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AROUND THE HORN

Firing Season About to Begin

September 29, 2002|ROSS NEWHAN

The shakeup of Bud Selig's Milwaukee Brewers, with General Manager Dean Taylor fired, Wendy Selig-Prieb moved from club president to board chairman and respected Milwaukee attorney and civic leader Ulice Payne hired as president, was just the first of the winter storm clouds--in Milwaukee and elsewhere.

A conservative estimate is that 10 of the 30 major league managers may not be back next year, and there may be several changes among general managers as well.

"It could be a real carousel," said Buck Showalter, who, along with Bob Melvin, the Arizona Diamondbacks' bench coach, is considered a possible replacement for Jerry Royster, who was hired by the Brewers as interim manager after the firing of Davey Lopes and is certain to have seen his last sausage race at Miller Park. Royster could be fired by the end of business today.

Among other interim managers whose positions seem in jeopardy are Bruce Kimm with the Chicago Cubs, Luis Pujols with the Detroit Tigers and Joel Skinner with the Cleveland Indians.

A second straight season of 100 or more losses for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays could also claim Hal McRae, although shortstop Chris Gomez says there's not much a new manager could change, considering "we're just not very good."

In addition:

* The Boston Red Sox, who still had a wild-card shot until Wednesday, may fire Grady Little, despite their high-profile search last spring.

* The ongoing fallout of a tumultuous and underachieving season may have convinced New York Met owner Fred Wilpon that a housecleaning is needed, starting with Manager Bobby Valentine.

* The uncertain status of the Montreal Expos affects Frank Robinson, who initially agreed to manage for one year and now says he is willing to stay.

* The Texas Rangers have said that Jerry Narron will open next season as the manager, but Narron plans to leave for his North Carolina home after today's final game and will not participate in postseason meetings, indicating he is convinced that General Manager John Hart plans to make a change.

* The San Francisco Giants have begun to address the expiring contract status of General Manager Brian Sabean, but Peter Magowan, the managing general partner, insists he will leave the decision on Manager Dusty Baker's expiring contract to Sabean, or whoever the GM is.

No one is safe, of course, if Baker isn't, but then Baker might feel it is time to leave on his own, giving up his popularity and family connections in the Bay Area.

How that and the rest of it plays out is uncertain, but the changes may not end at the manager's office.

Mike Port, who was the Angels' general manager when they last went to the playoffs, could be out as Boston's interim general manager, replaced, perhaps, by Sabean or J.P. Ricciardi, the Toronto Blue Jays' general manager.

Steve Phillips could pay the price for the Mets' combustion, replaced, perhaps, by Omar Minaya, his former assistant and now Montreal GM.

Syd Thrift could be out as the Baltimore Orioles' GM, replaced, perhaps, by ... well, hasn't owner Peter Angelos long been serving as de facto GM?

The Two Bills

The playoff-bound Angels are as much Bill Bavasi's team as Bill Stoneman's, as much Stoneman's as Bavasi's. Each acknowledges the other's role in the team's construction.

General Manager Stoneman referred to the foundation laid by predecessor Bavasi and his scouting director, Bob Fontaine Jr., and said:

"The bulk of this team was here. Whether it was Bill Bavasi or Bob Fontaine, they made some pretty good decisions before Mike [Scioscia] and I ever got here.

"They made some pretty good decisions that have really paid off now."

Colleague Bill Plaschke charted Fontaine's contributions in his Friday column. Both Fontaine and Bavasi left after the 1999 season rather than implement the wholesale changes that then-club president Tony Tavares desired.

Among Angel regulars, Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon and Bengie Molina are all products of the Bavasi administration.

So are starting pitchers Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz and John Lackey.

So are relievers Troy Percival, Scott Schoeneweis, Scot Shields, Al Levine and Francisco Rodriguez. So are the valuable Orlando Palmeiro and Shawn Wooten.

In addition, Stoneman used several Bavasi/Fontaine players in trades, acquiring Adam Kennedy in the Jim Edmonds deal, Brad Fullmer for Brian Cooper, Alex Ochoa for Jorge Fabregas and Kevin Appier for Mo Vaughn, who was Bavasi's biggest free-agent signee.

In further enhancing what he inherited, there is no minimizing the shrewd eye Stoneman and staff have displayed while working under a restrictive budget.

David Eckstein and Ben Weber were picked off waivers.

Brendan Donnelly and Benji Gil were signed as minor league free agents.

Aaron Sele, Dennis Cook and Scott Spiezio came as major league free agents.

"Bill and his guys have added some fine pieces that have worked perfectly," said Bavasi, now director of player development for the Dodgers and reluctant to comment on the Angels' success.

"I'm proud of the time we spent there, happy and thrilled for the guys who have become veterans on that team, but I don't think it's right for me to say that I take pride in what the Angels have done this year because it's not my team. Bill and his guys have done a tremendous job. It's their team."

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