The Pittsburgh Pirates confirmed on Thursday that they are in the home stretch of finding their next manager.
After nearly two months of conversations, the team appears to be down to two men to lead the ball club in 2011.
What should alarm Pirate fans is there are seven other major league clubs who entered the offseason in search of a new manager and none of them have contacted either of the men under consideration on Federal Street.
Neither Texas hitting coach Clint Hurdle, nor internal candidate Jeff Bannister have been contacted by any other major league club for any position, let alone manager.
The Pirates have largely failed in their search to this point. Eric Wedge took the job as Seattle's new skipper before the Pirates could talk to him a second time. Bo Porter would rather be the third base coach of the last place Washington Nationals than come to Pittsburgh. Carlos Tosca took a job as a bench coach in Atlanta.
John Gibbons preferred to remain a bench coach with Kansas City rather than fly to Pittsburgh for a second interview. It is rumored that Gibbons will make more money on the Royals bench than he could have hoped to make in Pittsburgh.
All of this searching has left the club with a guy who hasn't managed above AA and hasn't been a manager at any level since 1998 and one who hasn't turned up on anyone else's interview list in two years. Not the sort of thing that is liable to get the fanbase fired up.
The Bucs will sit down with Clint Hurdle this week and then are expected to make their decision over the weekend. There will be no interviews past the former Colorado manager. GM Neil Huntington has run through his list and isn't interested in drawing the process out any further.
The best guess here is that the job will go to Bannister. The stumbling blocks for outside candidates at this point appear to be both money and organizational makeup. The next manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates is not going to make a ton of money at the job no matter how well he does. The next manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates is also going to have to be willing to allow Huntington to micro-manage the situation to the point of distraction.
Bannister saw how that unfolded last year from the inside out. He saw how it created dissension in the ranks of the coaching staff to the point that Gary Varsho and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan were sent home in midseason. Neither man could drink the Kool-Aid any longer.
Bannister also saw the bizarre defensive schemes forced on manager John Russell from the front office. None of them work and none of them made sense, but Russell was a good solider and did what he was told.
That sort of loyalty and obedience will be required of the next manager, as well. Someone without previous managerial experience on the major league level is more likely to have that within him than another man who has managed in a World Series in this century.
Finding a man willing to take on the mantle of a team that is riding the worst losing streak in the history of the game is a tough enough task. Asking that man to do so while jumping through needless hoops is just asking too much.
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