John Russell is Anonymous; Being Set Up for Disaster

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are a miserable franchise seeking to dig themselves out from seven years of poor talent evaluation by former general manager Dave Littlefield and fifteen consecutive years of losing records. The Pirates have been so awful they make the Royals look like the two-time defending Pacific League champion Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (actually, the Royals hired the Nippon Ham Fighters' manager, Trey Hillman, so they'd be quite pleased with my metaphor). Pittsburgh has what many call the nicest park in the majors with lower than average ticket prices, yet struggle to fill it with biding-our-time-until-football-season Steeler fans. Worst of all, the gentleman that the franchise just hired a new manager was actually fired as third-base coach by the Pirates two years ago for waving in too many runners who were tagged out at home. No, not Dale Sveum: I'm talking about John Russell. Wait....who the fuck is John Russell?

Let's ask Wikipedia! Oh shit, we're gonna need some disambiguation:

John Russell may refer to:
  • David John Russell, politician from Alberta, Canada
  • E. John Russell (1872-1965), British agriculturalist
  • John "Jack" Russell (1795-1883), enthusiastic hunter and dog breeder
  • John C. Russell (circa 1963-1994), playwright
  • John E. Russell (1834-1903), U.S. Representative from Massachusetts
  • and on and on and on for 27 entries.

Our John Russell doesn't show up until the 27th and final list item. That makes him less important than John Russell, the Sixth Duke of Bedford and a Knight in the Order of the Garter. Rawr, garters.

Baseball player John Russell was allegedly a utility catcher and outfielder in the 1980's for such illustrious teams as the post-1980 World Series Phillies and the pre-ALDS era Rangers. His 'career year' was 1986 in which he allowed 17 passed balls in just 89 games and struck out 103 times in just under 340 plate appearances. Still, he caught Nolan Ryan's sixth no-hitter; and managerial success is in no way tied to one's abilities as a player (or vice versa).

In fact, Russell was named as the best AA managerial prospect by Baseball America after leading the New Britain Rock Cats to a 83-59 record in 1998. A year later, after losing Cristian Guzman, Jacque Jones, A.J. Pierzynski, Torii Hunter, and Doug Mientkiewicz to the majors, Russell and the Rock Cats plummeted to the basement of the Eastern League at 59-82. The 2000 season was worse, and Russell and the Twins parted ways.

Fast-forward eight years and three jobs later, and Russell and Hillman are the only two managers who come into the 2008 season having never managed a single major league baseball game. Chances are that one of these guys will surprise everyone and find a way to finish higher than 5th place, but with six teams in the NL Central and a lineup that makes outs 68% of the time, I doubt John Russell is that guy. No worries, there's always the Order of the Garters to fall back on.


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