Dear Clint Hurdle,
This Pirates fan just wants to thank you for the delight you brought to Pittsburgh this year with the help of that guy in dreadlocks, the one with all the tattoos, the various players who need translators and that really good-looking dude who used to play first.
Like so many others around here, I waited patiently for 21 years for a season like this. Actually, I guess I was more patient than most.
Unlike most of the fans I know, I never threatened actual harm to any present or former owners of the team -- I may have dreamt of it, but never uttered anything menacing, on the advice of attorneys who reminded me I'm still on probation from that time I verbally accosted a Little League coach's wife when her husband put his own son in front of mine in the leadoff spot. (I mean, jeez, mine had an on-base percentage in the .700s, which Starling Marte can only fantasize about.)
I have read that you realize how passionately we Pittsburghers take our sports, by virtue of all the reactions you get at Starbucks and elsewhere when running errands. Unfortunately, I've never run into you at Starbucks, probably because drinking their beverages regularly would eat up about half of my income.
I've been hanging out regularly in their parking lots, however, hoping to catch a glimpse of you so we can high-five one another. I also wanted to provide you some bubble gum so you won't ever have to worry about running out in the dugout.
The only problem with this strategy is -- and you may not realize it -- there are a lot of freakin' Starbucks! So I've been to about 55 in the Pittsburgh area without seeing you, and if you could specify which one I can show up at to have a spontaneous, unplanned encounter where I startle you as you get into your vehicle, that would be helpful.
I attended about 20 games this year, and I can't say I agree with every tactical decision you made, but I can't really expect you to be as smart as fans who have been watching Pirates baseball a lot longer than you. So I give you a pass, more or less, on things like leaving the struggling starting pitcher in the game too long one night and yanking him too early the next.
Yes, you should be absolutely right every single time without exception, but we're all fallible human beings -- with baseball managers just more fallible than everyone else except meteorologists and NFL offensive coordinators.
The more impressive thing is how you relate to and motivate the players. It may not show up in a box score or be chartable by sabermetricians, but I'd wager it's of huge value to the team's steady rise under your leadership.
You tell them to "shower off" after a loss, and so they do, and the clubhouse and everything else smells better for it, encouraging the team to win the next day. "Don't use the rearview mirror," you tell them after another loss, and so they don't (which is the way a lot of Pittsburghers drive, which I'm guessing is how you came up with the expression).
But more than anything, it's that upbeat, positive, come-back-tomorrow-and-do-better enthusiasm you have that's so darned appealing. We haven't always followed that mantra here in Pittsburgh, where people tend to focus on the negative, like questioning our mayor's conduct just because he's never seen publicly, has a history of embarrassing incidents, and everyone who has ever worked for or dated him has been summoned before a grand jury.
My son and I were at the playoff victory over the Cardinals, and we were among 40,000-plus individuals with Hurdle-style smiles on our faces on a night we will not soon forget, for which I will long be grateful to you.
My optimism led me to purchase a snorkeling mask like all you players and coaches wear during clubhouse Champagne celebrations. I wanted to be sure to protect my eyes for future television viewing right on up through the World Series after I bought a case of Dom Perignon to spray and waste, figuring that's what you guys also use in the clubhouse. In retrospect, that $2,000 expenditure may have been excessive.
But I am not mad at you for losing to the Cardinals. It was the greatest of seasons to be a fan.
I am happy to shower off along with you (please don't take that the wrong way) and look ahead to 2014, with or without the tattooed guy and the good-looking one. Just be sure to bring back the dude with the dreadlocks.pirates - intelligencer
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255. First Published October 13, 2013 8:00 PM