October 4, 2010

The End of Russell

Connie Mack's record 50 straight years managing one team is safe, as the Pirates announced today that manager John Russell has been fired. His teams lost an unbelievable 299 games in three years. Nixon got re-elected, but no major league manager is going to survive that performance.Not that that record was John Russell's fault. Injuries and trades too often left him fielding a lineup of Bixlers and Churches, calling the bullpen to warm up Osorias and Ledezmas, and in general rarely having more than 15 true major leaguers on the 25-man roster.

The finest single season in baseball history is probably Babe Ruth's 1921, when he hit .378/.512/.846 with 59 home runs, 171 RBI and 177 runs while stealing 17 bases. Put him in right field on the 2010 Pirates instead of Lastings Milledge, and you have a 72-90 team. Yet many members of the Pirates fan base still insist that John Russell has been the problem with this team, that he's not getting enough from his talent.

In fact, Russell was brought in primarily to develop young talent with his teaching skills. He achieved that goal this year with Walker, McCutchen, Tabata, Alvarez, and McDonald. But Cedenos don't become Honus Wagners, and straight fastballs with no movement do become extra base hits. The Texans lost at the Alamo.

The Pirates had to fire John Russell, to be sure. 105 losses is always going to cause a change in management, and bringing back the same guys creates a perception that it's OK. J.R. will collect his full salary next year and he'll find some job in baseball for as many seasons as he wants to work, but this is probably it for him as a major league manager. I can't help but think he deserved a better chance.

1 comment:

  1. JR knew what he was getting into. His one shot at a respectable career but more likely just a humiliating, three-year ride that would render him a professional non-entity, in Pittsburgh or anywhere else.

    Sort of like signing up for law school at Duquesne.