Previously fired, Russell returns to Pirates
John Russell is a humble guy who spent much of his career in the minors. He lacks a marquee name or a big-time resume, and he was fired as a coach two years ago by the Pirates.
Is this really the best person that very same Pittsburgh team could find to become its new manager – someone the club’s previous leadership let go?
Pirates president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington insisted Monday that’s exactly why they hired Russell, who has managed at every level of baseball except the majors.
Specifically, because he is the best man for a job many think is next to impossible: remaking the Pirates into consistent winners again even though they’re coming off 15 consecutive losing seasons.
“I know the system we have will work,” said the 46-year-old Russell, known in the minors for getting the most from his teams. “There are a lot of areas in which we can improve, but we have the pieces here to win games. And we’re here to win.”
As for his previous firing by the Pirates, he said: “Two years ago was two years ago. It’s a different time. What happened back then was back then.”
•Andy Pettitte declined his $16 million option with the New York Yankees, still uncertain whether he wants to pitch next season.
•Greg Maddux will be back as the San Diego Padres’ No. 3 starter next season after agreeing to a $10 million, one-year contract.
Kansas City Wizards forward Eddie Johnson was selected as the MLS comeback player of the year.
The 23-year-old Johnson – who started 24 games and had 15 goals and six assists – earned the honor in his seventh season in the MLS. Johnson is coming off a 2006 season filled with inconsistent play and absences because of playing for the U.S. national team and suspension.
The Revolution’s Michael Parkhurst was picked as the top defender.
•Frank Yallop has quit the Los Angeles Galaxy as coach to return to San Jose for a second stint in charge of the Earthquakes.
•Nils Liedholm, a Swedish star who became a title-winning coach in Italy, died at age 85.
Elway can golf, too
John Elway knows a thing or two about closing out a win, and it showed on the golf course.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer finished strong by winning the short-iron event, and he and Natalie Gulbis won the Golf Skills Challenge at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort and Club at Aventura, Fla.
Dan Marino and Bubba Watson finished second while Roger Clemens and Greg Norman placed third.
•U.S. ice dancer Melissa Gregory does not have serious injuries from a fall at Skate Canada at Quebec City and is expected to make a full recovery.
•Justine Henin might not defend her tennis gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, fearing the city’s air pollution could trigger her asthma.
•A pair of bull riders died in separate incidents Saturday. Joshua J. “Cody” Brunner, 21, of Warrensburg, Mo., died after he was stepped on by a bull in a United Rodeo Association event, and Zackary Clinton, 17, of Willow Springs, Mo., died after being injured at a rodeo in Arkansas.
•The Champ Car World Series added Spain to its schedule for 2008, putting eight of its 14 races outside the United States, including stops in Belgium, the Netherlands and Mexico.
•The ruler of Dubai paid $10.5 million to buy Playful Act at Keeneland’s Breeding Stock Sale at Lexington, Ky., a world record auction price for a broodmare.
•The LPGA Sybase Classic at Clifton, N.J., will increase its purse next year to $2 million.