Hurdle proud of progress, stung by finish

Hurdle proud of progress, stung by finish

PITTSBURGH -- You can't sugarcoat it. Not that Clint Hurdle ever tried. But when you remove the gray of the Pirates' progress, leaving only the black-and-white of their finish, Hurdle admitted "Yes, yes," this is the toughest-to-take finish of his decade as a Major League manager.

"I'm not happy with the finish at all," said Hurdle, whose midseason contenders broke the tape with a sub-.500 record. "I don't think you can just walk away from all that we were able to accomplish, but we continue to demand a lot of ourselves. Winning something of value, some tangible evidence -- a championship, a division. A playoff opportunity."

Hurdle alluded to the Pirates' image improving in Major League circles; "street cred," he called it.

"We're striving for excellence, not looking for external acceptance," Hurdle said. "But the conversations I've had with opposing players and managers ... in their perception, we're gaining traction."

The sum of the 2012 Pirates' positive parts definitely did not add up to a satisfactory whole.

"The pitching, overall, continued to evolve in a much better fashion,"said Hurdle, running down his top takeaways. "The increased power. In the bullpen, we had our men go post to post.

"Individually ... the emergence of [Andrew] McCutchen, [Neil] Walker was about to have his breakout season [until herniating a disc in late August], [Pedro] Alvarez became a factor. [Garrett] Jones had a strong bounce-back season."