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Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates will hire former Rangers hitting coach and Rockies manager Clint Hurdle as their new manager. The hiring will officially be announced Monday, and the contract will be for three years.
It appears the Pirates got their man – they long ago narrowed their candidates to Hurdle and organization man Jeff Banister, but their search seemed to have stalled while they waited for Hurdle to figure out where he stood with the Mets, for whom he also interviewed.
Most recent reports about Hurdle by Pittsburgh-area sources have been positive, but that’s typical whenever a new manager is hired. Except for one year (2007, when he got to the World Series), Hurdle got consistently mediocre results with the Rockies, and then when he was replaced by The Worst Manager In The World (former Pirates finger-pointer Jim Tracy), things immediately changed. That might not be Hurdle’s fault, but it’s hard not to feel like he’s a retread.
He apparently makes strange tactical decisions (as do many managers, to be fair), but places a strong emphasis on teaching fundamentals, which the Pirates do need.
Your daily dose of whatever-that-means regarding the Pirates’ manager search comes from FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, who writes that the Pirates are making a “push” to get Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle to accept the Pirates’ manager job. Unfortunately, we don’t learn exactly what that “push” entails, or how this “push” changes what we already could pretty much guess, which is that the Pirates want Hurdle to be their manager and are waiting on him to sort out his candidacy with the Mets.
The Pirates, sources said, have made a strong push within the past 48 hours to ensure that Hurdle will be their next manager.
“It’s moving forward at a rapid pace,” one source said.
That could mean anything. I don’t mean to accuse Rosenthal of anything, because he’s generally pretty good as his job, and it’s certainly possible that there genuinely is something going on and he doesn’t know all the details. But this could work out beautifully for him – if Hurdle does indeed sign up with the Pirates, Rosenthal is the guy who got there first, and if Hurdle gets the Mets job, hey, no harm no foul – the Pirates’ “push” just failed, that’s all!
Maybe I’m just getting cynical, but as one message-board poster just pointed out, it seems like the bar for what passes as “news” is getting lower and lower.
The Post, citing anonymous sources, said new Mets general manager Sandy Alderson started his manager search inside the organization and, as of yet, had not contacted outside candidates. Hurdle, the report said, would like to know whether he is a candidate for the Mets’ job before he makes a decision regarding the Pirates’ job, if the Pirates offer it to him. The Pirates interviewed Hurdle Thursday.
Who knows if the Post’s sources are accurate, but if they are, it sounds like Jeff Banister could be the Pirates’ next manager - although, since Banister isn't a candidate anywhere else, the Bucs can afford to wait for Hurdle if they so choose. I think I prefer Banister anyway; he has less experience, but Hurdle best quality as a manager is his loyalty, which doesn't obviously make him better than departed manager John Russell.
The Post-Gazette reports that the only candidates left in the Pirates’ managerial search are Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle and Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister. Here’s some information on Hurdle, who apparently teaches fundamentals well and is very loyal but often (like so many managers) makes strange tactical decisions. As I wrote when it was revealed that the Pirates were considering Hurdle, the situation has an absurdist air to it – the Pirates fired Jim Tracy for being the worst manager of all time, and then he went to Colorado, where he replaced Clint Hurdle. Now Hurdle is one of two candidates left to manage the Pirates. If that doesn’t prove that field managers are interchangeable functionaries, I don’t know what does. At this point, I’d be happy if the Pirates picked Banister.
The Pirates have received permission to talk to Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle, Jen Langosch reports. Hurdle was the manager of the Rockies throughout most of the last decade until he was replaced by the worst manager ever (Jim Tracy), who promptly outperformed him (for whatever that’s worth). The Pirates were unable to speak to Hurdle before now, obviously, because his team was in the World Series.
Meanwhile, Bo Porter, who the Pirates have already interviewed for the job, has accepted a job as the third base coach of the Washington Nationals. Of the many candidates the Pirates have interviewed, the only ones who appear to still be in the running are Carlos Tosca and Jeff Banister.
John Perrotto writes in two separate tweets that the Pirates might have paused their manager search so that they can talk to Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle, and that they don’t appear interested in Yankees bench coach Tony Pena. Hurdle managed the Rockies from 2002 to 2009 and was let go after a poor start that year, at which point he was replaced by former Pirates manager Jim Tracy, who led the team to the playoffs.
Do you ever get the sense that these manager switches are ultimately arbitrary? Tracy had to have been one of the worst managers in Pirates history, and the Bucs are now considering hiring the guy who he replaced in Colorado. The meaningless circle is complete!
Jen Langosch writes that Dale Sveum, who the Pirates interviewed a couple weeks back, isn’t being considered anymore. That drops the list of interviewees still in consideration to three – Jeff Banister, Bo Porter and Carlos Tosca. The Pirates could still interview other candidates as teams fall out of the playoffs – Yankees bench coach Tony Pena is a possibility now that the Yankees have been eliminated.
The Pirates have told former Brewers and Athletics manager Ken Macha that he won’t be their next manager. Many Pirates fans like Macha, who is from the area, but he was known in Milwaukee as a very calm manager, just as John Russell was. If Russell was actually fired for a reason, that reason would be that he was too calm, and the Pirates might be hoping for someone a little more fiery. Here’s an excerpt from a discussion I had with Brewers blogger Kyle Lobner about Macha:
What really got Macha in trouble was his personality (or lack thereof) and his inability at times to communicate effectively with his players. Macha will rarely argue calls or get ejected from games, and at times it was reported that the players didn’t feel like he had their back when they needed him. The Brewers also led the league in hit by pitches this season (Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks almost reached 50 by themselves) but rarely retaliated. Macha’s strained relationship with two of his highest-profile stars (Fielder and Ryan Braun) was widely reported. Macha went out of his way to stress his “open door” policy, but it was clear that a large portion of the team wasn’t interested in using it.
Jen Langosch writes that former Blue Jays manager and current Royals bench coach John Gibbons has removed his name from candidacy. The Pirates’ manager job isn’t the best one in the world, but it isn’t entirely clear to me why he’d pass it up to stay the bench coach in Kansas City – unless he feels the Bucs job really just isn’t for him. Anyway, it might be for the best: although his former players have downplayed the problems in the Blue Jays clubhouse while he was there, Gibbons made news by picking actual, physical fights with two of them. He might not be a bad guy, but if the Pirates kept losing, the Pittsburgh press would be very quick to paint him as one.
Rob Biertempfel writes that the Pirates could be waiting for the playoffs (and possibly the World Series) to finish before continuing with their manager search. They haven’t interviewed anyone in a week, and they can’t interview potential candidates, such as Tony Pena of the Yankees, until after their teams are out of the playoffs. So it’s possible the Pirates have completed their search except for candidates like Pena who they can’t talk to yet. What I’d expect is that we won’t hear much about this until right after the World Series, when one or two more candidates will be interviewed, and then the Pirates will make their decision sometime in early November.
For what it’s worth, Pena has said he’s interested in managing the Pirates, and there’s been a lot of speculation about him. Giants bench coach Ron Wotus is also interested. There have been no indications I’ve seen that the Pirates are interested in either candidate, but that doesn’t mean much at this point.
John Perrotto tweets that Tony Pena is interested in managing the Pirates, although it’s unclear whether the Pirates are interested in Pena. Pena is the Yankees’ bench coach, and he managed the Royals from 2002 to 2005. He played for the Pirates from 1980 to 1986.
Porter, a former big league outfielder, was the Marlins’ third base/outfield coach from 2007-09, before he joined the Arizona staff in 2010.
Numerous sources confirmed the Marlins have serious interest in Porter, who is regarded as a strong teacher of fundamentals. Known for being well prepared, the 38-year-old already has been making inquiries about candidates for his coaching staff.
The Pirates have interviewed seven candidates, including Porter and Eric Wedge, who has already taken the manager job with the Seattle Mariners.
Jon Heyman writes that the Mariners have picked Eric Wedge as their new manager. He was the first candidate interviewed for the Pirates job and was a logical choice for that job given that he had worked with Bucs GM Neal Huntington before, but the Pirates will have to look for other candidates.
Former Indians manager Eric Wedge, who was the Pirates’ first interview for their manager job, is also in the running for the job with the Chicago Cubs. Former Indians and Cubs reliever Joe Borowski has come out in favor of Wedge for the managerial position in Chicago:
“He had a unique way of going about it,” Borowski, who played under Wedge in Cleveland in 2007 and 2008, said Thursday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “He expected the players to police themselves in the clubhouse which I loved. He wasn’t in your face and expecting you to do this, that and the other thing. He expected you to take care of yourself and if you didn’t then he would get involved. He wasn’t a big meeting guy. He picked and choosed his spots at the right time.”
The Pirates have interviewed lots of candidates, but I suspect – and this is completely unsubstantiated on my part, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt – that he’s the Bucs’ first choice. He interviewed first and has very recent big-league managerial experience, and Pirates general manager Neal Huntington used to work for the Indians. The Pirates are taking their time and being deliberative about hiring a new manager, but I’m sure they have an eye on what’s going on in Chicago.
The Pirates have interviewed Carlos Tosca, who managed the Blue Jays to a .500 record from 2002 to 2004. Tosca has never played pro baseball, but he has been a pro coach since 1978. He spent the last four years coaching for the Marlins and was recently hired by the Braves when Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez took over in Atlanta.
