Reds Choose Boone As Manager

Friday, November 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CINCINNATI (AP) — Bob Boone was willing to take the Cincinnati Reds' managing job — and the below-market contract offer that came with it — to get back to the thing he loves most in baseball.

Boone was hired Friday as the successor to Jack McKeon, ending a manager search that repeatedly ran into roadblocks because of the team's offer.

Boone, who also managed in Kansas City from 1995-97, became the fallback candidate after Yankees third base coach Willie Randolph and Reds third base coach Ron Oester balked at the team's $650,000, two-year offer.

Boone accepted a two-year contract with a team option for 2002, meaning he's not guaranteed to be the manager when the club moves into its new ballpark.

``I think you know I've been out of managing for three years and probably appreciate it now since I've been out and realize how difficult it is to get back in,'' Boone said.

Oester, a Cincinnati native who spent his entire career in the Reds organization, said in a telephone interview that the club offered him a two-year deal Thursday for $300,000 and $350,000, substantially less than Pittsburgh gave rookie manager Lloyd McClendon.

The Pirates had a payroll roughly $4 million lower than that of the Reds' $35 million last season. Pittsburgh gave McClendon a three-year deal with annual salaries of $400,000, $500,000 and $600,000, and Oester wanted something closer to that.

Oester said he expected to hear back from the Reds' front office on Friday. Instead, he got a call from a team spokesman telling him the club was calling a news conference to introduce Boone as the manager.

``I was shocked this morning,'' Oester said. ``It's tough for me. It's hard on my kids. The problem I have is they never got back to me. I don't understand it.''

Oester went to the stadium before the news conference and quickly removed his personal belongings from his dressing cubicle, leaving only the team-issued shirts and uniforms. He wasn't sure whether he would fulfill the final year on his contract as a Reds coach.

``I don't know what I'll do yet,'' he said. ``I've got a lot of thinking to do.''

Unlike Oester, Boone didn't hesitate when the job was offered Friday morning. Asked how long it took him to decide, Boone said, ``How long does it take to write Bob Boone? This job is not about money for me.''

Like Oester, Randolph took himself out of the running because he thought the club's offer wasn't adequate.

Since general manager Jim Bowden took over after the 1992 season, he hasn't offered anything more than a two-year contract to a manager. Seattle's Lou Piniella — who was the Reds' top choice — and the Mets' Bobby Valentine both got three-year extensions from their clubs on Tuesday.

Bowden said the Reds are wary of having to pay the rest of a manager's contract if it decides to fire him.

``The fact of the matter is, in a small- or middle-market it's tough to have to eat a contract when you're trying to win ball games,'' Bowden said. ``It doesn't work. So from the club's perspective, a shorter term we think is beneficial.''

Boone, who went 181-206 in Kansas City, has been a special assistant to Bowden for three years. He played 19 seasons with the Phillies, Angels and Royals and set a major league record for games caught in a career (2,225), since broken by Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk.

``I find that I loved managing more than I loved anything,'' he said.

He will be managing his son, Aaron, a third baseman for the Reds.

The Reds were the second of six major league teams to fire their manager and the last to fill their vacancy, in part because of their contract offer.

They'd hoped to bring back Piniella, who led the Reds to a 1990 World Series sweep of Oakland. He declined after talking briefly to the Reds on Tuesday, choosing to sign a three-year extension with the Mariners.

Cincinnati also had sought permission to talk to Valentine, who agreed to a three-year extension with the Mets on Tuesday.

The Reds then returned to their second-tier candidates — they'd interviewed nine in the first round. They brought Randolph back for a second interview and discussed a contract, but he backed out on Thursday because of the team's offer.

``The commitment that I was looking for wasn't there,'' Randolph said Thursday night in a telephone interview from his home. ``That was basically it.

``It just didn't work out. I was excited about the opportunity to maybe become a Red, but it didn't work out as far as me feeling right. I thanked them for the opportunity.''

The Reds then turned to Oester, who also balked at the contract offer.

The contract also was an issue with former manager Jack McKeon, who led the team to 96 wins in 1999 and won NL Manager of the Year but was offered only a one-year extension for much less than he sought.

McKeon accepted the offer and was fired a day after the 2000 season ended. The Reds failed to win the NL Central despite having Ken Griffey Jr. in the lineup.

The Reds paid Griffey and Barry Larkin big contracts this year, straining their budget. That was a factor in their offers to managerial candidates.

They interviewed at least nine candidates, including Boone, when they began their search. Oester and bench coach Ken Griffey Sr. were the two in-house candidates.

Griffey Sr. wanted the managing job and Junior wanted him to have it. Like Oester, Griffey Sr. has no managing experience. Both of them are under contract as coaches for next season.