Tag:John Russell
Posted on: November 22, 2010 6:23 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2010 8:48 am

Randolph could complete O's staff

Orioles manager Buck Showalter is still one coach shy of a complete staff, and the Baltimore Sun reports that the team is trying to reach agreement with former Mets manager Willie Randolph.

Randolph spent last season as bench coach for the Brewers. He would serve as bench coach or third-base coach with the Orioles, with former Pirates manager John Russell reportedly set to take the spot Randolph doesn't.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: October 4, 2010 11:40 am
Edited on: October 4, 2010 12:14 pm

It's official, Pirates fire Russell

The Pirates have made it official, firing manager John Russell, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 's Dejan Kovacevic tweets .
Late Saturday night, Kovacevic reported the firing would happen today, and now it has.

Russell was 186-299 in three years with the Pirates.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Category: MLB
Posted on: October 3, 2010 1:23 am
Edited on: October 3, 2010 3:16 pm

Report: Pirates to fire Russell, keep Huntington

John Russell The Pirates will reportedly fired manager John Russell, while keeping general manager Neal Huntington, although both are under contract through 2011.

Citing "several internal sources," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 's Dejan Kovacevic writes the decisions "should become known early this week."

It's just another example of a team firing the manager, when it doesn't really matter. Managers make for cheap and easy scapegoats. Russell saw this coming the day he took the job.

It's not like the love child of Connie Mack and John McGraw conceived in a test tube belonging to Tony La Russa could have done much better with the roster Russell was given, but that's just the way the game works.

The Pirates go into the final day of the season with a 57-103 record and are 186-298 in the last three seasons, all under the guidance of Russell and Huntington.

Not that either Huntington or Russell are blameless, but the ownership group has famously used its money to pad its pockets, rather than try to put the best product on the field. But even though fellow owners don't like the likes of the Nutting family just taking its revenue sharing money, the owners who do care about winning like seeing the Pirates on their schedule and know they don't have to worry about them. No matter who is fired or hired, while there are owners like the Nuttings in Pittsburgh and David Glass in Kansas City, baseball will continue to have its patsies always available to play their part as the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters of the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals of MLB.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 23, 2010 3:20 pm

Skipper John Russell hopes to stay

Manager John Russell isn't exactly one of the more successful managers in Pittsburgh's tenure, having overseen a Bucs club that finished with a 67-95 and 62-99 mark the last two seasons, respectively.

And given there are just two losses to 100 with 11 games to go, it's almost certain the Pirates will set a new low in wins under Russell and new GM Neal Huntington's tenure. The front office isn't happy about it, and Russell's future in a Pirates uniform is hazy at best.

But Russell wants to stay, feeling that the Pirates are closer to contention now than when he joined the team for the 2008 season and summarily lost virtually all of his starting players by the end of 2009.

"It's not a matter of 'if' but a matter of 'when,' and it's closer than a lot of people think," Russell told MLB.com . "Absolutely, I want to be here. I would like to be here, because I've watched it grow. Whether I'm here or anybody else is here, it's going to happen."

It's highly unlikely the Pirates can engineer a "worst-to-first" phenomenon like the 2007-08 Rays pulled off, but there are intriguing youngsters on the offense. If they can just find some pitching in trades or free agency (their high-level pitching prospects are years away), a run at .500 is very possible in 2011.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 3, 2010 10:52 am
Edited on: September 3, 2010 12:23 pm

Pirates president unhappy with team

Paul Maholm There could be a regime change in Pittsburgh, as a projected 109-loss season stares the Pirates in the face.

"I have been extremely disappointed in the team's performance,'' president Frank Coonelly told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "We are evaluating every aspect of our operation in order to determine how we can get the club moving in the right direction immediately."

That includes assessing the work of GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell, two with contracts through 2011.

The Pirates certainly expected a losing season in 2010, but not one that could be the team's worst since 1953, when the team went 50-104 for a .325 winning percentage. Pittsburgh is currently at 44-89 with a .331 winning percentage.

