Tag:Jack McKeon
Posted on: July 19, 2011 12:36 am
Edited on: July 19, 2011 12:40 am

The most popular man in Miami

NEW YORK -- Yeah, I laughed.

Sure I did. Who didn't?

Jack McKeon, managing the Marlins at age 80? I'd tell a joke, but you've heard them all already.

Besides, I'm not sure it's that funny anymore.

I'm thinking it's brilliant. I'm thinking that even though it's unlikely that the Marlins bring McKeon back in 2012 (at age 81!), they should.

The players love him. The fans love him.

"The most popular man in Miami," coach Perry Hill calls him, noting that McKeon gets standing ovations when he goes to the mound to change pitchers.

And the Marlins are learning how to win. They're learning that if they don't do as McKeon says, they don't play.

They laugh at expressions that are older than they are.

"Ham and eggs," McKeon yells, every time there's a runner on first base with less than two out.

Ham and eggs?

"I was managing in Missoula in 1956 or '57," McKeon explains. "There was a restaurant there, and they gave a free breakfast to anyone who was involved in a double play. So any time there was a man on first, I'd yell, 'Ham and eggs.'

"Anything to keep guys loose."

Under McKeon, the Marlins have won nine of their last 10 games. They're not going to catch the Phillies or Braves in the National League East. They're not going to make the playoffs.

But they're winning, and they're just two games below .500. There's a chance they might be winning enough to keep the front office from selling off players at the July 31 deadline.

More importantly, a team that badly needed direction finally seems to have some. A team that needed accountability seems to be learning it.

The other day in Chicago, McKeon went to the mound to tell starter Chris Volstad it was time to throw strikes. When he didn't like what he saw, he pinch-hit for Volstad in the fourth inning of a 4-3 game.

And when the game was over, McKeon told reporters it was time for the 24-year-old Volstad to prove he belongs.

How does McKeon get along with players nearly 60 years younger than he is? He seems to get along just fine.

"I've got kids, I've got grandkids," he said. "They're no different from grandkids."

But he doesn't seem like an 80-year-old grandfather. The players and coaches say he has plenty of energy. Monday, when Marlins players were complaining about having to come to New York for a makeup game, McKeon seemed as enthusiastic as ever.

He didn't look like an old man. He looked like a major-league manager.

He looked like he belongs.

McKeon says he's not interested in talking about next year.

"I'd just as soon take another siesta, and come back when I'm 87," he said. "I'd just as soon be No. 1."

Connie Mack managed until he was 87, the oldest manager in baseball history. For now, McKeon is second.

I laughed when he took over.

I'm not laughing now.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 25, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: June 25, 2011 9:24 pm

For managers, it's still an old man's game

With Davey Johnson taking over the Nationals on Monday, baseball will have as many managers over 60 as under 50.

Yes, despite the retirement last year of Bobby Cox (who is 70), Joe Torre (also 70) and Lou Piniella (67), managing is still an old man's game.

"I think Jack McKeon said it pretty good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Why penalize experience?"

McKeon just returned to manage the Marlins, on an interim basis, at age 80. Johnson, back in a major-league dugout for the first time since 2000, is 68.

The 66-year-old Leyland, who began the season as baseball's third-oldest manager behind Charlie Manuel (67) and Tony La Russa (66), is now just the fifth-oldest.

Dusty Baker of the Reds (62) and Terry Collins of the Mets (62) make it seven managers who have passed 60.

There are also seven who have yet to turn 50, with Cleveland's Manny Acta the youngest, at 42.

Posted on: June 21, 2011 10:01 pm

Managing at 80: Fine for McKeon, but . . .

NEW YORK -- Jack McKeon was 42 when he first managed in the big leagues.

That's not unusual.

Bob Melvin was 41. Terry Collins was 45.

Jack McKeon is 80, and now he's managing again in the big leagues.

"I can not imagine doing that," said Collins, now the 62-year-old manager of the Mets. "I know Jack's young at heart, but this is a grueling job. I tip my hat to him. But no, I will not be doing that. I'm going to be playing golf. This is a tough job. To do it at 80 is unbelievable."

Melvin agreed. Asked if he could see himself managing when he's 80, he quickly said no.

Most managers won't. Jack McKeon is.
And Collins is right. It's unbelievable.
Posted on: June 20, 2011 4:42 pm

Way back in '73 (and '72), McKeon 'had a knack'

We remember Jack McKeon with the 2003 Marlins. We remember him with the '99 Reds. We remember him back in his Trader Jack days with the Padres.

Monday morning, our C. Trent Rosecrans remembered McKeon in his first job as a big-league manager, with the 1973 Royals.

Now let's go back one step further, because Art Stewart remembers Jack McKeon as the Royals' first Triple-A Omaha manager, the guy who made such a good name for himself that there was no question he'd be next-in-line to be the big-league manager.

