The Pirates created quite a news splash yesterday afternoon, and I had been expecting as much. But not the grand gesture that was announced: Barry Bonds, Jim Leyland, Dick Groat and Jack Wilson will at PNC Park on opening day (Monday) to present awards to Andrew McCutchen, Clint Hurdle and Pedro Alvarez.
That is a tremendous move by the Pirates and a real treat for those attending the game, as well as those being honored. Fans in attendance will be in charge of determining what kind of reception Bonds receives -- a topic that is bound to be discussed to near-death in the next 48 hours.
The news I was expecting to hear was some word on the contractual status of Hurdle, who will receive his Manger-of-the-Year award Monday, and general manager Neal Huntington. Both have contracts that expire at the end of the 2014 season. The Pirates hold options for 2015.
Considering the work done by both men in elevating the franchise over the past several years, there should be no question about extensions. Huntington, in fact, received a prior extension, the one he's currently working under, for a body of work that was far less celebrated.
When no word about extensions came throughout the winter, I assumed the Pirates were waiting for the opening of spring training. But spring training has come and gone without a word.
It’s unlikely the Pirates would upstage opening day, as well as the return of Bonds, Leyland, Groat and Wilson, by making the announcement Monday.
The failure to extend Hurdle is particularly peculiar. His original contract was set to expire after the 2013 season. But in February of that year, the team extended his deal one year and at the same time extended its 2014 option to 2015. But the Pirates are now some six weeks past the point when they extended Hurdle in 2013.
What’s to be gained by waiting?
The possibility exists Hurdle and Huntington already have been extended and the Pirates chose to keep it a secret, but considering the outrage the last time that happened, such a strategy is not likely. In June of 2010, team president Frank Coonelly famously announced he had extended manager John Russell and Huntington the previous October.
It’s easy to say, what’s the big deal. But it is rare for a manager who has had any degree of success to enter a season as what amounts to a lame duck. Hurdle’s work has been such that there should be no doubt about his extension. If the decision hasn’t been made by now, who’s to say it won’t be made by the end of April. And if the Pirates get off to a poor start, Hurdle’s status might not be so inconsequential.