Maybe not. But no one sees the playoffs in Pittsburgh’s future. No one sees anything but a pink slip in Russell’s future.
But the Pirates do have some promising young players, and Russell sees he has the support of Pirate management. Russell believes Pittsburgh can become more like Minnesota than Kansas City, can become an occasional contender rather perennial doormat.
"Our focus is winning now,” Russell said. "You can’t look to next year. You put the uniform on for a reason: to compete. Is that playoff baseball this year? Who knows? But we have to think about winning.
"The talent level has gotten a lot better. The culture has changed. We’re here for a reason: to win games.”
The Pirates have to appreciate a manager who stays steady despite the constant beat-downs.
"When he comes to talk to you, you’re focused on what he’s telling you,” said Jason Jaramillo, a backup catcher, just like Russell was in his 10 major-league seasons.
Jaramillo, who played at Oklahoma State, said he’s a sponge when constantly picking Russell’s brain on pitch selection and the game within the game.
"He’s very knowledgeable,” Jaramillo said. "I’m really happy I’ve got a chance to learn a lot with him.”
Russell was a journeyman catcher. Played with the Phillies, Braves and Rangers. He had just 1,087 career at-bats in those 10 years.
"I didn’t have a great (playing) career, but it’s something I’ll always cherish,” Russell said.
And now Russell has a job he cherishes. How long he holds it will be determined by whether the Pirates start winning.
405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.