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Green Is Fired, Dent Promoted by Yankees

August 19, 1989|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

It was on a quiet morning in spring training that Dallas Green reflected on the fact he brought to the New York Yankees a blustery personality similar to that of the team owner.

Green said it was a volatile situation that would create an inevitable confrontion.

The inevitability recently became a reality, leading Friday to another inevitability: Green's firing as manager of the Yankees for apparently refusing to make coaching changes that the owner, George Steinbrenner, demanded.

Steinbrenner announced that former shortstop Bucky Dent, manager of the club's triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, for the last three years, will replace Green, who was removed with a year remaining on his two-year contract.

Steinbrenner also fired four of Green's coaches--Pat Corrales, Lee Elia, Charlie Fox and Frank Howard--although Howard was first offered Dent's job at Columbus, which he turned down. Rick Down, a roving hitting instructor who formerly coached with the Angels, was selected to replace Dent at Columbus.

Two of Green's staff--bullpen coach John Stearns and pitching coach Billy Connors--were retained by Steinbrenner to work with Dent, while Mike Ferraro and Gene Michael were reassigned by the organization and will coach first and third base, respectively. Champ Summers, a minor league hitting instructor, will join the major league staff in a similar capacity.

The managerial change, coming with the sixth-place Yankees at 56-65 and 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East, is the 17th since Steinbrenner purchased the team in 1973. Dent became Steinbrenner's 11th different manager.

Four of the others--Billy Martin, Lou Piniella, Clyde King and Michael--are still employed by the Yankees in various capacities.

"Some things never change," Green said Friday, alluding to his firing and the Yankees' instability.

Said relief ace Dave Righetti: "I respected Dallas and his coaches. They worked hard and I appreciated that. But this just goes with the territory here. We've never had it any other way. To me, this is normal--and that's no joke."

Added first baseman/designated hitter Ken Phelps: "There are six weeks left in the season. If they were going to do this, it would have made more sense to bring back (former managers) Billy (Martin) or Lou (Piniella), someone more familiar with the team."

The latest change took shape two weeks ago when Steinbrenner publicly derided Green and his coaching staff for aligning fielders in the wrong places and for what he perceived to be a lack of effort by the team.

The outspoken Green refused to back away, calling Steinbrenner "manager George" and a second-guesser. Green predicted at the time that he would be fired.

Neither Green nor Steinbrenner were available for more than brief statements Friday, but Green confirmed that his firing revolved around Steinbrenner's desire to make changes in the coaching staff.

"I told him, as I always told him, that if he's going to do that, the head honcho, the manager, has to go first," Green said, hurrying to leave the team's Detroit hotel Friday morning.

Said Steinbrenner, in a statement released through the team's publicity department: "We welcome Bucky, who has worked hard for this chance. I still consider Dallas to be a close friend."

Later, while refusing to answer questions, Steinbrenner added: "I made a change. I've got nothing critical at all to say about Dallas Green. Perhaps there were things I did that disappointed him and things he did that disappointed me. I'm sorry that Dallas and I aren't going to see this thing through together."

Green, who managed the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series victory in 1980 and helped the Chicago Cubs win an Eastern Division title in 1984 as general manager, was hired to manage the Yankees on Oct. 7, 1988.

He was the first manager selected by Steinbrenner from outside the organization and, with the owner's urging, promised a new discipline and team ethic.

The Yankees opened the season with a victory in Minnesota, lost their next seven games, and have never been more than two games above .500.

Free-agent pitcher Andy Hawkins has been the only constant in a rotation that had to be rebuilt after the release of Tommy John and Richard Dotson, injuries to Dave LaPoint and John Candelaria and the trade of Al Leiter. The Yankee pitching staff had a 4.54 earned-run average--the American League's worst--going into Friday night's game at Detroit, which New York lost, 7-3.

The offense--decimated by the injury to Dave Winfield, the trade of Jack Clark and the free-agent departure of Claudell Washington--has also been inconsistent, with the Yankees trading for Mel Hall, Jesse Barfield and Steve Balboni in a modest attempt to improve the production, then finally trading Rickey Henderson in hopes of strengthening the pitching.

Of Green's firing, second baseman Steve Sax said: "I respect Dallas and feel sorry for him. It's been tough with all the injuries and changes. I thought he did a good job."

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