Tag: Phil Garner

Who Will Be the Next Captain of the Pittsburgh Pirate Ship?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently interviewing candidates to replace the recently fired John Russell. I thought I’d take some time to break down how I view the leading candidates.

Let’s start with the candidates the Pirates have already interviewed. Their career win-loss record is in parentheses.

Eric Wedge (561-573)


Managed a young small market team to an ALCS appearance.



Not able to overcome injuries and talent trades to meet expectations.



Wedge was the manager of the Tribe when our current GM, Neal Huntington, was working there. In 2007, Wedge led the Indians past the Yankees in four games in the ALDS, then lost in seven games to eventual champion Boston. He was named Manager of the Year. His later teams were derailed by both injury and then by trading their star talent elsewhere (C.C. Sabathia, Victor Martinez).

I actually think Wedge makes the most sense, not only because he has a history of success, but also because of his connection to Huntington. The main reason why he might not end up with an offer from the Pirates is because he is also linked to other available positions, including the Cubs and Mariners.  In fact according to ESPN.com, Sources say the Mariners have hired Wedge to be their manager.

Ken Macha (525-447)


Local guy with a winning record in multiple stops


Not much success with fellow NL Central team Milwaukee.


A lot of Yinzers (local term for Pittsburgh fans) out there will say they’d love to see Macha come manage the Pirates since he’s a local guy. You want to be careful not to get caught hiring a guy just because he’s from around here. Just ask Pitt football fans how that Wannstadt hire is going for them.

Having said that, Macha did not have a single losing season in four years with Oakland, including an ALCS appearance when his Athletics lost to the eventual World Series Champion Detroit Tigers. He got fired following the A’s sweep in that series.

John Gibbons (305-305)



Managed a .500 record in an ultra competitive AL East.


Has a history of disputes with his players.


Managed to have an even record through three-plus years with the Toronto Blue Jays. Keep in mind that meant he had to face off against two of the biggest spending teams in baseball (Yankees and Red Sox). He also had to contend with up and coming Tampa Bay.

I think that should actually make his non-losing record stand out even more considering Toronto isn’t exactly a prime free agency destination. You can’t ignore his run-ins with players. You have to wonder why several players did not respect him all that well.

Jeff Banister (0-0)


Familiar with the Pirate Organization


Familiar with the Pirate Organization


Jeff has zero big league managing experience, and hasn’t managed a minor league team since 1998. How can such a great talent remain unknown? Let’s be brutally honest here. If the Pirates do in fact name Banister as their next manager, they’ll basically be giving the middle finger to any remaining Pirate fans out there. The Pirates really need this next hire to come from outside the organization.

Bo Porter (0-0)


Would come from outside the organization


No big league managerial experience


Porter is a strong contender to get the Marlins position because of his past history with the organization. However, considering he’s been fired as a position coach by both Florida and Arizona, I have a hard time considering him a strong hire for the Pirates.


Dale Sveum (7-5)



Has ties to the Pirates organization


Very little MLB managerial experience


While he wouldn’t be my first choice for manager, he does fit the “rising star” type of manager who could end up paying off for the Pirates.  He was named Top Managerial Prospect in the Eastern League by Baseball America in 2003.   

Other Candidates of Interest

Phil Garner (985-1054)



Most experienced candidate of the ones listed, and is also a former Pirate.


Not all of that experience is good


Phil has contacted the Pirates expressing interest in the position, and has stated that he would bring some new ideas to the position of Pirates manager. The problem is that Pirates management might be looking for more of a “yes man,” and I’m not sure this kind of independent thinking would be appreciated here. After all, the Pirates did fire Altoona manager Matt Walbeck for thinking outside the box.

Getting back to Phil, His most recent tour of duty was with the Houston Astros. He took over mid-season in 2004 and led Houston all the way to the NLCS. He then guided them to a World Series appearance in 2005. Houston’s core was already old by this point, and things went downhill from there.

Hiring Garner wouldn’t be a HORRIBLE move, but I think that Wedge and Macha are just far better candidates.

Tony Pena (198-285)



Responsible for the only recent winning season in Kansas City in last 20 years.


Followed that up with a 100-plus loss season.


I must start off by saying I may have a slight personal bias for Tony Pena, as he was my favorite player when I was a kid. He handed me a baseball at the first Pirate game I ever attended. I still have it. Tony has a passion and fire for baseball, and has served as bench coach for a very successful Yankees team. His last stop was with the pathetic Kansas City Royals. The fact he turned that bunch of losers into winners, if only for one season, is still an amazing feat.

