Big Lead Sports Bar


Huntington, Russell Get Extended

Sometimes, when a team looks like it's at its worst, that's a perfect time for management to step in and show their support. It happened with the Steelers and Bill Cowher. It happened with Pitt and the Wannstache. And it happened today with the Pirates and both Neal Huntington and John Russell, who were both secretly extended in the offseason, it was announced today by Frank Coonelly:
"We did so because we believed that they were successfully implementing the organization's vision of building a baseball organization that could compete for championships on a consistent basis," Coonelly said. "We understood that returning this once-proud organization to championship baseball would not happen overnight and that the progress that we were making towards reaching our goal made such extensions appropriate. Despite our very disappointing play at the major-league level thus far this year, we remain convinced that we are making progress towards our goal. We demand performance at all levels of the organization and will continue to hold each and every person in the organization accountable for that performance."

"All of us are extremely disappointed and frustrated by the club's results on the field thus far this year," Coonelly said. "While we have made tremendous progress towards executing our long-term vision of building an organization that acquires and develops talented players who will form a core that can consistently compete for championships, we have, collectively, fallen far short of our shorter term goal of playing winning baseball at the major-league level in 2010. We expected that this club would perform much better than it has to date. With the significant changes that have been made to the roster recently, we still expect that the club will perform much better during the rest of the season. While it has been painfully obvious that several players have not performed up to expectations, we have been and continue on a daily basis to analyze all of the reasons that we have performed so poorly and how we can get the club turned around immediately."
The Buccos currently have the worst record in the NL, they've lost 10 straight, and during the Huntington/Russell marriage they have the worst record in the majors. But even a jaded Pirate fan like myself would not believe that a such a massive organizational turnaround would've been complete by now. By making these executive changes a few years ago, the Pirates basically committed to flushing the system and starting over, and that takes time. I really don't think it would've done any good to can Huntington at this point, because I'm not interested in hitting the franchise reset button yet again, especially after the 2010 draft. So I'm on board with keeping him, despite some very questionable moves at the major-league level which have already been discussed at great length on this site and many others.

As for Russell, I'm very split on his future. On one hand, the guy has been asked to make chicken salad out of chicken crap for the majority (if not all of) his time here. Those are tough circumstances for any skipper. On the other hand, he's got very little in the personality department, he's shown a knack for very curious moves/lineups, he inspires hope in no way, shape or form among fans, and I'm not sure if there are many players who've improved under his watch. Basically, I don't know what he adds to the equation, and that gets complicated when asking who's really dictating playing time, Russell or Huntington. If you paralyze a manager's decision making, that doesn't say much for the manager. Is this really the guy who we want to see mold this crucial next generation of Pirates? In management's eyes, it appears that the answer is yes.
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Unknown said...

You can correct me if I'm wrong, but the team manager is responsible for the on-field lineup, running practice, managing the clubhouse environment, and building a coaching staff.

As you said, JR has chicken crap to compete against filet. However, his pinch hitting calls are terrible, and he RARELY ever calls for basic baseball fundamentals like bunting a guy over. Oh right - he has the field in a blatantly unsuccessful shift maneuver every third batter. Even against pitchers.

Terrible fundamentals are everywhere. I wasn't good enough to play baseball past pony league (and if not for open registration, even that is debatable), yet I can point out terrible plays in the field, terrible base running, and communication miscues.

Aside from the short-lived mustache contest, the attitude of this team sucks - just a half-tick up from the 'Welcome to hell' era. JR seems like the typical experienced baseball player that believes everything is a numbers game and eventually probability will be on their side.

I want to see Bob Walk working with pitchers, and any ass kicker running practice. Do these guys actually have true practice or do they just stroll out, hit some balls, play catch, and collect their per diem?

When I was a kid in Pittsburgh, the Penguins and Steelers sucked. The Pirates made me a baseball guy and the success of the other franchises in town can't change that. I don't care who is playing at PNC Park, I just want to see good baseball. If I have to go check out the local Little League game to do that, so be it.

Chip said...

Yeah, I agree with you Scott.

The Pirates keep saying the Rays or Twins are their model. Well, I've watched a number of their games and they play smart sound fundamental baseball. You don't see the kind of dumb baserunning or stupid situational mistakes you see the Pirates make on a consistent basis.

I don't care about JR's "robotic" manner because that is completely irrelevant and a childish cheap shot. And, yes, he doesn't have the best talent. But there is no excuse for the kind of fundamental mistakes and generally sloppy execution this team constantly displays.

As for NH, I have zero problem with extending him. In fact, I think the Pirates should've extended him 2 or 3 more years. Once the rest of MLB sees how fast he's turned this mess around and how successfully he's flooded our system with a rich and deep talent pool, every team in the league will be after him.

Unknown said...

why did this have to be done in secret?

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

The Bucs are still awful and are on a 10 game losing streak, Huntington and Russel get extended.

Mike Tomlin, wins a division his first year as head coach, Super Bowl his second, and he has no contract beyond this season.

I know the situations are different, but wtf?

MJ said...

The question isn't about why they extended both men. But why they waited six months to announce that decision.

After 17 years we already knew this, but the organization is unbelievably dysfunctional.

P.O. said...

Several times this season John Russell batted Lastings Milledge 3rd on a major league line-up card.... and that's all i really have to say about that....

Brian said...

Bring up all the top prospects you want---and pretend that previous can't-miss stars like Midre Cummings and Chad Hermansen didn't happen---but who's going to coach them? Who's going to lead them?

Eventually you need a real coach in there.