Report: John Russell is on the hot seat in Pittsburgh

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Ah, the beauty of conflicting reports.

Ken Rosenthal says that the Pirates  “are holding internal discussions about the immediate future of manager
John Russell,” and suggests that he doesn’t have long before he’s fired.  As soon as that report dropped, however, Buster Olney called up Pirates’ President Frank Coonelly, who said that “there is absolutely nothing to the speculation” that the Pirates might change managers. Dejan Kovacevic chimed in later with a report similar to Buster’s, also citing Coonelly. 

I have full faith that, as the day unwinds, people will grant Buster and
Dejan’s reports more credence and will refer to Rosenthal’s report as wrong or bogus or whatever, because that’s just how these things work.  And I’m not just saying this because it’s what happened with my Oswalt report from the other day. It always works this way no matter who the reporters in question are: if an initial report is denied by team management, most people dismiss the initial report as false.

Question: Why are we so quick to dismiss those initial reports? Sure, sometimes it makes sense. People do make up stuff. Even solid reporters get these things wrong from time to time. And of course, you have to at least start from the position of believing what the teams say or else you’ll just burn up in a fiery little ball of cynicism, and that’s not cool. But I can’t help but think that, in many cases — especially in cases where the team has an incentive to be less than forthcoming — some healthy skepticism of management’s word is in order.

This is certainly the case with Rosenthal’s report. Doesn’t it make sense that Frank Coonelly has every reason to deny a report regarding deliberations over the fate of John Russell, even if the reports are true?  For that matter, doesn’t it makes sense that the Rangers have every reason to deny that they’re talking about getting Roy Oswalt if they think that Major League Baseball ultimately won’t let them do it because of their screwed up financial state?  It’s bad for the teams for reports like these to come out because it could cause internal dissension in the case of the Pirates and could serve to discourage the fans in the case of the Rangers.

I can’t speak for the righteousness of Rosenthal’s report, but I think that he has earned some benefit of the doubt when it comes to this sort of thing. He’s gotten things wrong before, but so has every other reporter, Buster Olney and Dejan Kovacevic included. Internal meetings about personnel moves are exactly the sorts of things about which people talk out of school, usually anonymously. When you throw in the fact that Coonelly’s denial has to be viewed as somewhat self-serving — even if Coonelly is telling the truth — I can’t see any reason to reject Rosenthal’s report out-of-hand.

My point, I guess, is that while we all get uneasy with anonymous sources passing along rumors and should be less-than-totally-credulous when we hear such rumors, it’s quite often the case that those sources have no reason to lie. I see no reason why we should be any more credulous when management says something to the contrary in situations when it has an incentive to be less-than-forthcoming.

That rant aside, I don’t think John Russell has committed any crimes against baseball humanity, but I don’t see any compelling reason to keep him around either.  Given where the team is right now it’s a 100% certainty that he will not be around the next time the Pirates contend for anything (heck, my grandchildren might not be around then either).  Because of that, he will be fired at some point. Why not now, when a bunch of young prospects like Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln are coming up?  Seems like a natural rebooting point, no?

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: