When the Phillies fired manager Nick Leyva 13 games into this season, it raised the questions: Was it the earliest firing in baseball history, and how have teams fared that have fired coaches that early?
The answer to the first is no; to the second, lousy.The earliest firing in history was the Orioles' canning of Cal Ripken Sr. in 1988 after an 0-6 start. The O's went on to lose 15 more before registering their first win and finished in seventh place.
In 1972, Preston Gomez was ousted by the Padres 11 games into the season. The Padres won 58 games that year and finished last.
George Steinbrenner axed Bob Lemon 14 games into the 1982 season, with the Yanks 6-8 and in fourth place. Super manager Billy Martin led the Bronx Bumblers to a fifth-place finish.
Steinbrenner, defying the lessons of history, then sacked Yogi Berra in 1985 after 16 games, with the team 6-10 and in seventh place. That's the only time it worked, and maybe the only time anything Steinbrenner did worked, as the Yanks revived and wound up in second place.
TRIVIA QUIZ: What active player has played for a winning team in every season of his big-league career?
MRS. BOSS: Now that Steinbrenner isn't here to kick around anymore, it is this column's duty to poke fun at the baseball owner who most deserves to be dislodged - Cincinnati's adorable ditz, Marge Schott. Here's the latest Schottism: When the Reds were presented their World Series rings before a recent game, Schott did the honors, introducing each player, then handing them a box with ring enclosed. Unfortunately, whoever labeled the boxes put only last names on them, and Schott has trouble remembering the names of her employees. So among her resourceful introductions were these - For Norm Charlton: "Our player Charlton." For Rob Dibble: "Another little cutie named Dibble."
Dibble a cutie? Marge, you've been living with that dog too long.
MORE PHILS: Don't expect miracles from new manager Jim Fregosi in Philadelphia. His lifetime winning percentage as a manager is .483. This is his third stint - and third different team - as a manager, and he has one division title to show for six previous seasons. This is just another example of how bad organizations get into a rut by hiring guys from the good-old-boy network.
BEANTOWN BOMB: Ditto the above on Fregosi for Jack Clark in Boston. Clark hit a grand slam on opening day for the Red Sox and was immediately hailed as the guy who would lead them to baseball's Promised Land. Since then, Clark has one HR, three RBI and is hitting .227. He struck out four times in one game, had eight strikeouts and a double-play grounder in a nine at-bat stretch, and he's already being booed by Boston fans.
Maybe The Ripper could get some batting tips from Tony Gwynn, the former teammate in San Diego whom he ripped last season for playing selfish. Gwynn is hitting .365 with 11 RBI. Who would you rather have on your team?
TRIVIA ANSWER: Howard Johnson, Mets 1985-present, Tigers 1982-84.
BIG STICKS: By the end of Thursday's game against Philadelphia, the Mets starting lineup (which managed three hits that night) and their batting averages were: Vince Coleman, .237; Tommy Herr, .182; Dave Magadan, .235; Hubie Brooks, .214; Howard Johnson, .167; Kevin McReynolds, .121; Kevin Elster, .290; amd Charley O'Brien, .219. Starting pitcher Dwight Gooden, .222, could have batted cleanup without any noticeable dropoff in productivity.
Doesn't give Mets fans much reason to gloat about Darryl Strawberry's slow start (.245) in L.A., does it?