"He immediately won with the young players we sent him," said Stewart, who has been with the Royals for all 42 years of their existence. "And when players came up from Omaha, they were ready to play in the big leagues. He made sure those guys were major-league ready. When you got a guy from Jack McKeon in Omaha, you knew he could play.

"He just has a knack of getting the best out of players."

Among the players McKeon managed at Omaha: Steve Busby, Buck Martinez, John Wathan and Paul Splittorff.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 20, 2011 3:10 pm

Why Jack McKeon has a chance with Marlins

The Marlins aren't the A's. I won't say this week about Edwin Rodriguez what I wrote 11 days ago about Bob Geren.

But just as I said then, the manager does matter.

And just as Bob Melvin walked into a good situation with the A's, Jack McKeon may be walking into a good situation with the Marlins.

"I don't care how old he is," said one scout who just watched Florida play.

The scout was stunned by how bad the Marlins looked, but mostly stunned by what he saw from Rodriguez in his final week on the job.

"I'm telling you, this guy shouldn't be managing," the scout said. "His body language was just terrible. And the team was just going through the motions."

From all indications, the Marlins players didn't hate Rodriguez, the way the A's players had come to hate Geren. The votes of confidence he received last week, including one from Hanley Ramirez, weren't phony.

But the Marlins did stop playing for him. It's hard to know for sure how much of that is his fault, and how much of it comes from a longstanding problem in Florida. Partly because owner Jeffrey Loria has kept the payroll so depressed, the Marlins never have enough strong veteran voices in the clubhouse to help right the ship when things are going bad.

Look what Scott Rolen means to the Reds. Look at what will happen in St. Louis, where you can be sure that solid veterans like Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday, among others, will remind their teammates that good teams overcome things like the Albert Pujols injury.

You can bet Tony La Russa will remind them of it, too, and you can bet his players will listen.

Managers do matter. And even at 80, Jack McKeon has a chance.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 19, 2011 7:39 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2011 7:46 pm

3 to Watch: The Miller and Maybin edition

Andrew Miller was supposed to be an ace. Cameron Maybin was supposed to be a star.

When the Marlins got Miller and Maybin in the December 2007 Miguel Cabrera trade, everyone in baseball said they'd done well. Everyone with the Tigers said they had done well.

We all know now that it didn't work out that way. We all know now that Miller still hasn't become an ace, and Maybin still hasn't become a star.

And we all know now that not even a year after they fired the manager who was supposed to benefit from that Miller-Maybin deal, the Marlins now find themselves in search of yet another manager.

Meanwhile, Miller and Maybin find themselves at Fenway Park.

Monday night, Miller will make his first start for the Red Sox, the latest team trying to unlock what still seems like enormous potential. He'll face the Padres, the latest team hoping Maybin's power and speed will translate to baseball wins.

This Padres-Red Sox series would be fascinating regardless, with Adrian Gonzalez going up against the hometown team that traded him away, and Anthony Rizzo facing the team that had to include him in that trade for Gonzalez. And with Dave Roberts, the unsung hero of those 2004 Red Sox, returning to Fenway as a Padres coach.

But we know about Roberts and we know about Gonzalez, and we think we know about Rizzo.

We're still trying to figure out Miller, who is either one of those late-developing tall left-handers or one of those hard throwers who never make it. He's getting his chance now with the Red Sox, because Clay Buchholz is on the disabled list and because the Sox didn't want to lose Miller, who had an opt-out in the contract he signed to go to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Miller was 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 games for the PawSox, and in his last start he struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings, while allowing just one run.

We're still trying to figure out Maybin, too. His numbers this year with the Padres (.254/.316/.404) are decent, but by no means great. One thing I do know: When I saw Maybin last month, he was smiling more than he had in the last two years with the Marlins.

Maybin smiled wide when I mentioned a spring training conversation I had with Miller, who said the two have remained close friends.

They've both been through a lot and they've stayed close, communicating mostly by text message.

This week, they'll meet again.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Jack McKeon was 42 years old when he managed his first major-league game, with the 1973 Royals. Now he's 80, and there's a real chance he'll be back in the dugout, as the interim replacement for Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. If McKeon takes over for Angels at Marlins, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Sun Life Stadium, he'll be trying to keep the Marlins from equaling a team record with an 11th straight loss (they lost 11 straight twice in 1998, the year of the fire sale). It won't be easy, not with Jered Weaver starting for the Angels. Weaver last lost on May 18 (the Marlins were 24-17 back then), and he has a 1.36 ERA in his last five starts.

2. Miller appeared in 58 games over three seasons with the Marlins, going 10-20 with a 5.89 ERA. He lost his last five starts in 2010, with a 12.74 ERA and an incredible 52 baserunners in 17 2/3 innings. It'd be hard to do that against the weak-hitting San Diego team he'll face in Padres at Red Sox, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Then again, maybe Gonzalez (.481 batting average in his last 12 home games) will tell his old buddies how much fun it is to hit at Fenway.

