Bobby Valentine, who managed more games for one team without winning a title than anyone in baseball history, says the Texas Rangers fired him just when the team was coming together.

"I thought we were going to be in first place at the end of the season. That's what we're shooting for," Valentine said Thursday.Managing general partner George W. Bush said the decision was made because the team was "61/2 games back and not playing very well."

Valentine's response? "To say that the season is slipping away, I think that's doomsday reporting," he said.

Texas was 45-41 overall under Valentine, just 22-23 at home. The Rangers had lost six of their last nine before pounding Cleveland 14-4 Thursday night under Toby Harrah, who was promoted from dugout coach to interim manager.

Harrah, who managed the Rangers' top farm club in 1987 and 1988, said he is cautiously excited about taking over for Valentine, whom he said was a good teacher.

General manager Tom Grieve said he hopes to hire a new manager by the end of the All-Star break, but that such a short time frame may be too soon.

He said Harrah would be the only current coach considered for the post, but that other people within the organization, whom he declined to name, also may be candidates.

Valentine became the team's 11th manager in May 1985. He left with a 581-605 record and the club mark for wins, losses and games managed. No other Rangers manager lasted more than three seasons.

Valentine also etched his way into the major league record books by managing 1,186 games without winning so much as a division title. Under Valentine, the Rangers were never in a pennant race after Labor Day.

"I don't think anybody would've done better than I did while I was here," Valentine said. "People are going to look back and say in 1985, this is where the Texas Rangers were and in 1992, this is where they were when he left. I think people are going to say that's one hell of a job," he said.

Valentine said he just needed more time because "this team is going to win the World Series."

He cited many problems, including injuries or slumps to defending AL batting champion Julio Franco, closer Jeff Russell, All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez and two-time All-Star first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. A 15-3 streak by the world champion Minnesota Twins didn't help either.

But the team could never overcome the question marks it faced in spring training.

The bullpen has had a revolving door and the defense has been spotty. Timely hits have been rare lately, contributing to six losses in the last nine games under Valentine.

Grieve said he will be looking for someone who is aggressive, who communicates well with the media, is community-oriented and has been in the game for a long time - basically the same qualities he used to describe Valentine.