The team has an intriguing future ahead, with Andrew McCutchen manning center field, Jose Tabata in left and power-hitter Pedro Alvarez at the hot corner. Second baseman Neil Walker has also turned heads, but their decrepit offense still ranks near-last in the majors, thanks to the incoming rookies adjusting to big-league ball and some disappointing seasons by young veterans such as Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge.

The pitching, on the other hand... is just as bad as the hitting. When a 4.07 ERA is the lowest of any starting pitcher with at least 11 starts, you know you're in trouble. No. a 4.07 ERA isn't terrible for Ross Ohlendorf, but it shouldn't be the best on the team. Speaking of the minimum 11 starts, Charlie Morton has exactly that number of starts with an unsightly 10.03 ERA attached to it. Nice.

"While we have made tremendous progress executing a sound plan to overhaul a broken system and return this once-proud franchise to its tradition of winning baseball, we have only one benchmark by which we measure ourselves and that is wins and losses at the Major League level," Coonelly adds. "By that benchmark, we have badly underachieved."

This is where things diverge between Coonelly and common sense. The last several seasons have featured a mass exodus of quality players -- players like Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Capps and Nyjer Morgan. (Although, at this point, Morgan may be addition by subtraction ). 

No, these players weren't enough to get the Bucs to .500, but they certainly didn't exactly hurt the goal of .500 either. To dump all these players and replace them with fringe major-league veterans plus a bevy of prospects doesn't instantly translate to wins. A large number of these prospects either didn't pan out or are still in the minors, which was expected. Those that have reached the majors yet haven't produced instant results, but despite the sheer talent of NL rookies who have entered the bigs this year, rookies tend to have a learning curve. Is it any surprise, then, that the young major-leaguers have underperformed who they are replacing?

No, not really. So additional losses shouldn't have been a surprise. It's only when you go from a 95-loss team to a 105-plus loss team that it really crystallizes just how awful a team is.

"Our sole focus is determining why that is the case and making the decisions necessary to achieve our goal of giving Pirate fans winning baseball again as quickly as possible. '

As for the fates of Huntington and Russell, their culpability is less than clear. Huntington has done a fine job at building up a stable of prospects but also making a few curious moves. The Jason Bay mega-deal was a failure, as Brandon Moss nor Andy LaRoche have helped the team, while Bryan Morris is 23 and stuck in Double-A. Yes, Morris still has a chance to help, but even if he cracks the bigs as a solid starter or reliever one day, the return for Bay remains poor. In addition, the head-scratching move to dump Matt Capps in the offseason has completely blown up in Huntington's face as has the odd trade of Gorzelanny to the Cubs.

So no, Huntington hasn't been perfect. But he hasn't been awful, either. He has cobbled together strong drafts since joining Pittsburgh in October 2007 and is in the process of infusing the team with exciting young players. Other than Ohlendorf and Tabata, however, no external acquisition has worked out yet.

The judgment for Russell is less certain, and it seems all but a done deal that his head will roll after the season. After all, the manager is always the first to go. Huntington will likely get one more year to prove himself, but that's all he'll get -- so you may see a more aggressive general manager making moves in the winter.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: August 9, 2010 2:58 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2010 2:59 pm

Pirates fire two coaches for disloyalty

John Russell When pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and bench coach Gary Varsho were fired Sunday, manager John Russell was emphatic that it was his decision.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 's Dejan Kovacevic reports , it was indeed Russell's decision, fully backed by GM Neal Huntington.

The firings happened because of disloyalty to the manager, although Russell would not confirm specifics. Players reported that Kerrigan and Varsho were at times openly critical of the skipper or held meetings that excluded Russell.

"It was a very gut-wrenching decision," Russell said. "There are some issues I've been working through for quite some time now that could not be resolved in a way I felt would be for the betterment of this organization. I respect both men greatly. I lost two friends today. That's tough to deal with. But my main focus is this team, and I felt moving forward that this was the time to do this."

At least one of the firings in Kerrigan was also performance related. The Pirates rotation has a 5.38 ERA on the season, second-worst behind the Orioles. Pitchers have regressed under his watch, and when Brad Lincoln was demoted to Triple-A after a loss of velocity, Huntington cited "mechanical changes at the major-league level," quite an indictment of Kerrigan and in hindsight, a harbinger of things to come.

