Pirates Fire Russell As Manager

John Russell as expected was ousted as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates today, the announcement was made by general manager Neal Huntington who was retained.

Russell,49, who had one year remaining on his contract, was let go a day after the Pirates completed a 57-105 season, their third-highest loss total. Their .352 winning percentage is sixth-worst in franchise history.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for JR, both personally and professionally. He took on a difficult challenge, overseeing a major overhaul in the make-up of our team," Huntington said. "JR is a quality baseball man and a good friend. He put his heart and soul into this difficult challenge and was tremendously committed to the organization and the plan we implemented three years ago. JR provided a positive environment for our young players, all of whom have grown as men and baseball players under his stewardship. But, in the end, we decided that new leadership in the clubhouse would give us the best opportunity to move this major league team forward."

"Our search for that new leadership will begin immediately."

Russell's record in three years as manager was 186-299. He expressed pride recently in the way the team developed some of its younger players.

"It's been tough. I'm not going to lie to you," Russell said. "It's been a tough three years, because we never really felt like we had one team over the three years. But also, starting in June, this is where we envisioned going, getting some very good players who are young, talented and that we have control over for a number of years. But it was tough. You see this team, how hard they competed, how much they wanted to win, and we kept falling short."

The Pirates also had other troubling numbers this season, finishing at the bottom of the league in team ERA (5.00), batting average (.242) and fielding percentage (.979).

The team also put to rest any speculation Huntington was out as general manager by having Huntington make the announcement. The decisions were made by President Frank Coonelly, in consultation with owner Bob Nutting.

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