"The dog is a big, big negative," says one of the Reds, who didn't want to be identified (criticize the dog, and you might be gone). "It's embarrassing for the players; they talk all the time in the clubhouse about how angry they are about it. The fans laugh about it because they're embarrassed. It's like, how stupid can this get? The dog craps on the field every night, and the same guy has to scoop it up. People laugh at the guy. She does some inhumane things to people."
Says another Red, "Marge just doesn't get it. Her only two concerns are her dog and money. We're hoping she buys the zoo and sells the team—then everyone will be happy."
Good news for the zoo, she's not selling. But it's bad news for baseball, which can ill afford owners like Schott these days. The game has serious public relations problems because of escalating player salaries, higher ticket prices, labor disputes, lawsuits and the forced resignation of commissioner Fay Vincent. It doesn't need more embarrassment, yet Schott's actions have been humiliating to her employees and degrading to the franchise and, ultimately, to the fans.
Despite her motherly approach with her players and fans—"She calls everyone 'Honey' because she doesn't know anyone's name," says one Red—Schott is not a lovable owner. Her penurious ways are legendary in Cincinnati, but she topped even herself in August this year. At a community benefit held in Cincinnati, memorabilia from the Reds and the Dodgers (who were in town that week) were raffled off for a local charity. Piniella donated three autographed bats. That night, after the Reds won the game, Piniella was called by Schott's secretary and told that he would be charged for the three bats that he had signed and donated for the benefit.
Indignities like that provided enough reason for Piniella to resign. He's financially secure; he knows he can get work elsewhere, possibly as manager of the Giants should they move to St. Petersburg, right next door to his native Tampa. He didn't need any more of the annoyances in Cincinnati. Yet a shameless press release issued two days after he bolted—the only public comment on the matter from Schott, who isn't returning phone calls—stated that Piniella had always been a supporter of Schott's. What? "Lou had a stomachful from her," says one Red. "He'd had enough."
Schott's love affair with her manager—she doubled his salary after the 1990 season—began to fade during the 1991 season while the Reds were en route to finishing with the worst record (74-88) ever by a team the year after it won a world championship. But the relationship fell apart this year. Schott's payroll had ballooned to $35 million after Quinn's off-season trades and the inking of a five-year, $25 million contract by the multitalented Larkin. Schott was expecting another World Series ring and wanted no excuses, not even injuries. When the Reds were still in the race in late August and needed pitching help for the stretch drive, she refused to authorize any new deals. Piniella and many of his players were frustrated by the lack of action. Quinn's hands were tied.
What bothered Piniella most during the final month of the season was the uncertainty of his contract status for next year. Writers asked him repeatedly if he was coming back in 1993, and by the end of September his ambivalent response was, "I don't know, but I'm not worried one way or another." Early last week Schott finally offered him a one-year deal that called for a pay cut, so he quit. After resigning, he said, "It was a little like a circus atmosphere. I didn't like it. It made me uncomfortable. The players have to know who's boss. Not having my contract resolved made problems for me in the clubhouse."
Piniella added, "If we had turned over like a beached whale, that would have been one thing. But this club continued to play hard. I'm proud of that." He also noted that he didn't think the Reds were far from being a serious contender in 1993.
But what will this team look like by then? The Reds reportedly turned a $12 million profit last year but made only $4 million this year, so Schott is steaming. How much of the payroll will be cut? Swindell (12-8, 2.70 ERA) is expected to leave via free agency. So might Martinez. Two club sources insist that one of the Reds' skilled but expensive closers, Rob Dibble or Norm Charlton, will be traded. So might third baseman Chris Sabo (who made $3 million in 1992) or rightfielder Paul O'Neill ($3.5 million). Or maybe both.
Schott is expected to hire Jim Bowden, the team's director of player development, as her next general manager. He will come cheap, and don't underestimate the importance of that. The next Cincinnati manager is also expected to be hired from within. Red coaches Jackie Moore and Tony Perez, along with Double A Chattanooga manager Ron Oester, are the leading candidates. Any of those three will come cheap, too.