Team president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington each affirmed, in unambiguous terms, that they want Russell and his staff back. Within the past week, each simply answered, “No,” when asked if there had been any change in how they feel. Neither elaborated because neither sees Russell or the staff as an issue and, moreover, they like what they have seen of the team’s motivation and instruction over the full season.
This probably makes sense. I’m no Russell fan, but there’s no question that he’s finishing the season with a radically different team than the one he started with. To the extent there was clubhouse dissent this summer it was understandable, albeit misguided dissent in the fallout of necessary, albeit depressing trades. That stuff happens.
The Pirates have been losing all year and are in a death spiral at the moment, but there’s not a poisonous atmosphere surrounding this team like there was around the Cecil Cooper Astros, and there’s not the stink of massively squandered potential like that wafting off of the Eric Wedge Indians.
Firing Russell would be temporarily cathartic, but ultimately pointless. The Pirates aren’t going to win with a better manager. They’re going to win with better players. And at present, there’s no reason to believe that John Russell isn’t the guy to lead them if those better players ever happen along.
The Red Sox, who won the AL East last season with a 93-69 record, have under-performed so far this season, entering Wednesday’s action with just two more wins than losses at 23-21. The club hasn’t had a winning streak of more than two games since April 15-18. As a result, manager John Farrell may be on the hot seat, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Tuesday.
Beyond the mediocre record, Rosenthal cites two incidents that happened this season that caused Farrell’s stock to drop. The first was the brouhaha with the Orioles when Manny Machado slid into Dustin Pedroia at second base, causing Pedroia to suffer an injury. When reliever Matt Barnes intentionally threw a fastball at Machado, Pedroia was seen telling Machado, “It wasn’t me. It’s them.” The word “them,” of course, would ostensibly be referring to Barnes and Farrell.
The second incident happened last week when pitcher Drew Pomeranz challenged Farrell in the dugout after being removed with a pitch count of 97. Rosenthal suggests that some of Farrell’s players aren’t on the same page as the skipper.
Rosenthal also mentions that Farrell didn’t have the entire backing of the Red Sox clubhouse in 2013, when the club won the World Series. So the issues this year may not be unique; they may be part of a larger trend.
The biggest impediment in making a managerial change for the Red Sox is having a good candidate. After letting Torey Lovullo leave after last season to manage the Diamondbacks, the team’s two most likely interim candidates would be bench coach Gary DiSarcina and third base coach Brian Butterfield. DiSarcina has one year of managing experience above Single-A (Triple-A Pawtucket in 2013). Butterfield hasn’t managed in 15 years.