The Bucs have interviewed Dale Sveum, who played for them in the late 1990s, for their manager job. Sveum was the Pirates’ Class AA manager from 2001 to 2003 and has spent the past several years coaching for the Milwaukee Brewers.
One was organization man Jeff Banister, who has been with the Pirates for 25 years and has managed for the club at several low-minor destinations through the years.
The other was Monroeville's Ken Macha of Oakland and Milwaukee fame. The veteran manager is 525-447 between stops with the A's and Brewers. Macha also made his Major League debut with the Pirates in 1974 and played for a few Bucco teams in the '70s.
I’d forgotten that John Gibbons, who recently interviewed for the Bucs’ manager job, was the guy who literally fought with a player in Toronto and challenged another one to a fight. I’ll take a comatose John Russell over a manager who literally fights with his players any day. I have more to say about Gibbons at Bucs Dugout.
The Pirates have interviewed former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, the Post-Gazette reports. Gibbons’ best finish with the Jays was in 2006, when they won 87 games and finished second. His overall performance there was mediocre, but he wasn’t helped by mediocre talent and by being forced to compete against the Yankees and Red Sox each year. He’s currently the bench coach for the Kansas City Royals.
John Perrotto reports (subscription required) that Cardinals third baseman Jose Oquendo could be a candidate for the Pirates’ manager job. Oquendo has one year of minor-league managing experience, but he’s been with the Cardinals’ big-league team since 1999, and he managed the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.
According to a major league source, the Seattle Mariners never considered Cora a candidate for their managerial opening and the Pittsburgh Pirates don’t have Ozzie Guillen’s right-hand man on their preliminary list of candidates for their manager opening.
Cora helps make tactical decisions for manager Ozzie Guillen.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly, in a chat at Pirates.com, denies that Andy Van Slyke is a candidate for the Pirates’ vacant manager position:
kristyr: There are rumors that Andy Van Slyke was interviewed for the managerial job. Can you confirm or deny this? And besides Eric Wedge, can you discuss any other potential candidates?
Coonelly: kristyr, I am not sure how that rumor started, but it is not true. To date, the only candidate that we have interviewed has been Eric Wedge. We will announce to our fans each candidate that we interview at the completion of that interview. Out of respect for the process, we will not be commenting further on the substance of individual interviews until a manager is selected.
It sounds like the Pirates must have been talking to Van Slyke on an informal basis. Coonelly also makes it sound like it is a very strong possibility that some of last year’s coaches will be retained, even though the Pirates allowed them to seek other jobs while they hunt for a manager. He also says the Pirates have the “capacity” to substantially raise payroll next year, but it doesn’t sound like they will actually do so unless they find a deal they really like.
“If I’m on their list, I’ll hear from them,” he said Wednesday from his home in Houston. “But if you’re not on the list, that means you haven’t turned their head. In that case, there’s no sense lobbying for it” …
“I have a special place in my heart for the Pirates,” he said. “I’ll always be a Bucco. That was my shining moment as a player, when we won the World Series in 1979. But that’s not a reason for them to look at me (as a managerial candidate).”
I agree with Phil Garner. The Pirates should find the best possible person, and hiring a new manager should not be used as a mere excuse to look backward.
Interviewer: Have you been in touch with the Pirates, or have they been in touch with you, about interviewing?
Van Slyke: Well, I came in town Monday to help do some promotion for the season-ticket holders, and that really wasn’t the reason why I came into town initially, but I did have a meeting today with [Pirates team president] Frank [Coonelly] and we talked for a while. We had a nice conversation.
Interviewer: What was that conversation about, Andy?
Van Slyke: Well, just my interest about getting into baseball, my interest about managing, and I just gave him some thoughts about what I thought is conducive to winning. An atmosphere that I experienced in Pittsburgh and a formula that I think works basically anywhere …
The Post-Gazette says that Van Slyke merely told the Pirates he was interested in the job. I’m not sure if Van Slyke is underplaying the fact that he had a real interview, or if he and Frank Coonelly really did just have a casual conversation, but it sounds like the Pirates are listening to Van Slyke.
Personally, I’d be open to Van Slyke as a manager, but I don’t think his status as a former Pirates star counts as a qualification.
The Pirates have interviewed Bo Porter for their manager job, Buster Olney tweets. Bo Porter was the third-base coach and then bench coach for the Diamondbacks this year. Before that, he was a minor-league manager and coach in the Marlins system. He interviewed for the Marlins managerial job in June.
The Post-Gazette adds that Juan Samuel of the Orioles might be another managerial target:
However, a source said Pirates officials also reached out to Baltimore Orioles coach and interim manager Juan Samuel, who went 17-34 before Buck Showalter arrived. The fiery Samuel, 49, a longtime major-league infielder and outfielder mostly with the Phillies, was even ejected once in his nearly two months as interim, flipping his cap into the infield while arguing over his pitching coach getting tossed.
