Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Thoughts on Russell, And His Replacment

I didn't write anything about this yesterday because, quite frankly, I wanted to sleep on it. The Pirates firing of Russell came as no surprise to anyone who follows the team. Someone has to go down after three seasons like we have seen, and Russell really gave no indication he was a big league manager.

His ingame decisions were often baffling (pulling Duke up a ton with 2 out in the 9th), the constant bunting over of guys on second base with no outs, relying too heavily on veterans who have proven they aren't worth the time (Ryan Church, Tyler Yates), and really not understanding how to properly platoon players. These are just a few examples, I know everyone has their favorite JR moment but really this isn't about that.

Russell was a fall guy and, while he deserved to take the fall, the light shouldn't be taken off the FO. After all they gave him this team, and tasked him with doing the impossible. It's very hard to keep good bench coaches like Perry Hill when you are constantly blowing up his work, and I think it showed in the defense this year. Some of the defensive woes come from guys like Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker learning the game, but some of it is just stupidity and a lack of concentration, see Lastings Milledge.

The Pirates relied on a lot of things to go perfect this season and for the most part they all went wrong. Is that the fault of JR? I doubt it. Was it realistic for us to expect Charlie Morton to become a one or two pitcher? I doubt it. At the same time I don't think it was realistic to expect him to be as bad as he was. And that's where I think Russell's firing is also justified, these guys didn't really correct their mistakes, and when they failed to meet expectation it wasn't just by a little bit. I think you can put that on the manager.

What do I want from a new manager? I want fire, they don't have to be Lloyd Mclendon, but I want to see them stand up for their players. I want new ideas, while batting the pitcher 8th was a bit different JR seemed to only go half way with his "innovations", in the end he was still playing small ball on a team that couldn't win by a run or two.

So what names have been kicked around early?

Bob Walk - I can't believe people are seriously considering Walk for this role. He is a small ball guy too, and really seems pretty much in tuned with the old way of doing things.

John Wehner - Wehner seems like a good guy and he, like Walk, is knowledgeable about the game. Sadly it's much easier to make calls like they do in the booth with even that little amount of hindsight they have. John Wehner has shown nothing to suggest he could handle running a major league team.

Eric Wedge - This guy is probably the favorite at this point in time. If for nothing else than the fact that he managed an Indians Organization that Neil Huntington was part of. We are following largely a model that the Indians do, so he would be comfortable with the young players, and deadline deals. He has been pretty successful with the Indians, although he only had one postseason appearance. A former manager of the year he brings instant credibility and a ton of experience into the young locker room.

He is also a great community guy, and would fit nicely with the large focus the organization puts on it's Pirates charities wing.

Ken Macha - Macha really interests me. First he has had a ton of success at the ML-Level. Second a lot of that success was with the A's organization. The A's do things a lot different and Macha's time there coincided with their changing of the game. He also has interviewed with the Pirates before so I'd have to assume he has at least been open to coming here.

His problem, for me at least, was his time with the Brewers. His staff was horrible, and the clubhouse was a mess. The Brewers became one of the most underachieving and immature teams in the league on his watch. I'm not sure how I feel about a guy coming in and basically letting the players act like the Brewers did.

Bobby Valentine - Valentine has been named as a possible manager for about every team needing one thus far. I want nothing to do with him. This team doesn't need a celebrity type manager, they need someone to teach fundamentals and deal with rebuilding. Don't know if that's the type of gig Valentine wants anyway.

Wally Backman - Backman is one of my favorite candidates. He is a guy chomping at the bit for a second shot at the big leagues. He has a Pittsburgh connection (which really shouldn't matter), and has been very successful in the minors. He has shown an ability to teach young players, and had a short lived job with the D'backs.

The problems with Backman are all personal ones. He was accused of assault, was arrested for DUI, and failed to pay his taxes. All of these problems occurred ten years ago, but it's very hard to put a guy with those sort of skeletons in charge of a big league team. That said the guy has apparently been on the straight and narrow for ten years and deserves another chance.

From that list I would hire either Wedge or Backman. There will be plenty more names over the next few weeks, so this is just a very small one for now.