Rather than go
quietly, Bowa burned bridges, telling reporters. "The game has passed
[Feeney] by. This would hurt if I got fired by somebody I respect, if I got
fired by a Joe McIlvaine or Frank Cashen [Mets executives]. But this guy didn't
even know the names of the players on his own team." That last remark was
in reference to an incident earlier this year when Feeney approached Kruk,
thinking he was pitcher Lance McCullers, grabbed his right arm and said,
"Way to go. Lance. You're finally starting to earn the money we're paying
Feeney at least
was gracious in his appraisal of the situation. "Larry Bowa has been an
extremely hardworking manager who has given his all," he said.
"However. I have a responsibility to our organization to find a solution to
the team's problems." McKeon, who had to borrow a pair of uniform pants
from Kruk for his first managing job since Oakland in 1978, said, "Larry's
a high-class kid. I think he did a good job. Sometimes business decisions enter
into it." Business decisions? Do the Padres think McKeon is a gate
At least one
player, pitcher Andy Hawkins, applauded the move. "This is kind of like
having a weight lifted off your shoulders," said Hawkins. "[Bowa] was
just depressing." But Gwynn, whose words carry a little more weight in the
clubhouse than Hawkins's, said, "Larry did a great job. We let him down.
This is a very frustrating day for me because I don't know what direction this
team is going in. In my mind there are more questions with this team [today]
than there were yesterday."
Kruk summed it up
this way: "I haven't been around long enough to know about managers,"
he said. "Larry could have been the best manager in the world or the worst.
But I know what he had to work with. We're just not that strong a team. He
tried last year to yell and scream, and it didn't work. This year he tried to
be mellow, and it didn't work. We just aren't good. It'd be tough for God to
come in and manage this team."
Not all changes
are bad ones. It actually took guts for Braves general manager Bobby Cox to
fire Tanner, who felt so secure that he told a reporter hours before his
dismissal, "I can have this job for as long as I want it." Atlanta will
now have to eat the nearly three years remaining on Tanner's $400,000-a-year
contract. But Cox saw that Tanner was jeopardizing his youth movement because
1) he was abusing some of the young pitchers, 2) his coaches were unable to
teach, and 3) his Pollyanna approach was being laughed at.
But so many
changes are made strictly to save face. Before other teams use their coaches or
managers as scapegoats, they might do well to follow the example of the Texas
Rangers. They got off to a terrible start this year, standing 10-16 on May 6.
Elsewhere under such circumstances, sportswriters might have begun a deathwatch
on the manager. But instead Grieve gave manager Bobby Valentine a two-year
extension on his contract. "He had made a strong commitment to us, so we
decided to make him a commitment," says Grieve. "He is a first-class
person, a first-class manager, he is good with the players, with the press,
with the fans, and he moved down here. I cannot think of this team in the
future without thinking of Bobby as the manager.
to act when we did before any of the whispers started. We could have given him
a vote of confidence, but those things are usually followed a week later by a
firing. I also think the contract helped relax the team as a whole. They didn't
feel as if they had to perform because his job was on the line."
received the contract extension, the Rangers have gone 14-7 and moved into
third place behind Oakland and Minnesota.
Maybe it is time
for a change: a change in the way teams treat their managers and coaches.
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