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Friday, April 26
Updated: April 27, 3:57 PM ET
 
Bell out, hitting coach Hurdle in for Colorado

Associated Press

Fri., April 26
In Colorado, the ball carries further. But apparently, the managers don't.

In the case of poor Buddy Bell, the way his team was playing, it was only a matter of when he was going to get fired, not whether he was going to. If you couldn't see this one coming, you probably have a hard time making out those snow-peaked mountain tops, too.

Last year on Opening Day, the Rockiesí payroll was $71.5 million. This year, it was $56.5 million. That wasnít Buddy Bellís doing.

He couldnít help it that Todd Helton hadnít heated up yet. He couldnít help it that Mike Hamptonís ERA was almost 9.00. It wasnít his idea to start three guys up the middle (Juan Pierre in center, Juan Uribe at short, Jose Ortiz at second) who havenít reached age 25 yet, talented as they may be.

Many forces conspired to shove these Rockies off to a 6-16 start. But the more they stumbled, the more they didnít hit -- even at Coors (where they were averaging under five runs a game). And the more GM Dan OíDowd kept saying he liked his team, the more the Rockies almost seemed to be a squad waiting around for its manager to get fired.

So it became virtually a self-fulfilling prophecy. And three losses to the Reds at Cinergy Field this week -- three games in which the Rockies averaged 2.7 runs per game and hit a total of one home run -- finished the job.

If itís any consolation, at least no manager fired this early has ever had more company. The last time there were three managerial changes in April, it was 1892 -- and who among us still isnít outraged by the ouster of George Van Haltren that year?

And Joe Kerrigan, axed this year in spring training, makes four managers canned before May day. Which makes history. The kind of history that makes you wonder why anybody would want to be a manager these days.

DENVER -- Colorado Rockies manager Buddy Bell was fired Friday with the team off to the worst start in club history.

Clint Hurdle, the Rockies' hitting coach for the last six years, replaced Bell.

The announcement was made about three hours before the start of the Rockies' home game with the Philadelphia Phillies.

"I am disappointed that this has not worked out the way I wanted it to," Bell said in a statement. "I wanted to see this thing through."

General manager Dan O'Dowd said the change was not about assigning blame but about trying to turn around the team's 6-16 start.

"Quite honestly, we need to start playing the game with more joy and more confidence than we've played already this year," O'Dowd said. "We really need to start building some positive momentum.

"This is about a new step forward."

O'Dowd said Hurdle, 44, is the "manager of the Rockies -- not interim manager -- for the remainder of the season. Clint brings passion, he brings enthusiasm, he brings a charisma I think this ballclub needs."

The Rockies have the worst record in the National League and the second-worst record in the majors, just ahead of Detroit, and are eight games behind first-place Arizona in the NL West.

"We are beat up right now," Hurdle said. "We are not playing a good game of baseball. My job is going to be hopefully to re-instill some confidence.

"I've asked these guys to just come out firing. We've got nothing to lose. We have talent, we have skills, we should be competitive. But we need to play the game and not worry about the outcome. If we're going to err, I want us to err on the side of aggressive nature than on the side of caution.

"Sometimes teams play not to lose, and I think our club falls in that category right now. I've challenged our men to play to win."

Hurdle said he was excited about the opportunity but hadn't thought he would become a manager this way.

"This is not the way I would have written the story for the opportunity to evolve," Hurdle said.

O'Dowd, who hired Bell as manager shortly after being named Colorado's GM in September 1999, said he had mixed feelings about the firing.

"From a personal standpoint, this was really tough," he said. "But from a professional standpoint, I don't think it was that tough."

Colorado pitcher Mike Hampton and Todd Helton said the players take the blame for Bell's firing.

"I think we're all pretty much in shock," Hampton said. "Any time things go bad, the first person to go is the manager. That's just the way it is. But we blame ourselves."

Hampton, a disappointing 0-3 with a 8.88 ERA this season, added, "If you fire anybody, you should have fired me."

Getting The Early Hook
Prior to this season, there was only one other year (1892) in major-league history when three managers were replaced during a season before May 1. Below is a rundown of the managerial changes:

4/19/1892: Washington Senators start 0-2; Arthur Irwin replaced Billy Barnie
4/22/1892: St. Louis Browns start 1-3; Cub Stricker replaced Jack Glasscock
4/29/1892: Baltimore Orioles start 1-10; John Waltz replaced George Van Haltren

4/8/2002: Detroit Tigers start 0-6; Luis Pujols replaced Phil Garner
4/18/2002: Milwaukee Brewers start 3-12; Jerry Royster replaced Davey Lopes
4/26/2002: Colorado Rockies start 6-16; Clint Hurdle replaced Buddy Bell

* Joe Kerrigan was fired by the Boston Red Sox during this year's spring training, thus he isn't listed as being fired during the 2002 season.

Hampton called Hurdle's promotion "a plus. He's familiar with this organization, and that's probably the only plus out of this."

Helton called Hurdle a "tireless worker, very organized and very outgoing. Maybe he can shake some things up."

Helton arrived at Coors Field before Bell departed.

"I just gave him a hug," Helton said. "There wasn't much to be said."

Bell was the third major league manager fired since the start of the season. Phil Garner was let go by Detroit on April 9, while Milwaukee fired Davey Lopes on April 18. All three teams have seen large attendance drops: Colorado entered Friday with the fifth-largest falloff the NL at 42,110, averaging 35,776 for 10 home dates.

Boston fired Joe Kerrigan during spring training.

Bell, 50, was in his third season with the Rockies. His only season with a winning record was 2000, when the Rockies finished 82-80, and he leaves with a 161-185 record. He also managed in Detroit.

As a player, Bell was a five-time All-Star in 18 seasons in the major leagues, playing most of his career with Cleveland, Texas and Cincinnati. A third basemen, he led his league in fielding three times and won six consecutive Gold Gloves.




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