Narron Fired By Struggling Reds

Monday, July 2nd 2007, 12:49 pm
By: News On 6

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Looking to jolt baseball's worst team out of its doldrums, the Cincinnati Reds turned to an inexperienced manager on Monday to provide a midseason spark.

Advance scout Pete Mackanin flew back to Cincinnati from San Francisco, where he was watching the Giants, to begin what amounts to an audition for the job. Mackanin was chosen as interim manager after Jerry Narron was fired on Sunday night.

General manager Wayne Krivsky said the 55-year-old Mackanin, who has managed for 13 years in the minors but only 26 games in the major leagues, will have a chance to get the job full time.

``We'll see what he does,'' Krivsky said. ``We'll see how the team responds. Pete deserves a chance to show what he can do here in the short-term.''

He's taking over a team with long-standing problems.

Dragged down by one of the NL's worst bullpens, the Reds failed to contend in the weak NL Central, where only Milwaukee has a winning record. Cincinnati has the worst record in the majors at 31-51 and is headed for its seventh straight losing season.

Krivsky said he decided midway through last week that a change was needed. He sat down with Narron in the manager's office at Great American Ball Park following an 11-7 loss to St. Louis on Sunday and broke the news.

``He took it hard,'' Krivsky said. ``He was emotional. That's all I want to say about it.''

Midway through last season, the Reds extended Narron's contract through 2008, giving him confidence that he would be around. The 51-year-old Narron gave no indication before or after Sunday's game that he felt his job was in jeopardy.

Since they moved into Great American five years ago, the Reds have been through two owners, three general managers and now four managers, an instability that precludes success.

``Baseball is a tough business,'' owner Bob Castellini said Monday. ``If people want to perceive we're a rocky ship, they can do that. But I can tell you we have a direction.''

For now, this team is dead in the water.

Narron's final act as manager was to change relief pitchers on Sunday. He knew that the bullpen, which leads the league in losses, was the main reason for the team's downfall, and there wasn't much he could do about it.

The bullpen has been in flux for the last two years because of injuries, trades and repeated failures. There are currently three rookies in a bullpen that has only one reliable pitcher, closer David Weathers.

That was the problem.

``We feel like we're in every ballgame,'' Narron said, after the Reds' only victory of the series on Saturday. ``It comes down to if we can get some outs after our starters come out of the game.''

Most often, they couldn't. And that's the biggest reason why Narron was gone.

Mackanin, who managed the Reds' Triple-A team in Nashville from 1990-92, was the Pirates' interim manager for the final 26 games of the 2005 season after Lloyd McClendon was fired.

The Reds' switch came a few hours after Seattle's Mike Hargrove resigned, saying he no longer had a passion for the job.

Narron was the second big league manager to be fired this season. Baltimore's Sam Perlozzo lost his job on June 18 after the last-place Orioles couldn't shake another losing streak.

The Reds have been far worse, setting a pace for their first 100-loss season since 1982. With no improvement in sight and attendance starting to lag, the club decided to make a change on an off day before the start of a series against the Giants on Tuesday.

Mackanin was flying to Cincinnati to meet with his coaches and players.

Krivsky said he hasn't contacted anyone else about the managing job. He indicated he might wait until the end of the season to decide who will run the club next year.

Narron didn't return a phone message.

``It was an honor to manage the Cincinnati Reds, a team with such great tradition, and I'm sorry I was not able to get this team to win,'' he told the Dayton Daily News. ``It breaks my heart.''

He praised the club and its followers.

``It's a great organization, it's a great city. The fans are great,'' Narron told The Cincinnati Enquirer. He said the team is ``close to being a good ballclub.''

Since winning the World Series in 1990, the Reds have had seven managers and made only one playoff appearance _ in 1995 under Davey Johnson.

The Reds expected a return to prominence when they moved into Great American Ball Park in 2003, but it didn't happen. They fired general manager Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone midway through the season.

Dave Miley got the next chance, but was fired midway through the 2005 season. Narron, his bench coach, took over on an interim basis and kept the job. The Reds went 80-82 last year, its best result since 2000.

Castellini allowed the payroll to rise $10 million to $69 million this year, hoping to contend in a weak division. He also allowed Krivsky to give $71 million in contract extensions to starting pitchers Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, the franchise's biggest spending splurge since it brought Griffey home in 2000.

It all fell apart fast.