasn't picked up a bat since attending spring training with the Washington Nationals in 2007, Huntington insists the tide is turning. "Travis Lee is a proven middle-of-the-lineup presence," he says. "If you guys loved Randall Simon at first base, wait until you get a load of this guy!"
December 6, 2010: Making their second free-agent splash in three days, the Pirates agree to a two-year, $6 million deal with catcher Matt Treanor and a five-year, $18 million deal with infielder Melvin Mora. "We're not done dealing," Huntington says, "until we get a top-of-the-rotation arm."
December 19, 2010: Calling it "an historic offseason for this franchise and this city," Huntington proudly introduces pitchers Freddy Garcia and Sergio Mitre to the media. "Behind these two horses," he tells the three assembled reporters, "we'll definitely throw the ball every day."
Garcia uses the occasion to announce his retirement.
January 1, 2011: Inspired by the 2008 signings of Indian cricket players Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, both of whom are now showing definite signs of one day possibly maybe perhaps being good enough to contribute to the bullpen of a second-tier injury-depleted Golden Baseball League club, Huntington announces that the organization is assigning the first scout in baseball history to the nation of Liechtenstein. "It's only 62 square miles," Huntington says. "But it's 62 square miles of potential."
January 10, 2011: The Pirates sign Baron Eduard Oleg Aleksandrovich, the most famous athlete in Liechtenstein history, to a four-year contract. "He's raw," Huntington says, "but the potential is limitless." Only later do the Pirates learn Aleksandrovich died 43 years ago.
April 7, 2010: Having kicked off the season with six straight road losses, the Pirates draw 32,000 fans to their home opener with Jermaine Allensworth Bobblehead Doll Night. They lose, 20-2.
April 9, 2010: All 32,000 Jermaine Allensworth Bobblehead Dolls are recalled after the Post-Gazette reports that they were made from Chinese toxic dry wall components. Huntington apologizes and announces that the May 10 game against the Dodgers will be free. "All fans are welcomed," he said. "We can't wait to see you!"
May 10, 2010: 7,321 spectators storm PNC Park. The Pirates lose, 14-3. It is the second largest crowd of the season.
May 18, 2010: Travis Lee hits his fourth home run, raising his average to .123. In Baltimore, Cliff Lee wins his eighth game for the Yankees, dropping his ERA to 1.23.
June 2, 2010: With the Pirates 52 games out of first place, Huntington trades Jose Tabata, the 22-year-old outfielder, to the Mets for pitchers John Maine, Sean Green and a six-pack of Cherry Coke Zero. Questioned as to why he'd make such a move, Huntington replied, "We project Jose to be a star one day. And I love Cherry Coke Zero."
Asked to elaborate, Huntington starts quacking.
June 3, 2010: Huntington is granted an extended leave of absence. No explanation is given.
July 2, 2010: The Post-Gazette announces that it will no longer assign a beat writer to the Pirates. "John Oates is rumored to be moving to the Pittsburgh area in the coming weeks," publisher John Robinson Block writes in an editorial. "We do not have the manpower to cover both stories."
September 28, 2010: The Pirates wrap up the season with a 4-1 win at Milwaukee -- their 53rd triumph of the season. Maine improves to 1-13 with the win, leading Hurdle to boast, "This kid has a lot of guts! I can't wait for next year!"
September 29, 2010: The Kansas City Royals ask permission to speak to Hurdle about their open bullpen catcher position. He accepts the job before an offer is extended. "I loved managing in Pittsburgh," he says. "But the opportunity to work alongside Trey Hillman doesn't come along every day."
Informed the Royals are actually managed by Ned Yost, Hurdle grimaces. "Dude," he says, "just get me the hell out of here."
Jeff Pearlman can be reached at email@example.com. Check out his blog at jeffpearlman.com