Last November, I wrote that Clint Hurdle had accepted "the worst job in America" when he was hired to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates. I stated, "It's a job even Mike Rowe wouldn't want."
Well, managing the Pirates might turn out to be the best job Hurdle ever had.
Last night, the Pirates beat the Houston Astros (who as it happens own the worst record in MLB) 7-3. This gives the Bucs a 34-33 record. It is the latest point in a season they have been above .500 since 1999. The Pirates have not enjoyed a winning season since 1992 when they won the NL East only to be beaten in the NLCS by the Atlanta Braves and Sid Bream's mad dash to home.
As of this writing, the Pirates are only four games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. Of course, a lot can happen between now and October but if the Pirates continue to play like this people will start showing up at PNC Park on a regular basis. It's been a long time since the Pirates have been in a pennant race.
This isn't to say Pittsburgh has been wanting for a winner. In recent years, the Penguins have won a Stanley Cup and the Steelers have won two Super Bowls (and this past winter fell short of winning a third). Still, professional baseball in Pittsburgh dates back to 1882 when they were known as the Alleghenys. A winning season for the Pirates might be more cause for celebration than a Super Bowl title and a Stanley Cup. (Well, given that I am eagerly awaiting information as to when the Stanley Cup parade is going to take place in Boston, I might be slightly exagerating.) Nevertheless, should the Pirates finish above .500 then look for Clint Hurdle to be named NL Manager of the Year. If that doesn't earn him that honor then nothing will.
UPDATE: This afternoon, the Pirates improved their record to 35-33 with a 5-4 win over the Astros, sweeping them at home. Tomorrow, the Bucs commence interleague play when they travel to Cleveland to play an Indians team that has come back down to earth after a good start.