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.