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Now that the Mets have fired Davey Johnson (page 58), is anybody's job safe? The Mets' move has intensified rumors that other managers might soon get canned. At the top of the list is Bucky Dent, who has led the Yankees to their worst start since 1925—an 18-29 record through Sunday. Don't be surprised if Yanks owner George Steinbrenner replaces Dent with Johnson, a popular figure with New York fans, later this season.
Dent is not the only one to blame for the Yankees' poor showing this season. Indeed, even Miller Huggins would have had trouble keeping the current collection of pin-stripers out of the cellar. As one scout puts it, "It's not Bucky's fault. His team isn't bad—it's terrible."
True, Dent is not that experienced—when Steinbrenner named him manager last August, he was in his third year as skipper at Triple A Columbus and had never coached or managed in the majors. Nor is he much of a communicator. But those drawbacks are minor compared with some of his team's deficiencies.
What Dent needs is a veteran baseball man—ideally a former big league manager—to work with him as a coach. He could also use a player to take over the role of clubhouse leader. The biggest hole, however, is in the cleanup spot. By week's end, the four players who have batted fourth in the order had combined for a .213 average and only four homers. As a result, New York's No. 3 hitter, Don Mattingly, hasn't been seeing many good pitches. And he's not happy. "We haven't shown any signs of worrying about losing," says Mattingly. "It's as if we're happy to be playing the way we're playing."
Another manager who's on the endangered list is John Wathan of the Royals. However, as of Sunday the Royals had won 11 of their last 17 games, including two of four from Oakland last week. That means Wathan will probably be given a reprieve until the All-Star break.
"He has my support," says K.C. general manager John Schuerholz. "He knows that. But everyone in baseball knows that, ultimately, the buck stops with the manager. In my judgment, John has not done a bad job."
Wathan has gotten little help from 1989 National League Cy Young Award winner Mark Davis, the $13 million free-agent signee who has been ineffective as a closer and a middle reliever. Before May 18, Kansas City's other '89 Cy Young winner, Bret Saberhagen, had gone almost five weeks without a victory. In addition, rightfielder Danny Tartabull has missed most of the year with a muscle tear in his right leg, and Bo Jackson and George Brett haven't picked up the slack. Like Dent, Wathan is managing players with whom he played. That often makes the job harder, not easier.
A third skipper who is frequently mentioned as a candidate for the unemployment line is Bobby Valentine of the Rangers. On Sunday night, Texas was last in the American League West with a 20-30 record. Like Dent and Wathan, Valentine is not without an alibi. His best starter, Nolan Ryan, is on the disabled list with a back injury, and his only high-quality reliever, Jeff Russell, underwent surgery on his right elbow on May 30 and could be lost for the season.