General manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell are on the hot seat in Pittsburgh

4 Comments

With the Pirates on a 109-loss pace in their 18th straight losing season and team president Frank Coonelly venting his frustration by saying things like “losing stinks” during an online chat with fans, it’s no surprise that general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell are on the hot seat.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today followed up with Coonelly, asking him about the job security of Huntington and Russell, and got this response:

I have been extremely disappointed in the team’s performance. We are evaluating every aspect of our operation in order to determine how we can get the club moving in the right direction immediately.

While we have made tremendous progress executing a sound plan to overhaul a broken system and return this once-proud franchise to its tradition of winning baseball, we have only one benchmark by which we measure ourselves and that is wins and losses at the major league level. By that benchmark, we have badly underachieved.

Not exactly a vote of confidence.

I tend to think the Pirates have a brighter future than their current record suggests because they’ve broken in a pretty promising trio of young players this season in Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker, who along with 23-year-old Andrew McCutchen gives the lineup some nice building blocks.

Pitching is another story and obviously they’re a long way from contending for anything but a .500 record, but I do think they’re on the right track. Still, at the end of the day Russell has a ghastly .379 winning percentage in three seasons on the job and Huntington has been in the charge of the Pirates’ latest rebuilding effort since September of 2007, so it’s tough to blame Coonelly for losing patience.

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!

Bo Jackson is not gonna change kids’ minds

1989:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals practices his swing as he prepares to bat during a game in the 1989 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images
6 Comments

Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.

You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.

Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.

The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”

Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.

This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.