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?

Albert Pujols passes Mark McGwire with 584th career home run

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 11: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs out a double during the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 11, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Angels 14-3. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.

Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.

Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.

Zach Britton allowed an earned run for the first time since April 30

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 22:  Zach Britton #53 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches for his 38th save in the ninth inning during a baseball game against the the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 22, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Oriole won 4-3.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.

The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.

Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.