By John Perrotto
The Pirates’ managerial search started out promising enough when they interviewed Eric Wedge practically before John Russell had even boxed all his belongings after being fired on Oct. 4.
Wedge was the American League Manager of the Year in 2007 and did a reasonably good job during seven seasons as Cleveland’s skipper. It wasn’t his fault that things fell apart when the Indians decided to cut costs and trade defending AL Cy Young winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee during consecutive seasons in 2008 and 2009.
However, the search has since gone downhill as the Pirates have interviewed Bo Porter, John Gibbons, Ken Macha, Jeff Banister, Dale Sveum and Carlos Tosca. No one on that list jumps out as the man ready to lead the Pirates back to glory after 18 consecutive losing seasons.
Gibbons and Tosca both had identical .500 winning percentages while managing Toronto. If the Pirates are really dead set on hiring an ex-Blue Jays manager then perhaps they should try to convince Bobby Cox or Cito Gaston to change their minds about retirement.
Macha has the cache of being a local, which always plays well in Pittsburgh. He graduated from Gateway High School and Pitt, and lives in Latrobe. He has the no-nonsense sensibilities indigenous to Western Pennsylvanians.
However, there are red flags all around Macha. He took Oakland to the American League Championship Series in 2006, the furthest they had gone in 16 years, and was fired. He inherited a Milwaukee team that ended a 26-year post-season drought in 2008 then guided them to back-to-back losing seasons and was not on speaking terms with either of the Brewers’ star players, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, before being told on the final day of this season that he would not be back in 2011.
Sveum, who managed the Brewers in the 2008 National League Championship Series after Ned Yost was fired with 12 games left in the regular season, is an intriguing candidate. He’s been part of the streak of futility with the Pirates as he played them for three years then served for one season as a special assistant on the major-league coaching staff and three seasons as Class AA Altoona’s manager.
Sveum is a straight-up guy who has a passion for the game and making sure it’s played the right way. However, his intensity might work against him as a major-league manager in these modern times.
Banister, if nothing else, is a sentimental choice. He has spent 25 years in the organization as a player (getting one lone major-league plate appearance), major-league coach, minor-league manager and minor-league field coordinator. Like Sveum, he would bring a great deal of intensity but his lack of recent managerial experience—he was last a skipper on a regular basis in 1998 with Class AA Carolina—could be exploited at the major-league level.
Porter was fired by Arizona as its third base coach when Kirk Gibson became the permanent manager last week after serving in that capacity on an interim basis for the final three months of the season. When I told someone associated with the Diamondbacks that Porter had interviewed with the Pirates, he just laughed.
Wedge is clearly the best man for the job but the Pirates, though, have lost out on Wedge. Multiple media outlets are reporting this afternoon that Seattle has decided to hire him. He had also interviewed with three other teams: the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays.
John Perrotto is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports. He is the editor-in-chief of BaseballPropsectus.com