With John Russell gone, the top priority is now on selecting a new, hopefully winning, manager for the team. There are several good candidates, some of whom have strong Pittsburgh ties.

That should not be a litmus test, but could be a useful tiebreaker, if aptitudes are otherwise comparable.

The early favorite is Eric Wedge. He certainly has “ties,” although they’re not necessarily Pittsburgh ties. He worked with Neal Huntingdon when the latter was in Cleveland, which is to say that they’d be reunited. That’s fine, if the Pirates have made a firm decision to keep Huntingdon. But if that’s not the case, and Huntingdon leaves, Wedge might be a misfit.

Another candidate is Phil Garner, who actually was on a World Series winning team, in 1979, which is to say, as a Pirate. He’s now managing the Houston Astros, but reportedly wants to come back to Pittsburgh. Given that he won a National pennant with a normally weakish team, he might be the objectively strongest candidate.

Ken Macha is a native Pittsburgher from Monroeville, who was made available, first by the Oakland A’s, and more recently by the Milwaukee Brewers. Those are borderline winning teams that might represent the Pirates’ “next stop.”  From a professional point of view, he is a “technician” who will execute strategy set by others, and not lock horns with Huntingdon.

Andy Van Slyke and Tony Pena are former Pirate players with managerial experience, although they may be less obviously qualified than some of the others.

Even players should be considered for their Pittsburgh ties, if only because that might make them easier to sign during their free agent years.

We did well to draft Neil Walker, whose father, Tom, was a close friend of the late Roberto Clemente. The father was slated to go on that ill-fated flight with Clemente on New Year’s Eve, but was spared when Clemente refused to let him go.

Likewise, the Pirates should have drafted Kyle Drabek, son of Doug, in 2006, rather than Brad Lincoln. Drabek is a better pitcher than Lincoln, and in addition, has a Pittsburgh tie.

As a “tiebreaker,” it might have made sense to trade for Andy LaRoche in 2008 while his older brother Adam was on staff. But in this case, that wasn’t a good idea because it wasn’t really “close.” Both LaRoches were easily superseded by other, better candidates.


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