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Thursday, June 12
Updated: June 13, 1:44 PM ET
Phillips fired with Mets mired in last place

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Steve Phillips was fired Thursday as general manager of the New York Mets, who are mired in last place despite one of highest payrolls in the major leagues.

Thursday, June 12
This is almost merciful for Steve Phillips to be fired. He was almost a dead man walking for the last month or so as he basically knew he was going to be fired, but didn't know exactly when it would happen.

Talk swirled in April, with the Mets struggling, that Phillips was likely going to lose his job. But management decided not to pull the plug on him that because they needed to let the season play out a little bit. With the Mets' demoralizing doubleheader loss to the Mariners on Sunday, the time was right and thus the Mets called an end to the Phillips regime.

Phillips' assistant, Jim Duquette, now steps in as the interim GM. Duquette will need time to get up to speed with the day-to-day workings of the job -- getting in touch with other GMs concerning trades and the like -- but will have a chance to make his presence felt as just about everyone on the Mets' roster is available.

It'll be a tough spot for Duquette as the interim GM as he has no assurances that he'll get the GM post beyond this year, but it's a great opportunity for him to show what he can do.

The Mets reached the World Series in 2000 under Phillips, but have been unable to come close to matching that success. The team has been plagued by poor play and clubhouse rifts ever since.

The team had hoped to turn its fortunes around this season with new manager Art Howe and several high-profile signings, including pitcher Tom Glavine and outfielder Cliff Floyd. The team had the second-highest payroll in the majors on Opening Day ($116.9 million) behind the Yankees ($149.7 million).

The Mets (28-35) got off to a bad start and never recovered, hurt by injuries and inconsistent play by their stars.

Team owner Fred Wilpon said he had been thinking about making the move "for a long time."

"I believe this is the right time to do it," he said at a news conference to announce the firing.

Wilpon said all the money he's spent on the team doesn't ensure success. "We've learned that painfully," he said.

The Mets (28-35) got off to a bad start and never recovered, hurt by injuries and inconsistent play by their stars.

"This has been a very disappointing season," Wilpon said. "We will attempt to energize the team ... by getting younger and more athletic."

Senior assistant general manager Jim Duquette will take over Phillips' duties on an interim basis through the end of the season and will be a candidate for the job, Wilpon said.

Phillips, who played in the Mets' minor league system, worked his way up in the organization and became GM on July 16, 1997. He signed a three-year contract at the end of the 2000 season, but when manager Bobby Valentine was fired after last season, Phillips was not given a contract extension.

The team finished in last place in the National League East last season, going 75-86.

When asked why Phillips was not fired along with Valentine, Wilpon said: "It was our hope he would be able to turn it around."

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