The main drawback with considering Pena for the position is that the Pirates can’t even interview him until the Yankee’s playoff run is over. I think if the Pirates want their choice of the candidates above, they may need to make a choice long before they get the chance to interview Pena.

So there you have it. Of all the candidates I discussed, I have to say Wedge would be my first choice followed by Ken Macha. Gibbons or Pena would be tied for third choice for me. Feel free to discuss this in the comments below!

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Pittsburgh Pirates and the Potential End of the John Russell Era

In one of the worst seasons in Pittsburgh Pirates history, it was almost fitting that the season ended with a loss—a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Florida Marlins Sunday afternoon.

Along with the loss come the rumors of the possible firing of manager John Russell and that General manager Neal Huntington will be retained.

For a change, I agree with both decisions if they were to happen.

First, Huntington.  He’s done a quality job bringing talent into the organization.  Look at the whole organization now, from the time he took over for Dave Littlefield. For the average players he had to deal, he’s done a fine job of trying to rebuild the Pirates.

The Pirates went from having no prospects four years ago to having the organization flooded with “real prospects.”  He’s drafted great.  He’s gotten involved in international free agents.  he’s doing an overall good job.  When you criticize Huntington, don’t forget he’s got a cheap owner backing him.  The sky isn’t exactly the limit for him.

Sure Huntington has made a couple of mistakes, but his overall track record has been solid.  he deserves the chance to see his guys reach the majors.

Now onto Russell.  The fact is, someone has to be held accountable.  You can make whatever excuses you want for Russell, but the facts are that he didn’t get the job done.  You can say that they traded away all of his players in 2009, but he didn’t win when they were here to begin with either.

Sure, he hasn’t had great talent, but he had to do better then he did.  In three seasons, Russell compiled a record of 186-289.  His .383 winning percentage is ninth worse of all-time.  The names ahead of him?  You don’t know any of them.  All of them managed in the early 1900s or late 1800s.

Other than Roy Hartsfield (.343 winning percentage), who managed the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977-79, Russell is statistically the worst manager in baseball over the past 100 years.  He has to be held accountable for that.

Aside from the wins and losses, there is the lazy demeanor.  I firmly believe that teams take on the personality of their manager.  That is evident in this team, because the Pirates are lazy on the field.  Sure they hustle, but they don’t have the fire to them.

Many people want Russell fired because he doesn’t come out and rant and rave like Lou Piniella would.  I could care less about that. I don’t need a guy that draws attention to himself. 

What I do need, though, is a guy who will stick up for his players, which Russell doesn’t.  How many times do the Pirates pitchers not get the call a couple inches off the plate, but have it go against them when they are batting?  A good manager doesn’t let that happen for 162 games.

Russell, and his staff, also must be held accountable for the lack of fundamentals this team shows.  Sure they are young, but they make far too many fundamental mistakes.  Way too often: the Pirates don’t throw to the right base, miss the cut off man, fail to lay down bunts, can’t hit behind the runner, etc.

Little things win games and the Pirates don’t do them under Russell.

Also, has there ever been a worse base running team then this current Pirates club?  The players didn’t ever get held accountable, so they continued to make the same mistakes over and over again.

The facts are that with all of the promising young talent the Pirates have now and the ones that will be called up in the future, you don’t want them playing for Russell.  There are just too many bad, lazy habits to be learned under Russell and his staff.

Who should replace him?  It’s way too early to tell.  I’ve often dropped names like Phil garner, Willie Randolph, and Bobby Valentine, but none of those guys will want to work for the cheap Bob Nutting.

You have to hire a manager that has won before though.  You need someone who will gain the respect of the players from the first day he’s on the job.  They need a guy to come in and say, “This isn’t the way we play here anymore.”

One name I would like to see here is Freddie Gonzalez.  He has experience managing young players and definitely showed he is a no nonsense type of manager.  he’s also a candidate for both the Cubs and the Braves openings, so the Pirates likely have no chance at him.

Another name to keep an eye on is former Indians manager Eric Wedge.  Sure, things didn’t end well for him in Cleveland, but many people forget that Wedge had a young Indians team only one win away from the World Series.

The problem is that there will likely be over ten managerial openings this upcoming offseason.  None of the qualified candidates are going to want to work for a cheap owner, no matter how promising the young talent on the field is.

Either way, Russell must go and the Pirates absolutely can not make a mistake hiring his replacement.

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