Colorado Rockies Fire Don Baylor
DENVER (AP) _ The Colorado Rockies launched a sweeping reorganization of their front office in the wake of their underachieving 77-85 season, and manager Don Baylor was the first casualty.
Baylor, who compiled a 440-469 record as the only manager the Rockies have known in their six-year existence, was fired Monday.
Baylor, 49, was offered a position as vice president, reporting directly to club president Jerry McMorris, but he did not immediately accept it.
Despite the high-priced additions of pitcher Darryl Kile and second baseman Mike Lansing this year, the Rockies suffered their first losing season in four years.
McMorris, the club’s majority owner, said during spring training that the Rockies had assembled their best team. But the team’s performance didn’t measure up.
Both Baylor and Bob Gebhard, the general manager since the Rockies inception in 1993, subsequently came under fire.
``To this day,″ McMorris said Monday, ``I think it was the best team we’ve had on paper. We certainly didn’t go into the season expecting to be a .500 team, let alone eight games under. We honestly thought this team could win 90 games.″
Baseball in general, McMorris said, ``has enjoyed a remarkable 1998 season, but all of us at the Rockies have been very disappointed in our own season. After a long, thorough and very difficult evaluation, we feel a change in chemistry is necessary on the field and in the clubhouse.″
While Baylor will not return to the dugout, Gebhard will be back in the front office. Besides the new vice presidency job offered to Baylor, McMorris said the team will create another vice president’s position with broad player personnel responsibilities.
Keli McGregor, senior vice president of business operations, has been promoted to executive vice president. His responsibilities will remain with the club’s business operations, but he also will have expanded duties within the baseball department.
Assistant general manager Tony Siegle has been named to a new position of director of baseball administration.
``We realized that we had lost some experienced baseball people from our front office over the past few years,″ McMorris said. ``We need more baseball people upstairs.″
To that end, McMorris said he hoped Baylor would accept the new job offer.
``We do not want to lose Don or his many talents in this organization,″ McMorris said. ``I strongly encouraged Don to accept this role, and I made it very clear to him that it was not a short-term deal.″
Many of Baylor’s new duties would involve shoring up the Rockies’ minor-league system.
The process of finding a new manager will begin immediately, McMorris said.
``We have not asked any team for permission yet to talk to a manager,″ McMorris said at a late-morning press conference, ``but I expect that process will begin this afternoon. We’re looking for a person who has won and who has experience.″
Among those reportedly being considered to replace Baylor are Florida’s Jim Leyland, Montreal’s Felipe Alou and Milwaukee’s Phil Garner. In addition, Art Howe may lose his job in Oakland and become a candidate in Colorado.
After the Rockies came from behind to defeat San Francisco 9-8 on Sunday, Baylor sounded as if he expected to be fired. ``I think it’s probably 50-50,″ he said. ``I’ve been around a long time, and I understand the indicators. I can live with what I’ve done here in six years.″
With Baylor as the manager, the Rockies won 67 games in 1993, the most ever for a first-year NL team. They earned the NL wild-card playoff berth in 1995, the quickest any expansion team has made it to the post-season.
The Rockies went 83-79 in both 1996 and 1997 but slipped back this season.
Looking to next season, McMorris said the Rockies ``intend to bring in at least one impact free agent, and hopefully two.″
Asked if the club’s payroll will increase for next season, minority owner Charlie Monfort said, ``I think it has to. The honeymoon is over. This is a critical time for us. We have to do a lot of work to keep people in their seats.″
Referring to the team’s needs, Monfort said the Rockies hope to be in the bidding for free-agent catcher Mike Piazza. ``Obviously, we’d like to add a great center fielder, Piazza and another pitcher. Are we comfortable with that? I don’t know.″