On Joe Maddon and Clint Hurdle
This past weekend, a new free agent came on to the baseball market and vaulted to the top of many teams’ lists. He’s not a player; rather, it was Joe Maddon, the ex-manager of the Tampa Rays. Maddon became available when the new Tampa GM, Matt Silverman, brought to Maddon’s attention that there was a clause in his contract that allowed him to opt out if (now former) GM Andrew Friedman left the Tampa organization.
Maddon took the opt out and is going to gauge his worth on the open market. That led to 29 other GM’s either asking out loud or just thinking internally about the same question:
Is Joe Maddon an upgrade over our current coach?
Immediately the speculation started that Andrew Friedman, in his new position of President of Baseball Operations for the L.A. Dodgers, would bring Joe Maddon in and relieve embattled coach Don Mattingly of his position. However, Friedman quickly squashed those rumors. Supposedly, Maddon’s agent (Alen Nero) has said that up to 10 teams have contacted him to gauge interest in bringing Maddon on as coach for 2015. With only the Twins having an open position (Maddon’s not going there), that means that some team is going to can a manager who was expecting to fill out the lineup card on Opening Day 2015.
Which brings me back to the question two paragraphs ago. Is Joe Maddon an upgrade over Clint Hurdle? Considering that I think that Joe Maddon is the top coach in the game, my answer would be “yes”. Tactically, Maddon is top of the line. He’s also a real eccentric personality that helps keep the clubhouse loose. Remember readers, poor people are crazy and rich people are eccentric.
Setting aside the fact that Maddon is seeking a 5 year/$25M deal, which the Pirates would never do for a coach, I still don’t think I would cast Clint Hurdle aside for Maddon. That may be surprising to some, considering that I am not a fan of Hurdle’s in-game management decisions at times, but Clint Hurdle has something special going with this team right now.
I find Hurdle’s press conferences and interviews to be chock-full of patronizing, folksy anecdotes and phrases. I think his over-reliance on bunts and strange bullpen usage is baffling.
But he has the respect of that locker room. He’s a player’s manager that has their backs through trials and tribulations. He stuck with Jordy Mercer during his dreadful April. He stuck with Pedro Alvarez at 3B far longer than any human should have endured. He gutted it out on a hip that was so painful to watch by the end of the season — his peg leg gait reminded of an actual pirate, he just needed a parrot on his shoulder — but was emblematic of the team’s resiliency this year.
There’s also something to be said for Hurdle presiding over two consecutive winning seasons and two consecutive playoff appearances. Yes, if I was feeling extra mean I could say that Hurdle also presided over two epic collapses in 2011 and 2012, but now is not the time for that.
If the timeline was reversed and the Pirates were coming off two consecutive losing seasons, replete with epic collapses, I would be lobbying quite hard (and quite quixotically) for Joe Maddon. But this is Hurdle’s team until further notice. As infuriating as he can be, he’s earned the right to manage this team.