Bucs’ Hurdle on hot seat? Vegas says yes

PITTSBURGH — Clint Hurdle’s future as Pirates manager seems to have suddenly become a topic for conversation.

Last week a Las Vegas betting site established odds on the first manager to be fired this season. It had Hurdle as the favorite.

That seems to make no sense. The Pirates had one bad year after three trips to the postseason. Last year’s failure was caused by the collapse of their starting pitching and the prolonged absence of two big bats from the middle of the order.

Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang disappointed, but that had nothing to do with managerial decisions.

Hurdle can be a handful. A guy who mass e-mails a daily inspirational message that closes, “Love, Clint” is sometimes very dismissive when he’s asked a question he doesn’t like. Some of his strategic decisions can be debated, but that’s true of any manager.

The Pirates aren’t going to fire Hurdle. Would he leave voluntarily?

Maybe. This is the last year of his contract, although there’s an option for 2018.

This is the seventh Pirates season for Hurdle, who turns 60 in July. He was fired during his eighth season with the Colorado Rockies.

Clearly, Hurdle is nearing the end of his managerial career. More than ever, it’s a young man’s game. The time commitment required is significant. Because of 24-hour sports talk and social media, there’s more heat than ever.

Would Hurdle walk away from managing, or just walk away from managing the Pirates?

There are special circumstances in Pittsburgh. The possibility of finding a job with a team that has a bigger budget might be tempting. Of course, that’s a crap shoot. Who knows what jobs might open?

This could all be settled if the Pirates offered an extension and Hurdle accepted it. Ten years seems about right for a manager. Much more than that, and things tend to get stale.

Chuck Tanner managed the Pirates for nine seasons. Jim Leyland stayed for 11. Could Hurdle sign for three more years, which would give him 10 in Pittsburgh and take him to age 63?

That might be a possibility. Hurdle’s getting fired by the Pirates this season is not.

Let it snow

Opening day was a miserable experience for the people who paid their way into PNC Park.

It was cold, it was windy, and it was unpleasant, even for those bundled in parkas under blankets.

That’s the risk of starting the season so early, but MLB has no choice. To cram in 162 games and leave room for a World Series that might run until November, that’s when the season has to begin.

Reducing the length of the season isn’t viable because revenue would be lost. Starting in warm weather cities or domed stadiums doesn’t work, either.

The Pirates opened the 1984 season with an extended trip through the west coast and St. Louis. They came home 3-7, which killed a lot of whatever buzz might have been attached to the home opener.

April is erratic. Friday’s game was played in winter weather. Today’s conditions will approximate summer.

Reportedly there was vigorous debate in the Pirates’ bunker over whether to play on Friday. Making good on 36,000 rain checks is a major headache.

So they played. It wasn’t good for anybody, but it was the choice of least resistance.

Playoffs, finally

The Penguins can beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in their playoff series, even without Kris Letang.

The real issue is how healthy the Penguins might be after a bruising opening series.

The toll from games against the Blue Jackets might show up in subsequent rounds.

No news

What was the biggest non-news story of the week, Ben Roethlisberger’s coming back, or Barry Manilow’s coming out?

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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