OATES RESIGNS as Rangers manager

Friday, May 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Johnny Oates resigned Friday as manager of the Texas Rangers, who are off to their worst start since 1985 despite signing Alex Rodriguez to the richest contract in sports history.

Third-base coach Jerry Narron was made ``interim, full-time'' manager for the remainder of the season, beginning Friday night against the Chicago White Sox. In his only big-league managing experience, Narron went 2-3 when Oates took a leave of absence in 1995.

Texas was 11-17 and 11 games behind Seattle in the AL West. While the Rangers are near the lead in every offensive category, their pitching staff is by far the worst in the majors with a 6.72 ERA.

``Johnny indicated to me that he felt he had tried everything he could to get the team to respond and that it wasn't working,'' general manager Doug Melvin said. ``As a result, he and I came to the decision that it would be best for him to step down at this time.''

Rodriguez signed a $252 million, 10-year contract during the winter. The Rangers also signed other free agents during the offseason, including Andres Galarraga and Ken Caminiti.

But Texas has lost five straight and eight of 10. The Rangers allowed nine first-inning runs in their previous two games.

``I'm as disappointed as anybody,'' said owner Tom Hicks, who warned earlier this week that Oates' job could be in jeopardy if the team didn't start playing better. ``This will be hopefully the start to getting our intangibles to work.''

Hicks attended Texas' 9-4 loss to Detroit on Thursday instead of going to St. Louis to watch the Dallas Stars, which he also owns, play what turned out to be their final playoff game. Hicks, Melvin and Oates were supposed to meet Friday for their monthly evaluation of the team.

Melvin said Oates revealed his decision to him after the loss to the Tigers.

``I told Johnny `I would like to talk you out of it,' but down inside in my heart I felt maybe it was the right time,'' Melvin said.

Melvin said he and Narron will meet over the next few days to evaluate coaching staff and roster ``as we look for ways to turn this season around.'' Narron said first-base coach Bobby Jones will take over at third base.

Oates' seven-year tenure included three division titles but a last-place finish in 2000. Texas faced the eventual world champion New York Yankees in all three playoff trips, winning one game the first year and getting swept the next two times.

Oates was the AL's 1996 co-manager of the year, along with New York's Joe Torre, after leading the Rangers to their first division title. Texas won a team record 95 games in 1999.

Oates went 506-476 in Texas through six full seasons and part of this year. He's the second-winningest manager in franchise history and the only one to lead the team into the postseason. He was under contract through next season.

This was Oates' second managerial job. He was fired after four seasons in Baltimore, then hired less than a month later by Melvin, who had been an Orioles executive before going to Texas.

Like Oates, Narron is a former major-league catcher. He'd been a minor-league manager in the Orioles' system when Oates added him to his Baltimore staff in 1993.

Narron described his style as one cobbled from his time with Oates and his playing days under Billy Martin, Gene Mauch, John McNamara and Dick Williams.

``We just have not played anywhere near where we're capable of playing,'' Narron said. ``It's my job to get guys to achieve and overachieve. I don't know at this second what we're going to change.

``I want them relaxed, intense, but don't be afraid to make mistakes. I think at times we've played that way.''

Melvin said that when Narron was managing in the minors, he caught the eye of longtime majors executive Birdie Tebbetts.

``He came back one time and said, `That kid you have down there managing Rochester, he reminds me of Walter Alston _ he's quiet, but don't take that quietness for someone who doesn't want to win,''' Melvin said. ``I've always kept that in my mind.''

The Rangers are the second team to change skippers in the first five weeks of the season. Tampa Bay fired Larry Rothschild.