To replace Kerrigan, Ray Searage has taken his place. Searage had been the assistant pitching coach and has 33 years experience in professional baseball. Unlike Kerrigan, who emphasizes numbers and batter-pitcher matchups over mechanics, Searage terms himself old-school.

"I go by my instincts, by my relationships that I develop with the pitchers," the seven-year veteran from 1981-1990 said. "I get their feedback, and it's not my way or the highway. It's our way."

Jeff Banister, the minor-league field coordinator, replaces bench coach Varsho who had developed a reputation as being the bad cop of the coaching staff, dispensing punishments and engaging in arguments. Banister is in his 25th season with the Pirates and has served as player, minor-league manager, big-league coach and is well-liked.

"The leadership he has shown as field coordinator, the leadership he's shown in our system, the dedication, the drive, the commitment to the Pirates as a whole, it's a great addition," Russell said of the two coaches who will get a chance to become permanent members of the staff.

Russell himself is on the hot seat after presiding over a Bucs squad that was supposed to take the next step in 2010. Instead, Pittsburgh is 39-72, just behind Baltimore for the worst record in the majors.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: August 5, 2010 9:06 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2010 9:10 pm

Pirates manager likes Cards in NL Central race

John Russell The Pittsburgh Pirates have played back-to-back to the top two teams in the National League Central, getting swept in St. Louis and winning one of three against the Reds in Pittsburgh.

After seeing both teams up close, Pirates manager John Russell says he likes the Cardinals down the stretch. From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 's Rob Biertempfel :
"Because of the experience,” Russell said. “They’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been there and who’ve been through it. They know what to expect. They’ve got two horses in their rotation who’ve been to the playoffs and know what those games are like.”

Russell rated the teams’ bullpens as even. When it comes to bats, he gave Cards sluggers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday an edge over the Reds’ Joey Votto and Scott Rolen. “Those two (Pujols and Holliday) have consistently shown they can put up great numbers,” Russell said.

Even with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright anchoring the St. Louis rotation, Russell said Cincy’s group could be the better of the two.

“The five guys they run out there are pretty good,” Russell said. “The potential downfall is the two young guys — (Mike) Leake and (Travis) Wood. As they get close, how those guys react when it’s time to make a push for a playoff spot.
Maybe the best reason to like the Cardinals -- St. Louis has nine games remaining against Russell's Pirates to Cincinnati's three. Six of the remaining games between the Pirates and Cardinals are in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh travels to Cincinnati the second week of September.

The Reds are 8-5 this season against the Pirates and the Cardinals are 5-1.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Posted on: June 17, 2010 4:18 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2010 4:19 pm

Huntington, Russell with Pirates through 2011

John Russell The Pittsburgh Pirates may be in the midst of its worst performance since GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell took over, but president Frank Coonelly isn't giving up.

Amid speculation that Russell was on the hot seat , Coonelly announced that both Huntington and Russell had their contracts extended through 2011.

The extensions happened in spring training, when Russell's option was exercised and Huntington's had an extra year tacked on. Coonelly has resisted clarifying contract statuses in the past, but felt the need to do so amid whispers a change would be forthcoming in management.

"While we have demonstrated in the past that a contract will not prevent us from making a change if one is appropriate and thus contract status truly is irrelevant, we will confirm that during the offseason we exercised the club's 2011 option on JR's contract and added a fourth year to Neal's contract," Coonelly wrote in a statement via e-mail, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review .

"We did so because we believed that they were successfully implementing the organization's vision of building a baseball organization that could compete for championships on a consistent basis," Coonelly added.

While Russell's contract status would not inhibit a firing if the team felt the need to, it's clear the Pirates have no interest in severing ties with Russell.

"While dismissing the manager when the club is performing poorly is common in this industry, it is not the appropriate response in this case," Coonelly said. "JR's contract status has played no role in this determination. "

Despite the poor play thus far (23-42 entering play Thursday) the team has graduated several top prospects to the bigs recently. Pedro Alvarez joined Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata on Wednesday, forming a core along with Andrew McCutchen the team hopes will push Pittsburgh back to respectability -- soon.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com