Considering his historically futile Pittsburgh Pirates now boast the best record in baseball, riding a nine-game winning streak to 51-30, please allow manager Clint Hurdle to wax philosophical about his achievement.
Hurdle talks to the Morning Show crew about appreciating success when it is happening, contextualizing the Buc’s play within their tradition of sub-.500 finishes, and ensuring they don’t get ahead of themselves.
“They are good times, and you need to enjoy the journey,” he told Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney, and Dana Jacobson. “I think too many times in sports in life we get caught up in the head-down, go-hard, and we don’t acknowledge the successes and the wins we have along the way. So we’ve been representative of that.”
The skipper’s entire Pittsburgh tenure has been leading up to this moment.
In each of his first two seasons with the Pirates, Hurdle’s team has taken a winning record into the second half, only to tumble back down into the loser’s ranks.
For an organization used to being labeled a laughingstock, this was a cruel joke. But while Hurdle recognizes where the Pirates have come from, he does not buy into that heritage himself.
“I’ve only been a part of the losing two years here, so I’m not going to take any credit for the 18 years,” he quips. “I think you honor it; I definitely honor the angst of the fan base, the challenges that have been here. I think you need to pay attention to that because we have some very passionate fans—borderline fanatical fans—and they’ve had to endure more the most.”
But a portion of what they’ve had to endure did come on Hurdle’s watch—that glimpse of respectability that was untimely snatched away.
Over the last two seasons, Pittsburgh has put up a .543 winning percentage before the All-Star break. In the second half, that mark has dropped to .376, and the Pirates have dropped out of playoff contention.
“We need to be focused on what we need to do today to improve our team, to play a game tonight, to put us in a position to win, and just keep that attitude,” Hurdle emphasizes, taking the focus off the past and future alike.
“I think our fans over the past two years have kind of come to understand that: we’re going to play in the moment. We’ll acknowledge the history—and if you don’t learn from it, you’re going to repeat it—but we feel we put ourselves in a very competitive place to start new history, which is much more important.”
One thing Hurdle credits for the shift in this franchise’s mentality is the cultivation of a cohesive talent base under his leadership.
“We’ve been talking about it for three years,” he explains. “The core group that’s been here for three years—I think they’ve bought in. It’s much easier to play the game when you play the game today. You don’t replay the game yesterday. You don’t worry about the game tomorrow. And it’s easy to say; it’s challenging to do.”
“But to truly be great, you need to be uncommon, you don’t need to be common,” he adds. “And that’s what we’re challenging our men here to do, is to be uncommon—to really ride this thing out one day at a time.”
“Show up today, get a little bit better today, do whatever’s asked for the ball club today to help us win a game. We’ll take care of tomorrow when it gets here.”