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Could Pirates Manager John Russell Be On His Way Out?

A report from the Post-Gazette suggests that John Russell could be on the hot seat:

Multiple sources indicated Friday that neither general manager Neal Huntington nor Russell is in immediate trouble, but those same sources expressed strong sentiment that the current 10-game homestand could be influential as it relates to Russell and his staff. No specific scenarios or timetables were offered, but the sentiment was that the instruction and execution of fundamentals must improve, not just for the present but also to illustrate that the Pirates’ young players are best prepared for the future.

Two sources suggested that some inside the clubhouse are turning against Russell, but others vehemently refuted that.

Like I wrote over at Bucs Dugout, I don't care much for Russell one way or the other. Although I think he does some things well, like not abusing his pitchers, it's hard to defend him much after a mess of a game like last night's, which featured a bizarre pickoff at second base by the catcher, a balk, a failed rundown, and whatever it is that Ryan Doumit is doing behind the plate. (The defensive regression Doumit has experienced under Russell has been particularly strange, since Doumit is by all accounts a hard worker and Russell is a former catcher. Doumit has never been a good defensive backstop, but this year he's been Ronny Paulino all over again.) It's true that all teams make fundamental mistakes, and it's probably the case that bad teams make even more, but the Pirates have made so many in the past few months that the buck has to stop somewhere.

More broadly, Russell's firing, if it happens, could spell trouble for general manager Neal Huntington. Firing a manager is usually a general manager's way of assigning blame, and it can often buy the general manager some time to try to turn things around with a new manager at the helm. If Huntington is unable to do so within a couple of years, he could be on his way out, too.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.