Samuel was a minor-league manager before coaching third base for the Orioles. After serving as the Orioles’ interim manager, he declined a position in the coaching staff of new manager Buck Showalter, but stayed with the Orioles as an evaluator in the Dominican Republic.
The Pirates have already interviewed former Indians manager Eric Wedge for their vacant managerial position, Pirates beat reporter Jenifer Langosch tweets. It sounds like the Pirates are taking an aggressive approach in what should be a very active market for managers, and we may see a replacement for John Russell announced sooner rather than later.
Here’s a roundup of news and reactions from the papers and the web regarding John Russell’s firing and the quest to replace him:
Over at Bucs Dugout, I talk to an Indians blogger about potential managerial candidate Eric Wedge and rant about a bizarrely opinionated news piece at the AP.
Dejan Kovacevic calls out the Pirates’ front office for forcing Russell to play struggling players like Akinori Iwamura and Charlie Morton. I don’t agree with Kovacevic that the return Huntington got in his flurry of trades the past few years was “negligible,” particularly given the meager talent the PIrates had to offer, but Kovacevic’s article includes a number of very legitimate criticisms of the front office. Russell would have had a very hard row to hoe no matter what, but being forced to play awful players, including some who plainly should not have been on the field, just makes things worse.
Pat Lackey of WHYGAVS says Russell was a victim of circumstance.
Chuck Finder of the Post-Gazette writes that Eric Wedge could be a potential replacement for Russell. Wedge managed the Cleveland Indians to a 561-573 record from 2003-2009 and presided over their growth from a rebuilding club to a playoff team, but that playoff team fell apart very quickly after 2007. Pirates GM Neal Huntington worked for the Indians before being hired by the Bucs in 2007.
Today, the Pirates fired John Russell:
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for JR, both personally and professionally,” Huntington said. "He took on a difficult challenge, overseeing a major overhaul in the makeup of our team.
“JR is a quality baseball man and a good friend. He put his heart and soul into this difficult challenge and was tremendously committed to the organization and the plan we implemented three years ago. JR provided a positive environment for our young players, all of whom have grown as men and baseball players under his stewardship.
“But, in the end, we decided that new leadership in the clubhouse would give us the best opportunity to move this major league team forward.”
GM Neal Huntington was retained and made the announcement. The team’s search for a manager will begin immediately.
Pirates manager John Russell may be likely to go, but pitching coach Ray Searage could stay, the Post-Gazette reports. Searage has presided over the improvement of much of the pitching staff since taking over for Joe Kerrigan this summer. Particularly encouraging has been the reemergence of Charlie Morton after a horrible first two months and a subsequent demotion to the minors. It’s too early to give Searage credit, but it’s probably also way too early to dismiss him.
I have no passionate feelings about Russell one way or the other. He doesn’t do much for me as a manager, and the amount of sloppy play in his tenure has been disappointing, but mostly I think the poor play has been a function of the talent he has been given. Unfortunately, it’s been all but certain since he was hired that the team would be horrible for the next several years, which makes Russell something like a sacrificial lamb.
Kovacevic reports that the decision will be made by owner Bob Nutting and team president Frank Coonelly. Although Huntington will stay on as general manager, this move suggests he has only a couple more years to show that the Pirates can be a contending team, or Nutting and Coonelly will replace him, too. The firing of a manager can often be a warning to the general manager as well, and I think that’s what we’re seeing here.
The Post-Gazette writes that Huntington’s “million-dollar question” comment shouldn’t necessarily indicate that John Russell will be fired, but that Coonelly will make a decision on Huntington himself after the season, and if Huntington stays on, both will make a decision on Russell:
That phrase was interpreted by some as a commentary on Russell’s status. But Huntington commonly uses that phrase when asked a question he feels he cannot answer at the time, and he affirmed Friday at Sun Life Stadium that the phrase meant nothing beyond that.
Team president Frank Coonelly, in consultation with owner Bob Nutting, will decide the fate of all baseball personnel, including Huntington, going into 2011. If Huntington is retained, he will be involved in any decision involving Russell and the coaching staff.
In a series of tweets by FOX Sports' Jim Bowden relayed over at MLB Trade Rumors, it sounds like Pirates GM Neal Huntington is thinking about getting rid of manager John Russell after the season. Huntington refers to Russell's status as "the million-dollar question" in one, which certainly isn't a vote of confidence. If Huntington and team president Frank Coonelly are going to fire Russell, they'll probably do it in a few days, shortly after the end of the season.
Bucs Dugout user David Todd has a good argument against Russell here.
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