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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Big league baseball is a big buck game

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I don't often use this column to talk about sports. In fact, I'm not at all certain when sports were mentioned in this brief daily dribble. But today is an exception. Well sort of.

Here's the deal. The Pittsburgh Pirates this week named John Russell as their new manager. Truth is, I have never heard of John Russell. But that doesn't matter.

The Pirates have had a dismal record with 15 consecutive losing seasons. But they spend $75 million or so to keep a team on the field and someday perhaps they will return to their glory days.

But back to Russell. Let's be generous and say that Russell was not the Pirates' first choice. Their first choice rejected the Pirates. Same goes apparently for their second choice. But then they came to Russell and for a million or so bucks, he agreed over the weekend to take on the challenge.

So let's see - just by way of illustration - what it takes to manage a professional, big-league baseball team. As a player Russell was a backup catcher. His batting average was just a drop more than his weight - .245. He had applied for and been rejected by two other teams for their managerial positions in the past.

Russell was the third base coach and catching instructor for the Pirates for three years but in 2005 was fired from that post.

For the past two years, Russell has managed a minor league club. His record? Won 55, lost 88.

With this track record, Russell would seem an unlikely candidate. He was just fired from the team, has a losing record, no major league managing experience and was not the first choice. Yet today - with a salary that would make virtually anyone envious - John Russell is a professional manager of a major league baseball team.

So what does this say about the caliber of individual on the market for these coveted positions? I'm not at all certain. But it does make you wonder how someone with a losing record can be chosen in the lofty world of professional sports.

I have nothing against John Russell. I wish him well. Judging from their recent record, he'll need all the luck he can muster.

But then again, given what has been reported, maybe John Russell needs no luck whatsoever. He already seems like a pretty lucky fella to me!

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen