John Russell gets the axe after three seasons as manager
After days of rumors swirling that John Russell was going to be fired after three seasons with the Pirates, it became official on Monday afternoon.
“John was incredibly committed to making good things happen,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a conference call with the media on Monday afternoon. “A valid argument could be made that he deserved a better fate.”
“This was a very difficult announcement and a very difficult decision. This isn’t about looking backward or finding fault. That lies mostly with myself and the baseball operations department. It’s about what’s in the best interest of the organization moving forward and finding a manager to move this team in the desired direction.”
Russell was the 38th manager in Pirates history –the fourth since 2000. He finishes with a 186-299 record. (95 losses in ’08, 99 in ’09 and 105 in ’10).
How did Russell take the news?
“Disappointed, but with extreme professionalism,” Huntington said. “He was looking forward to the challenge of year four, and was looking forward to meeting those challenges. He’s disappointed he won’t get to meet those.”
Well-respected in the Pirates’ clubhouse –it was quite the opposite outside. The fan base never seemed to like him.
“The media attention is like none we’ve ever seen before,” Huntington said. “The manager becomes the focal point. The reality of where we are, sometimes managers take the fall. At times, they get too much of the credit, and at times, they get too much of the public blame. This isn’t about a fall guy. It’s about moving forward and deciding a change was better for the organization.”
Despite the 105-loss season, General Manager Neal Huntington does not blame the losses on John Russell.
“I’ve been open [about the fact that] we did not anticipate a 105-loss season as we came out of the chute,” Huntington said when asked about the disappointment of the 2010 season. “Now, we have to focus on moving forward, on how to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative.
“We’re doing things in scouting and player development. and we’re looking forward to having that impact at the Major League level that will result in [more wins]. We have a much deeper farm system to move in a solid direction. That’s one of the bigger frustrations for someone like J.R. We’ve gone through a lot in three years, and he [won't] reap the rewards of that.”
So who exactly will take over as the new Pirates manager? Some options could be: Eric Wedge, Ken Macha? I asked some twitter followers who they would like to see. Some of the names were: John Farrell, Ryne Sandberg, Jay Bell, Jeff Bannister, Tim Wallach and Joey Cora.
I’ll keep posting as interviews are being held. Until then, here is one final shot on John Russell on the final game in 2010 at PNC Park: