By John Perrotto
John Russell was sent packing Monday, as expected, fired as the Pirates’ manager after going 186-299 in three seasons.
Whoever replaces Russell obviously won’t have the biggest pair of shoes to fill. After all, it’s pretty hard to average barely less than 100 losses a season over three years.
The Pirates, though, plan to keep their managerial search a closely guarded secret. While some clubs in the past have had each of their candidates meet with reporters who regularly cover the team as part of their interview in order to see how they deal with the media, the Pirates won’t do that.
In fact, general manager Neal Huntington won’t even divulge what the organization is looking for in the next manager.
“I don’t want to give anyone a roadmap to walk in here and ace their interview on the basis of saying what we want to hear,” Huntington said.
Huntington’s role in the interview process is expected to be marginal anyway as club president Frank Coonelly will make the final call. Yet as much as Coonelly loves to try to control the news that comes out of PNC Park, he can’t stop speculation. Thus, we present five names that could be on the Pirates’ list.
–Eric Wedge, who was fired last year after seven seasons as Cleveland’s manager, tops the speculation and the Pirates will likely talk with him. Ironically, it was Wedge who played a hand in Huntington being demoted from assistant general manager to special assistant in the Indians’ organization but the two have since patched their relationship.
Wedge was the American League Manager of the Year in 2007 and had an overall record of 561-573. He has already interviewed for the Chicago Cubs’ manager’s job and Toronto is also said to be interested in talking to him about replacing the retiring Cito Gaston as its skipper.
–St. Louis third base coach Jose Oquendo is said to intrigue Coonelly after spending the last 12 seasons on Tony La Russa’s stuff. Oquendo’s managerial experience in the United States has been limited to one year in the short-season New York-Penn League but that is not considered an impediment in the Pirates’ mind.
–Boston pitching coach John Farrell, who took over as Cleveland’s farm director when Huntington was promoted to assistant GM, turned down a chance to interview for the Pirates’ job that went to Russell following the 2007 season. Having just helped the Red Sox win a World Series, Farrell was a hot commodity and felt he could wait for a better opportunity.
However, Farrell’s stock has dropped, especially after the Red Sox’s pitching staff finished ninth in the AL with a 4.20 ERA this year. Thus, he would likely be more receptive to the Pirates’ interest this time.
–Former Seattle and Arizona manager Bob Melvin, who spent this past season as a special assignment scout with the New York Mets. Melvin’s career record was 493-508 in seven seasons but he is considered an extremely bright guy who is willing to think outside the box and also has the reputation for working well with young players.
–Former Pirates infielder and current Tampa Bay third base coach Tom Foley has, without fanfare, has played a hand in making the Rays a small-market powerhouse. The Pirates will always be in a situation where they are trying to win on a tight budget and Foley understands working within those limitations as he has been part of the Rays’ organization since its inception as an expansion franchise 12 years ago.
John Perrotto is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports. He is the editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com