3. Bob Melvin began this season working for the Mets, then went to work for the Diamondbacks, before going to Oakland to try to rescue the A's. Melvin helped the Diamondbacks over the weekend, when his A's swept the Giants to help Arizona stay close in the National League West. Now Melvin comes to New York to see his other former employers, in A's at Mets, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field. The Mets interviewed Melvin when they were looking for a manager last fall, but Terry Collins has given them no reason to regret their choice. They haven't regretted putting Dillon Gee in their rotation, either. Gee (who starts Tuesday) is 7-0, the longest winning streak by a rookie to open a season since Weaver started 9-0 with the 2006 Angels.

Posted on: June 19, 2011 1:31 pm

Marlins job is the best . . . or the worst

In Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison, the Marlins have some of the best young players in baseball. They have a new stadium set to open next year.

They have a talented and creative front office.

Who wouldn't want to manage this team?

In Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins have an eccentric owner who is always convinced his team should be in the playoffs, but rarely convinced that he should pay for it. In David Samson, they have a club president who, to be blunt, is one of the least-liked people in the game. They have a new ballpark coming, yes, but many people who know the South Florida market are convinced it's in the wrong location and will never solve their attendance problems. And they're in the National League East, quickly becoming one of the best -- and maybe one of the biggest-spending -- divisions in baseball.

Who would want to manage this team?

There are times I think the Marlins job is a great one, so great that I could believe Bobby Valentine would want it, so great that I could believe Ozzie Guillen would leave his "second father," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, for it.

"The next year or two, they will really be heard from," one baseball person familiar with the Marlins said on Sunday, after Edwin Rodriguez resigned as the team's latest manager. "Those young kids just need to be toughened up."

Those young kids are incredibly talented. Johnson, currently on the disabled list, is mentioned every year as a possible Cy Young winner. Scouts can't stop talking about Stanton, who has as much raw power as any player in baseball. And while Ramirez is in the midst of a hugely disappointing season, he's a 27-year-old three-time All-Star who has already won a batting title.

A month ago, when the Marlins were one game out of first place in the NL East, it was easy to believe that they would stay in the race all year. People were asking how Loria would deal with Rodriguez having all this success, when everyone knew the owner really wanted Ozzie Guillen as his manager.

Then came the collapse, which also tells you something about these Marlins players. One Marlins person complained that players spent too much time "pouting" after Loria ordered hitting coach John Mallee fired last week.

Maybe they do need to be toughened up. Maybe the right manager will turn this team into the playoff contender that Loria has always claimed they should be.

But remember the obstacles. Loria is a George Steinbrenner, but without the big spending. The NL East features the great Phillies and the outstanding (and young) Braves, along with the Nationals (Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann and a willingness to spend big) and the Mets (big problems now, but with the New York market to draw on, big potential ahead).

This is either the best job in baseball, or the worst. I'll let you know when I figure out which one it is.

Posted on: June 19, 2011 12:25 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2011 1:14 pm

McKeon may be Marlins' interim answer

Eight years ago, Jack McKeon took over the Marlins at midseason and led them to a championship.

Now the Marlins may turn to McKeon again.

In the wake of the surprise resignation of manager Edwin Rodriguez, the team will seriously consider bringing the 80-year-old McKeon back as an interim manager, a source said Sunday. McKeon still works for the Marlins, who were caught by surprise by the team's sudden collapse, and then by Rodriguez's abrupt decision to resign.

"This was a shock," a Marlins person said Sunday.

The Marlins were 10 games over .500 and just one game out of first place on May 26. Now they're seven games under .500 and 12 1/2 games out of first. They've lost 17 of their last 18 games, including the last nine in a row.

But while there was strong speculation that owner Jeffrey Loria would fire Rodriguez, the team was caught by surprise when Rodriguez made the decision himself before Sunday's game at Tampa Bay. The Marlins then announced that bench coach Brandon Hyde would manage the team Sunday, and that the Marlins would search for an interim replacement.

McKeon, who managed the Marlins through 2005 and then stayed on as a special assistant to Loria, would fill that role.

Having McKeon manage the team now would allow Loria time to chase a high-profile manager to take the Marlins into their new stadium next year. Loria is known to covet White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who obviously isn't available now but could be after the season.

Bobby Valentine has also been a Loria favorite.

McKeon wouldn't be the oldest manager in baseball history. Connie Mack was 87 years old when he last managed the Philadelphia A's, in 1950.

Contacted Sunday by the Miami Herald, McKeon said he hadn't yet talked to anyone about the job.

"I'd have to check with my wife and see what she says," McKeon told the Herald. "But, no question, I could do it."
Category: MLB
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