Tigers fire Garner and Smith

Monday, April 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ The Detroit Tigers, baseball's lone winless team, fired manager Phil Garner and general manager Randy Smith on Monday.

Luis Pujols, a coach with the Tigers, will take over as manager on an interim basis, said team president Dave Dombrowski, who will assume the GM's job.

Detroit, which hasn't had a wining record or a winning April since 1993, sputtered in the first week of the season, dropping three games each to Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

The Tigers hired Garner in October 1999. He was considered a well-respected manager despite a losing record with Milwaukee. At the time, Garner also was a candidate for an opening with the Chicago Cubs.

In two-plus seasons with Detroit, Garner had a 145-185 record and a 708-802 record overall.

Many had questioned Smith's future when Dombrowski, one of baseball's most respected executives, was hired away from the Florida Marlins in November to be team president and, in turn, Smith's boss.

Smith was in his seventh year as GM of the Tigers. Both mens' contracts were set to expire after the 2003 season.

Smith was often criticized in Detroit for moves that didn't work. He has seen players such as Juan Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez and Hideo Nomo go on to success with other teams after leaving Detroit.

Owner Mike Ilitch hoped Comerica Park, the Tigers' home since 2000, would provide the financial boost that would translate to a higher payroll and a better team.

However, Detroit finished 66-96 a year ago and 79-83 in 2000.

In Garner's first season in Detroit, the team reflected the competitive spirit that Tigers executives hoped would be instilled by the man who as a player was nicknamed ``Scrap Iron.''

However, last year's payroll was cut, stunting any momentum the franchise gained in 2000.

The 2001 season was marred by cliques and clashes among the team members and squabbling between Garner and some of the players, including outfielder Roger Cedeno, who departed via free agency to the New York Mets.

Garner replaced Larry Parrish as the Tigers' manager.

Garner came to Detroit after being fired in August 1999 after eight years at Milwaukee. He left the Brewers with a 563-617 record.

Last month, Smith insisted that he wasn't worried about his job security.

``This will be my 10th year as a GM, and I'm just going to continue doing my job,'' Smith said at the time. ``I'm looking forward to working with Dave, who I think has enabled us to move forward with some stability.''