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Pirates sack Russell after 105 loss season

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Pirates fired manager John Russell on Monday. He was the second Major League Baseball manager to get the axe the first day after the regular season ended.

Russell, who watched his team lose a Major League worst 105 games last season, joined Jerry Manuel after the New York Mets manager was dismissed earlier in the day.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for J.R., both personally and professionally. He took on a difficult challenge, overseeing a major overhaul in the makeup of our team," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington in a statement on the league's official website (www.mlb.com).

"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.

"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."

During Russell's three years at the helm, the Pirates slipped further and further down the standings, losing 95 games in 2008, 99 in 2009 then 105 in 2010.

In the season just ended, they became the first team since the 1965 Mets to finish last in the National League in offense, pitching and defense.

The Pirates won the World Series five times between 1909 and 1979 but have lost more games than they have won for each of the past 18 years.

Their 64 road losses this season were the second-highest total in baseball's modern era.

(Reporting by Steve Keating. Editing by Julian Linden)