Outside of the San Francisco Bay area there are plenty of dedicated Giants fans, but one has a little more passion than most. He is Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo of SiriusXM/Mad Dog Radio, and despite living in New York, his passion for all things Giants is just as strong as if he grew up in the Bay Area.
Russo is one of the most influential and most listened-to voices on satellite radio, where he is never shy from giving his unvarnished opinion on any topic, no matter how controversial.
Prior to launching Mad Dog Radio on SiriusXM in 2008, Russo spent 20 years in New York along with his partner Mike Francesa doing the “Mike and The Mad Dog” afternoon drive show on WFAN — the top-rated sports talk show in New York, the best local sports talk show in the United States and the recent subject of an ESPN 30 for 30.
I spoke to Russo via phone this week in Houston where he was on location covering the World Series. We talked about the Giants and the 49ers.
Williams: So you made some news with your interview with former Giants manager Bruce Bochy. You got him on the record saying he would like one more shot at managing. You know him well, so why do you think he wants to return to managing?
Russo: I just had a feeling that he wanted one more chance at winning another Word Series. He loves the game as much as anyone I know, his record speaks for itself, plus he is a great teacher and I think he really just wants a year off and then if the right challenge comes along he will take it.
Williams: So,who gets the the Giants job?
Russo: Let’s start with the mindset that they do not want a high-priced, big-name guy to replace Bochy. They took a pass on both Joe Maddon — who went to the Angeles — and Joe Girardi, now with the Phillies.
At this point, there are really three people who are on the teams short list. We know that Astros bench coach Joe Espada, along with Royals quality control coach Pedro Grifol have been impressive in their interviews.
We also know that former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler remains in the mix. He, of course, has a good working relationship with president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi when both men were with the Dodgers.
What they want is a system-and-analytics guy who will execute the plans that Zaidi has for the future of the Giants. I like Zaidi, who is a very smart baseball man and knows what his vision is to return the Giants to a winning franchise.
Both Espada and Grifol would be first-time managers, but don’t forget that when Zaidi was with the Dodgers working on the staff with Andrew Friedman, they hired Dave Roberts, who was a first-time manager. So, that will not be a disqualifier in the search for the next Giants skipper.
Kapler, despite his inability to succeed in Philly, knows how to work within a system, but how much will that lack of success with a talented team hurt him in this process? I guess we will see very soon.
Now that the World Series is over, and the baseball offseason is upon us, I expect they will make a choice in the not too distant future.
As a Giants fan, I expect a manager who is going to be able to be an extension of the front office, who is good with the players and can speak about their vision to get this team back on track to win championships again.
I know that this is going to be a process that takes patience, because right now, the Dodgers are still great, the Padres are loaded with good, young talent and both the Rockies along with the Diamondbacks aren’t sitting around doing nothing. But for now we need to trust Zaidi to have a plan and to hire the best manager to make it come to life.
Williams: When did you become a Giants fan?
Russo: 1968, the Marriott hotel in Philadelphia, I was eight-years -old and the Giants were in town to play the Phillies and staying at the hotel. I was there with my family from New York. My parents were in town at a jewelry convention.
What a team they had with so many great players like Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Bobby Bonds, Mike McCormick and so many others. So, I set out with my plan to get their autographs and I think I got everyone on the entire team except Mays.
To this day, I recall they were so nice and I remember how big Willie McCovey was, but also how friendly he was. He took the time to sign my book and to talk to me. Well that was it from that day forward I have been an unapologetic Giants fan.
Williams: I know that are all over the NFL, are you surprised at the performance thus far of the 49ers?
Russo: Yes, I really did not see them being this good, this fast. I mean most people had them at eight wins this season, and I thought they were better than that, maybe a 10-win team with a good chance at the playoffs, but not one of the best teams in the NFC.
Look, they have a good defense and that sure helps. Kyle Shananhan is a hell of a coach and the quarterback Jimmy Garopopplo has been super. I think they could be a 12-4, 13-3 team but I still feel that the Packers with Rogers and the Saints with Brees are the best teams in the NFC. The real test for the 49ers will come with road games in Baltimore and New Orleans a little later in the year. We will see what happens after those games as well as how well Garopopplo handles the pressure of big games in December and January. But hey they have proven their doubters wrong so far so it will be fun to see how this plays out in the end.
Russo headlines the Mad Dog Sports Radio channel on SiriusXM. Channel 82 on SiriusXM radios and on the SiriusXM app. Chris’ daily show, “Mad Dog Unleashed,” airs every weekday from 3-6 p.m. ET/12-3 p.m. PT.
He also hosts “High Heat” weekdays on MLB Network.
Channel Surfing: Today on FOX2 the Raiders host Detroit with the broadcast being handled by the team of Thom Brennaman, and Chris Spielman.
We have a Pac-12 Network doubleheader this Saturday with Stanford on the road with a noon start at Colorado, followed by Washington State at Cal with a 4 p.m. start time.
The best Pac-12 Game of the Week is on Saturday in Tempe, where Arizona State looks to beat Pac-12 South co-leader USC 12:30 p.m. on ABC7 and the ESPN app.
College football Game of the Week is on KPIX CBS 5 at noon on Saturday ,with Alabama hosting LSU at 12:30 p.m.
Plenty of Warriors action this week starting Monday night at 7:30 p.m. as they host Portland. Golden State then hits the road for games in Houston on Wednesday (4:30 p.m.), in Minnesota on Friday (4:30 p.m.) and in Oklahoma City against the Thunder on Saturday at 4 p.m., with all the games airing on NBC Sports Bay Area.