Reds didn't perform for Narron
posted: Monday, July 2, 2007 | Print Entry
There's nothing in sports more surreal than a managerial-firing press conference. Is there?
Here, for example, is some of the stuff said about just-fired Reds manager Jerry Narron on Monday afternoon at the press gathering to announce his firing:
"He's a good manager," said president and CEO Bob Castellini. "I believe he'll be a manager again."
"As a person, as a baseball man, a passionate, caring, wanting-to-do-the-right-thing, respecting-the-game ... I can't say enough good things about Jerry Narron," said Wayne Krivsky, the GM who had just fired him.
"He's a fine human being," Castellini said. "And he cares more than anybody knows."
Yeah, it was a regular Jerry Narron testimonial, all right. Except for the part about how the honoree wouldn't be working there any more.
Krivsky even had trouble controlling his emotions at one point -- an honest reflection of his feelings about a guy he genuinely cared about and respected.
But an equally honest reflection of what those men were doing at the podium came a few minutes later, when Castellini was challenged about whether his team truly had a direction these days. And the owner replied: "Hey, baseball is a tough business."
Yep. Sure is. Great people sit in those managerial offices every day of every season -- until the day most of them are told it's time to take the family pictures off the wall. Just consult the 17 men who were occupying those offices just two years ago this time and aren't anymore.
Jerry Narron was one of those great people. Ask anybody who has ever known him.
But his baseball team was a mess. And since firing about seven members of the pitching staff wasn't an option for that team, he'll be able to spend his 4th of July on a putting green instead of figuring out whether to intentionally walk Barry Bonds. So maybe this wasn't all bad, huh?
Nothing can sabotage a manager's IQ more than a crummy bullpen, you know. And Jerry Narron could tell you all about that, if he wasn't one of those classy, always-take-the-high-road kind of guys.
His bullpen was 9-18 this year. It had almost as many blown saves (13) as saves (15). And (if you don't count closer David Weathers, who has had a tremendous year) it had allowed opposing hitters to bat .285 once the starters (who had as many quality starts as the Brewers, believe it or not) hit the exit ramp.
So Jerry Narron's Reds were a team with 28 come-from-ahead losses. With five walkoff losses. With 16 losses in games they either led or were tied in after the seventh inning.
No manager can overcome a bullpen nightmare of that order. And Krivsky essentially apologized to him for that mess Monday, saying: "I feel badly that I wasn't able to shore up the (pitching) staff. ... That really bothers me."
The GM meant those remarks sincerely, too. But he also alluded to the fact that "there were reasons behind making this change." And while he wouldn't tick them off, you'd be correct to conclude that the bullpen sure wasn't the only issue on this team.
Until last week, I hadn't seen the Reds in person since spring training. It was shocking how much they'd changed.
In the spring, I found them to be a fun team with an upbeat clubhouse and a potentially imposing offense. By last week, they were a totally different outfit -- a bunch of guys who looked as if they were waiting around for two developments:
• A) For about eight players in that clubhouse to get traded.
• And B) for the manager to get fired.
I'd been hearing scouts talk for several weeks about the lethargy that pervaded almost everyone on the field not named Ryan Freel or Scott Hatteberg. They weren't kidding.
"They weren't playing hard for him," one scout said of Narron. "They were comfortable with him -- too comfortable. Jerry is such a nice guy, I think they kind of took advantage of him."
Another scout talked about what once looked like Narron's defining managerial moment -- the April game in which he yanked third baseman Edwin Encarnacion out of the lineup for not running out a pop fly.
"It's incredible to me the guys on that team who don't run balls out -- big-name guys," the scout said. "But he doesn't take them out or sit them down."
It was a veritable non-hustle epidemic -- especially in the many games where the pitchers self-destructed and everybody in the park knew the next entry in the old loss column was just about inevitable. And Jerry Narron couldn't stop it or fix it or cure it.
"They played like it was Sept. 20 and they were out of the race," said one scout. "Yeah, I know they're out of the race now. But they were playing like it was the end of September."
And that just can't happen. In Castellini's words, "the results have not been acceptable."
Krivsky tried as hard as he could Monday not to point fingers, draw comparisons or indict his former manager in any way. But when he spoke about interim manager Pete Mackanin, he tipped his hand -- by using the word "re-energize" three times in one answer.
Well, the Reds need re-energizing more than Mrs. A-Rod needs a new T-shirt editor. So exit Jerry Narron and enter Pete Mackanin.
But you wonder if it's the last change on the horizon for this club, because it couldn't have been more obvious Monday that the owner's frustration had officially bubbled over.
"If we don't get this thing worked out," said Bob Castellini, "I'm liable to fire myself some day."