The Seattle Mariners, in sixth place in the American League West, Monday fired Manager Dick Williams and named first-base coach Jimmy Snyder interim manager.
The shakeup was announced in the wake of public criticism of Williams by a number of Mariner players, including star pitcher Mark Langston. The Mariners were 23-33 and 16 games out of first place entering Monday night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers, coming off four straight losses.Williams, 59, who had announced after last year that this season probably would be his last, was unavailable for comment. Ozzie Virgil, the third-base coach, was also dismissed.
Team owner George Argyros said he told Williams the news.
"I have all the admiration in the world for Dick Williams. He is a wonderful piece of baseball history and couldn't have taken the bad news better," Argyros said. "He couldn't have made it easier on us. He is absolutely first class all the way. It was hard for me because I consider both he and Ozzie Virgil good friends.
"This team needs to win. We are a young team and we have to get some confidence back and that is why we made the change," Argyros continued. "We need to win and we need to have fun and I don't know which comes first, but we hope to do both.
"This team needs to have fun more than anything else but it wasn't happening this year."
Argyros said he remains open minded about whether Snyder will keep his new job. "We are taking it one game at a time," he said, "and Jimmy has got it now."
Argyros said Langston's comments had "nothing to do with the decision, although his speaking out was indicitive of the problem."
Williams has managed six major-league clubs. His record of 1,569-1451 over 21 years made him the second winingest active manager behind Detroit's Sparky Anderson.
He was hired by the Mariners May 9, 1986, and his Seattle teams went 157-192, including a franchise best 78-84 last season. Before taking over the Mariners, Williams led San Diego to its only World Series appearance in 1984.
Virgil coached under Williams for 12 years at Montreal, San Diego and Seattle.
Snyder, 56, was added to the Seattle coaching staff this season. He spent six years in the Chicago Cubs organization, one as a coach, two as a minor-league instructor and three as the team's field director of player development. He managed 14 years in the minor leagues but has never before managed in the majors.
"My way is not the Dick Williams way," Snyder said. "I am different. I will manage differently than Dick Williams. I will communicate quite a bit with the players. I'm looking forward to the challenge and I feel equipped to do anything in this game."
Asked what specific changes he would make, Snyder said, "Maybe we'll work and go after it a little harder than they did under Dick."
Second baseman Harold Reynolds said the move was good for the team.
"Dick was great for me, giving me a job and sticking with me," Reynolds said. "But for most of the team, it probably was the best move right now. A lot of players were beginning to point fingers at him."
Argyros had given Williams a vote of confidence three weeks ago, but the team followed with a 5-4 record during a homestand and then lost four straight to the Kansas City Royals.
"I'm disappointed and I'm tired, tired of this losing," Argyros said Sunday.
Langston, angered at being left in a game he eventually lost, blamed Williams for the team's problems.
"The leadership starts with the manager and if it's not working, then something has to be done," Langston said Sunday. "This team is going in the wrong direction and we've worked too hard for that."