|Tuesday, March 5
Updated: March 6, 12:17 PM ET
New owners decide to fire Kerrigan after all
ESPN.com news services
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Kerrigan's short tenure as manager of the Boston Red Sox is over. The overhaul of the team isn't.
Kerrigan was fired Tuesday as manager, six days after John Henry and his partners became owners and five days after Dan Duquette was dismissed as general manager.
Mike Cubbage was appointed interim manager, but he soon may return to the third-base coach's box as the team intensifies its search for a permanent manager.
Once that man is named -- bench coaches Grady Little in Cleveland and Ken Macha in Oakland are possible candidates -- Kerrigan could get some good news.
He could return as pitching coach, a role he excelled in for Boston since 1997 until he was thrust into the manager's job with no pro managing experience when Duquette fired Jimy Williams last Aug. 16.
"This kind of decision is always difficult to make," interim general manager Mike Port said of Kerrigan's firing. "We have the utmost respect for Joe, and admire his work ethic and his achievements as a pitching coach."
Port left the door open for Kerrigan to return to that job, saying he's one of the two best pitching coaches he's worked with in more than 20 years as a major league executive.
But Port cited inexperience as a key factor in Kerrigan's firing Tuesday.
"A greater element of managerial experience" is a priority in the search for a permanent manager, which the Red Sox want to complete before opening day April 1, Port said.
He said there are several candidates, but would not identify them, citing tampering rules regarding personnel on other teams. That would indicate that Little and Macha are in the mix.
Macha is a former minor league manager in Boston's system. Little was bench coach in Boston from 1997-99 and filled in several games the past two years when Indians manager Charlie Manuel had health problems.
Others mentioned for the job are former managers Buck Showalter, Jim Fregosi and Felipe Alou. Port said he expected the current coaches to stay on under the new manager. That might not include pitching coach Ralph Treuel, who got his job after Kerrigan became manager and would be out if Kerrigan returns.
Kerrigan was told of his firing after Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Atlanta Braves, Boston's third in a row. Port said that starting about 2 p.m., in about the fourth inning, he began meeting with the owners to discuss Kerrigan.
"It'll be a fun team to manage because it has so many dimensions," he said.
But, from the start of spring training, there was little Kerrigan could do to save his job despite running a problem-free camp and having support of key players like Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon.
His 43 games as a manager -- Boston was 17-26 under him -- just weren't enough.
"It's very hard in the space of a few days to overcome overall managerial experience," team president Larry Lucchino said, although he indicated Kerrigan may not have been given a fair chance.
But he said the best interest of the team "was more compelling and important than affording Joe an opportunity for additional on-the-job training."
Shortly before Kerrigan got the word, Martinez gave him a lukewarm endorsement.
"If Joe is here I'll play for Joe. I respect Joe," he said. "If he's not, well, we'll just have to go on."
The appointment of Cubbage, who managed seven games for the New York Mets in 1991, adds a curious twist.
He spent the last five years as a coach with Houston but lost that job on Nov. 6, five days after Williams became manager. He was named special assistant to Houston's general manager before the Red Sox hired him in December.
Cubbage, 51, played nine seasons in the majors, finishing in 1981 with the Mets. A career .258 hitter, he also played with Texas and Minnesota.
Kerrigan was a link to Duquette, who worked with him with the Montreal Expos then hired him as pitching coach even before Williams was named manager.
Kerrigan asked Port about his status last weekend but was given no firm answer.
Port said the managerial issue began to come to a head Monday morning. He didn't think Kerrigan was left hanging too long since the firing came on only the sixth day of Henry's ownership.
Duquette promoted Kerrigan to take over a team in turmoil despite the presence on last year's coaching staff of Gene Lamont, who managed the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates for four years each, and Rick Down, a minor league manager for six years.
Port, vice president of baseball operations at that time, didn't think Kerrigan was the right choice.
"I think I may have had other thoughts at that point in time," he said Monday.
Port praised Kerrigan's ability as a pitching coach.
"What we said to Joe," Lucchino said, "is to take a few days off to let the dust settle before you make any specific plans."
Little managed 16 years in the minor leagues for Baltimore, Toronto and Atlanta. His record was 1,054-903 and he was selected manager of the year four times.
Macha managed four seasons in the Red Sox farm system, beginning in 1995 for Double-A Trenton. He managed Triple-A Pawtucket in 1997-98.
Garciaparra and Trot Nixon played for Macha and are among his strongest supporters. Macha compiled a 317-249 record as manager.
Alou, who managed Montreal from 1992 to 2001, turned down the Boston manager's job last year after Williams was fired. At that time, he cited uncertainties regarding team ownership.
Before being fired, Kerrigan said he got the impression in a phone conversation with Alou on Monday that Alou would like to manage again.
Showalter, an ESPN baseball analyst, has a 562-505 record in seven seasons as a major league manager. Fregosi has a career managerial record of 1,028-1,095 in stints with Toronto, California, the Chicago White Sox, and Philadelphia.