Kovacevic: Banister for manager … because he cares


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Jeff Banister for manager.

I want him to get the Pirates' job because I've long believed in him, both as a baseball man and as a human. But my vote doesn't and shouldn't count, so I'll begin by basing this on how the players themselves feel.

Suffice it to say, without naming the names of those with whom I've communicated the past couple days, that Banister's the overwhelming leader in the clubhouse, so to speak. He's been part of some of these players' lives for years, given his various instructional roles in the minor-league system. He's been a vocal, visible presence in the majors, too, as both a bench coach and special assistant.

As one player told me, "We all know how much Banny knows and how much he cares. If he's the skip ... man, that'd be f---ing awesome."

Don't think the players should have a say?

If so, I'll issue a friendly reminder that, through the All-Star break, before injuries and front-office ambivalence undid their season, they were performing with as much passion as we'd seen in these parts for quite some time. They care.

Most prominent on Banister's resume, of course, he was the Rangers' manager from 2015-18, including American League West Division titles in 2015 and 2016, and Manager of the Year honors in 2015.

Other than that brief span, he's a lifer with the Pirates.

And yes, that can still be a good thing.

As I've been writing a lot lately, pride in the franchise is needed now as much as ever. The man who owns the franchise shows precious little of it. The people running the franchise exhibit absolutely none. So the hiring of this manager comes in a time where far more change is needed than what's likely to occur. Meaning there's a fair chance he'll outlast one or more of his bosses and, thus, he'd better be someone who's deeply invested in something more than burnishing his brand to go elsewhere.

I've seen the names of other candidates applying for the job. I've even read up on a couple. They don't interest me, and not just because I've been convinced from the split-second Clint Hurdle was fired that Banister will get this job. They don't interest me because they can't come close to offering what Banister can.  Maybe in a baseball sense, sure, but not as it relates to the Pirates.

I've known Banister very well for a very long time. He's always been my heart-and-soul source for all things Pirates. When I've felt things were exceptionally dark for the Pirates, when I've lost faith in those over him, I've been able to hear him speak about baseball, about this team, about this city in terms that were so uplifting, so positive, it felt like hope. He's like that. He gets people around him to be like that.

We've also had our bad patches. We once went several months in which he wouldn't even speak to me, he'd been so miffed about columns I'd written about the state of the minor-league system. He took them personally ... not so much as a person but because he takes everything about the Pirates personally. But one afternoon, we agreed to meet in the PNC Park dugout to talk it out, lay it all out there, and we did. He shared his thoughts on the team and the columns, and I did likewise. We achieved an understanding without necessarily an agreement.

My point to the tale: He cares that much. That's not someone randomly collecting a paycheck. At the time this happened, he wasn't much of a known commodity in the game or even within the team. He could've just shrugged me and my work off as a nuisance. But he didn't, because his investment -- that concept again -- was real.

He knows baseball at all levels. He's immensely qualified in that regard.

But he knows and loves the Pirates like few people anywhere on this planet.

Here's hoping this whole interview process has been, indeed, precisely the obligatory checking of boxes I've anticipated. One man's already checked every box.

• I don't believe Frank Coonelly will be the Pirates' team president much longer. I'm hearing that he's preparing for a move back to the commissioner's office to work with one-time-colleague-now-actual-commissioner Rob Manfred toward a new labor agreement.

Been writing this for weeks now, but Bob Nutting isn't done. He just isn't. If Coonelly's exit occurs, then others could be at hand. Which would finally explain a lot of the word that's filtered this way.

• Ever seen 'A Clockwork Orange,' the Stanley Kubrick masterwork novel adaptation from 1971?

There's a scene in which the protagonist is strapped to a theater chair, his eyelids pried open by metal constructs, while being forced to watch horrific films of 'terrible ultra-violence.' As it's happening, someone's sitting to his side occasionally plopping eyedrops to make sure the protagonist keeps watching, keeps screaming, keeps pleading for it to end.

Imagine watching Gerrit Cole in Game 1 of the World Series tonight in Houston, if you'd been the one who traded Cole for four guys named Joe, and it's probably something similar.

Or not.

• Astros in seven. But only so Cole can start Games 1, 4 and 7 and ring up 15 Ks in each.

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