On May 23, 1993, the Cincinnati Reds stunned the baseball world. Just 44 games into a season in which they were only four below .500, they fired first-year manager Tony Perez and replaced him with Davey Johnson.
I’m not claiming this is the definitive record for the fastest blowout of a new skipper but those of us sitting around the press box at CitiField tonight think it is. We knew the Reds’ Hall of Famer went out even faster than had poor Les Moss, finally given a shot to manage in the majors after 20 years’ apprenticeship as a coach, only to be cashiered by the Tigers in favor of Sparky Anderson on June 11, 1979.
Is it possible? Would anybody – let alone the Red Sox – off a high-profile skipper 40 games into his tenure? Or 30? The question certainly seems increasingly less like science fiction with every passing day. Now we hear Valentine won’t put Daniel Bard back in the bullpen because he doesn’t want to go.
Man alive, if that’s the real reason, there’s no need to fire poor Bobby. If third-year ex-set-up men get to dictate their roles on a pitching staff we can expect Valentine to just slowly vanish like the Cheshire Cat.
The Red Sox have done some goofy managerial things, and in recent memory. In mid-August 2001, in second place and just five games out, they fired manager Jimy Williams and made pitching coach Joe Kerrigan the skipper. The Sox proceeded to go 17-26 and end up 13-and-a-half out. As the new ownership group took over, they fired Kerrigan and put in coach Mike Cubbage as a spring training caretaker. When the John Henry gang was given formal control of the franchise, Cubbage was fired without ever managing a regular season game. Were that not bizarre enough, this was all done so they could make the ill-fated Grady Little the skipper.
By the way just to clarify – Perez is not the manager fired fastest. We’re limiting this to guys in Valentine’s shoes: newly hired to start a season (and in the cases of Moss and Perez, quickly fired). The overall fastest record either belongs to Cubbage or Wally Backman, hired and fired in the same off-season by the Diamondbacks. Or if you’d prefer the quickest in-season exit, that has to be Eddie Stanky. Lured back to the majors after eight years coaching in college, Stanky took the reins of the Rangers on June 22, 1977. Stanky’s new team beat the Twins 10-8, whereupon Stanky told the startled media that he’d made a huge mistake – and was resigning.