Rangers manager resigns after 11-17 start
Updated: Friday May 04, 2001 11:42 PM
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Johnny Oates resigned Friday as manager of the Texas Rangers, saying he was unable to turn around a team off to its worst start since 1985 despite signing Alex Rodriguez to the richest contract in sports history.
"This is not something I wanted to do, but I wrestled with the decision," said Oates, who was in his seventh season. "It will be a lot easier to get a new voice in the clubhouse than new players."
Oates was replaced for the remainder of the season by Jerry Narron.
The Rangers got several new players during the offseason, including Rodriguez for $252 million over 10 years, and free agents Andres Galarrage and Ken Caminiti. That hasn't been enough to make them a winning team.
Texas was 11-17 and 11 games behind Seattle in the AL West going into Friday night's game against the Chicago White Sox. While the Rangers were near the lead in every offensive category, their pitching staff was the worst in the majors with a 6.72 ERA.
In a meeting with general manager Doug Melvin after Thursday's 9-4 loss to Detroit, the Rangers' fifth straight defeat, Oates said he had done everything he could to turn things around. The longtime friends made a mutual decision that it was time for a change.
"When he made the decision, he was relieved," Melvin said. "All of us had looked for answers, all of us had talked to players trying to figure it out. There are no easy answers."
Oates and Melvin reached the decision a day before they were to meet with owner Tom Hicks for their monthly evaluation of the team. Hicks attended Thursday's game instead of going to St. Louis to watch the Dallas Stars, which he also owns, play what turned out to be their final playoff game.
Hicks, who had warned that Oates' job could be in jeopardy if the team didn't play better, said he had struggled over what to say during a meeting that was never necessary.
"I knew in my gut where we are," Hicks said. "Everybody in this room has figured out the same thing. Johnny figured it out too."
"I'm as disappointed as anybody. This will be hopefully the start to getting our intangibles to work."
Hicks said the most pressing question he planned to ask Oates, who led the Rangers to their only three postseason appearances, was if he had lost control of the team.
Last week in Cleveland, All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez apparently became upset at Oates for questioning the severity of an injury. Rodriguez has since gone on the 15-day disabled list for a bruised left heel.
Oates said that before a game April 24, the first of his final road trip, he said a prayer asking to know by May 23 whether he should keep his job. He decided to resign following a 9-4 loss to Detroit on Thursday.
"I told Johnny `I would like to talk you out of it,' but inside in my heart I felt maybe it was the right time," Melvin said.
Melvin said he and Narron will meet over the next few days to evaluate coaching staff and roster "as we look for ways to turn this season around."
The Rangers made the playoffs in 1996, '98 and '99. They faced the eventual world champion New York Yankees each time, winning one game the first year and getting swept the next two times.
Oates was the AL's 1996 co-manager of the year, along with New York's Joe Torre, after leading the Rangers to their first division title. Texas won a team record 95 games in 1999.
"We made some steps, we made some strides," said Oates, who was 506-476 in Texas. "The last couple of years have not been what we envisioned.
"I don't think it's a lack of confidence. It's a lack of production."
Oates warned Narron before Thursday's game to start preparing for a new job.
Like Oates, Narron is a former major-league catcher. He was a minor-league manager in the Orioles' system when Oates added him to his Baltimore staff in 1993.
Narron described his style as one cobbled from his time with Oates and his playing days under Billy Martin, Gene Mauch, John McNamara and Dick Williams.
"We have not played anywhere near where we're capable of playing," Narron said. "It's my job to get guys to achieve and overachieve. I don't know what we're going to change."
Melvin said that when Narron was managing in the minors, he was noticed by longtime major league executive and former manager Birdie Tebbetts.
"He came back one time and said, `That kid you have down there managing Rochester, he reminds me of Walter Alston -- he's quiet, but don't take that quietness for someone who doesn't want to win,'" Melvin said. "I've always kept that in my mind."
The Rangers are the second team to change managers in the first five weeks of the season. Tampa Bay fired Larry Rothschild.