Report: John Russell is on the hot seat in Pittsburgh


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?

Report: Kyle Schwarber will return to the Arizona Fall League on Saturday

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 16:  Injured player Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs is seen in the dugout before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on August 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.

While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.

Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.

Playoff Reset: Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS Game 6

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 16:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers stands on the pitcher's mound during game two of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs NLCS Game 6
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Wrigley Field, Chicago
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

The Upshot:

We’re pulling out the big guns for this one. The Cubs took Los Angeles by storm again in Game 5, closing out their road trip with an eight-run spread over the Dodgers, and tonight they’ll try to clinch the NLCS on home turf in Game 6.

Pitching-wise, it’s a rematch of Game 2 with Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) on the mound. Kershaw took the first set against the Cubs, going seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Game 2 while Hendricks held the Dodgers to a single run over 5 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez was the only Dodger to capitalize on Hendricks’ cutter, going yard in his first at-bat to generate a 1-0 lead.

The Cubs’ biggest strength so far this series has been an electric offense, something the Dodgers have struggled to replicate against left-hander Jon Lester and Joe Maddon’s airtight bullpen. While they’ve already beaten Hendricks at Wrigley Field once this October, they’ll need Kershaw to go the distance in another playoff gem if they intend to keep the Cubs’ championship hopes at bay with a 3.4-run average. Should Kershaw and his crew knot the series again, the tiebreaker will fall to Rich Hill and Jake Arrieta in Game 7.