As of Monday morning, he is out as the Pirates manager. Russell was the third full-time manager since 2001, not counting Pete Mackanin’s stint as interim manager after the departure of Lloyd McClendon.

So, after the Gene Lamonts, the McClendons and the Jim Tracys, who is suitable to manage this team and, dare I say it, turn this mess around?

Here are my op five candidates that I feel the Pirates should look at to fill the position.

1. Tony Pena

I believe Pena is the de-facto candidate for this team. As a matter of fact, he probably should have been manager a long time ago. Pena is very familiar with the organization. He began his career as a catcher with the Bucs in 1980 and was traded prior to the 1986 season in a deal that involved my next candidate.

He is no stranger to turnarounds either. He was hired as the Kansas City Royals manager in 2002. The franchise had been losing since 1994 and it only took Pena until 2003 to get the team over the .500 mark. He has been the first base coach for the New York Yankees since 2007. He even was interviewed for Joe Torre’s vacancy.

2. Andy Van Slyke

How fitting would it be for the favorite player of an entire generation of Pirate fans that have never experienced this team win? Van Slyke still has a deep connection with Pittsburgh as we’ve heard in many interviews over the summer, and has a few years as a first base coach under his belt for Jim Leyland’s Detroit Tigers before not returning as coach after 2009.

I realize that this pick would be a serious risk, but how much worse can the team get? They need someone who preaches defense and Van Slyke has five consecutive Gold Gloves to his credit.

3. Eric Wedge

Wedge was the first favorite in my eyes before I actually did some research. He’s the third-best candidate on my list, but he’s most likely the favorite in the eyes of Neal Huntington. The two do have a history together in the Cleveland Indians organization. Wedge was given the Indians managerial job in 2002, the same year Huntington was named assistant general manager.

Wedge was the Tribe’s skipper all the way up until 2009, when he was given the axe. I still think he was given a bad wrap in the whole thing, but the fact remains that he had that team one win away from winning the American League Pennant. (Yes, I just was overcome with guilt and sadness as I wrote that word.)

It also helps that Wedge was named AL Manager of the Year in 2007. I would be more than happy to see him hired. He wouldn’t be the first coach from Cleveland to bring success to this city.

4. Dale Sveum

Come on, you have to remember Sveum from his playing days here in Pittsburgh. He managed the Pirates Double-A affiliate from 2001-2003, accumulating a record of 213-211. He then was the third base coach for the Boston Red Sox under Terry Francona (who grew up in New Brighton) from 2004-2005. In 2006, Sveum was the Milwaukee Brewers bench coach.

By 2008, he had been promoted to third base coach and served as interim manager after Ned Yost was fired. He was the Brewers manager in the NLDS that year, before the Brewers fell to Philadelphia.

5. Phil Garner

Everyone remembers Ol’ Scrap Iron from the 1979 World Champion Buccos. In his managerial days with the Houston Astros, he led them to two-straight NL Wild Card berths, and a World Series appearance in 2005 where they were swept by the Chicago White Sox.

Did I mention that the Astros had never won a playoff series until they had Garner on the bench as manager?

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