Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

OK, po' Pedro has had his day stepped on already by Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, who say the suits are discussing JR's future (as in does he have one?) with the Buccos.

They even mention possible successors: Bench coach Gary Varsho, Indy manager Frank Kremblas and Altoona skipper Matt Walbeck as leading internal candidates, with former Indians manager Eric Wedge, who previously worked with Pirates GM Neal Huntington, and Cardinals bench coach Jose Oquendo in the mix.

Frank Coonelly has denied that Russell's job is in imminent danger, often the omen of a quick kiss of death. Still, dissecting a manger's performance is to be expected, especially with the record Pittsburgh has, but it's not time to pull the rug out from under him - yet.

It's true that JR has no fire to speak of, and makes decisions bordering on the outre on the field and with the lineup. But here's what we say: let the manager show what he can do now with the pieces are beginning to arrive at PNC.

He's not the guy who broke up the old Bucs, and he's not the guy who brought in a collection of mostly AAAA players. But he is the guy who had to cobble together a lineup and rotation, for better or worse. And he certainly didn't get the '27 Yankees to work with.

We're not fans of his position shuffling, and think that he plays up to the vets a little more than he should. But JR hasn't had the luxury of many players not named Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones stepping up to claim an everyday MLB job, either.

Remember, Neal Huntington said that Neil Walker was a utility man, but Russell rewarded his strong play with a starting gig. So we think performance does matter to him, no matter he bizarrely he sometimes shows it.

Now that he's got a couple of young guys going well, he's managed to put together a decent enough order from 1-5; the bottom half is still brutal, but he can't do anything about that with the players he has. Ditto with the starting pitching (and he's handled the bullpen as well as can be expected, considering their load.)

Now he's pushing his horses a little; they're stealing bases and he's calling hit-and-runs to try to get some energy into the team and maybe manufacture an odd run or two while living with the growing pains of young players.

Are we saying give him another three years? No way; like the players, he should sink or swim by how he performs, and that's measured solely by how his club performs. But because JR is stoic doesn't mean he lacks smarts or a passion for the game.

If he can turn these guys around, we're all for picking up his option; after all, he looks to be more a scapegoat right now than anything else. And if he can't, well, Bobby Bragan got canned with a team a lot like JR's, and Danny Murtaugh came in to lead them to the promised land.

A rush to judgment isn't called for, although a judgment has to be made; we hope it's based on what he does with the guys he has now, not what happened in the past with a team in constant upheaval because of the suits' wheelin' and dealin'.

And if the decision goes against JR, we hope that they don't bring in anyone that's now on the bench with him; they're as complicit in the blame as he is. We'd kinda lean towards Frank Kremblay, who knows the guys from Indy and at 44 can identify with the players.

Short of total catastrophe, just wait until September to hold that discussion.

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