Major Leagues: McKeon, 80, takes over Marlins
Published 12:00 am Monday, June 20, 2011
MIAMI ó New Florida Marlins interim manager Jack McKeon sat listening as team president David Samson offered a spirited defense of the decision to give the job to an octogenarian.
Samson said the 80-year-old McKeon, who lives in Alamance County, works harder than many people half his age and seems even sharper mentally than in 2003, when he led the Marlins to an improbable World Series championship.
McKeon intentionally messed up Samsonís name.
ěThanks, George,î McKeon said.
The new, old skipper drew some laughs Monday, but the hiring was no joke. Nearly six years after McKeon retired as the Marlinsí manager, he returned to his former job on an interim basis and will lead the team for the rest of the season.
He becomes the second-oldest manager in major league history. Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics in a suit, tie and straw hat until 1950, when he was 87.
ěIíve managed since I was 14 years old,î he jokingly said. ěIíll probably manage until Iím 95.î
The cigar-chomping McKeon succeeds manager Edwin Rodriguez, who resigned before Sundayís loss at Tampa Bay. Last-place Florida took a 10-game losing streak into Monday nightís against the Los Angeles Angels.
McKeonís first lineup card caused a stir, because it didnít include 2009 NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez, who has been in a slump all season.
ěI didnít think he was running very good (Sunday),î said McKeon, who watched the game on TV from his home in North Carolina. Ramirez has been battling a sore back but also has a reputation for a lack of hustle, and McKeon declined to say which he thought was the issue.
Ramirez had no complaint about being held out of the lineup and said he welcomed McKeonís old-school approach.
ěHeís going to get on everybody here,î Ramirez said. ěIf you donít play hard, youíre not going to be here.î
Logan Morrison agreed that was a good thing.
ěWe have a lot of guys who Edwin said donít hustle or play hard,î Morrison said. ěMaybe Jack can kick them in the butt.î
McKeon had been working part time as a special assistant to team owner Jeffrey Loria. His hiring came with the Marlins trying to end a three-week free-fall that had seen them go 1-18 in June.
ěI feel 80 years old myself the last three weeks,î president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. ěItís good to have a friend in a time of need, and this is a time of need for this organization. Jack can get the attention of a team very quickly and get them moving in the right direction.î
The Marlins are expected to hire another manager after this season before moving into their new ballpark next April. But if McKeon can pull off a repeat of 2003, he might get a multiyear contract.
That team was floundering when he took over in May, and he led it to a title, with postseason wins over the Giants, Cubs and Yankees.
ěTheyíre looking for the same magic from Jack they had before,î said Dusty Baker, who managed that Cubs club and is now the Redsí manager. ěIím happy to see Jack back.î
After three successive winning seasons with Florida, McKeon retired as manager at age 74 in 2005. There had been a buzz for several years that he wanted to return to the dugout.
ěI had a little siesta,î he said. ěAfter I laid out for a year and a half or two years, I started to miss it.î