Morgan, ignoring critics, wants to get rid of Red Sox malcontents

October 21, 1990|By Nick Cafardo | Nick Cafardo,Boston Globe

CINCINNATI -- Joe Morgan was walking the halls of the Clarion Hotel. He ran into Harry "The Hat" Walker, the man who recommended him for his first managing job in Raleigh, N.C., in 1966.

"You did a hell of a job, Joe," said Walker, Morgan's Class AAA manager in 1965 at Jacksonville, Fla. "You should be proud of yourself. You know, I was in the big leagues, I was a World Series hero, but what I'm most proud of is that I managed in the big leagues for nine years. You should feel good about where you've gone."

There are some days when Morgan doesn't feel so good. Such as those when some of his players start talking behind his back and sticking imaginary knives in him. When his bullpen crew stages a silent protest over what they felt was overuse in the middle of the playoffs -- in full view of the national media, sitting on stools, five in a row, with icepacks hanging from their arms and backs. When players whose careers have turned sour or long in the tooth start questioning his methods and run to ownership.

According to sources, Morgan will manage the Boston Red Sox one more year before he and his wife, Dot, look forward to retirement. And the final year will be conducted his way -- as far as player contracts and ownership will allow him to go.

He will recommend to management that two or three malcontents be gone, and he will implement a get-tough policy with what he perceives to be a whining bullpen.

The bullpen, which collectively turned on Morgan in the second half of the season, claiming they were burned out because of constant warming up, will get a message from Morgan at the start of spring training.

"Oh yeah, they'll hear from me," said Morgan. "Can you believe those guys? Can you believe that stuff they pulled and said. I spoke to them, or Bill [Fischer] spoke to them every day to see how their arms were and how much they could take and whether they could pitch that day and for how long. Unless they weren't telling us the truth, they knew what to expect. That group last year (1989) did the same stuff.

"So what's the big deal? I think the message will be stop being a bunch of babies. If you're not used even though you've warmed up, sit down and shut up."

Though Morgan would not name names, it is well known within Red Sox circles that he would like to see:

* The Red Sox trade or release Marty Barrett, who is considered the team's most blatant Morgan-hater;

* Ownership not pick up the option year on Dwight Evans' contract; word is that Morgan perceives Evans as one of his detractors;

* The Red Sox acquire some speed so he can manage a more well-rounded team.

The Barrett problem will likely be the easiest to solve. But Evans? He is a 19-year veteran adored by the public. The option year is for $1.6 million, and the Red Sox have all but decided to pick it up. They must make a decision by Nov. 1. The Red Sox did accommodate Morgan on Jim Rice. The former slugger had an option year left on his contract, and at Morgan's urging, the organization released him.

"There'll be some changes," promised Morgan. "I think we've proved the past two years that without speed there are times we can't score runs. There are days when our bats can't do it that we have to find another way."

Of Barrett, a player he managed in the minors at Pawtucket and one who had been a long-time supporter, Morgan said, "Let's face it. Marty didn't react very well when he lost his job. He couldn't take it."

Morgan said he also would have to get another volatile situation straightened out -- his relationship with third-base coach Rac Slider.

When he became manager, Morgan took Slider out of the bullpen, where he was getting bombarded by Lee Smith's 98-mph fastballs during the John McNamara regime, and made him his third-base coach and right-hand man. But Slider became disenchanted with Morgan when Richie Hebner came along in 1989. Slider noticed that Morgan relied more on Hebner for assistance and he felt slighted in the confidante role.

"I'll take care of that when the time comes," said Morgan.

All of the Red Sox coaches were asked by management to return next year. Morgan knows only that Hebner, Fischer and bullpen coach Dick Berardino are definitely returning. Al Bumbry is expected to be back unless the Baltimore Orioles offer him a job. Slider's future is in question. The long-time Red Sox minor league manager likes the idea of scouting.

Beyond the bickering, Morgan faces the uncertainty of his roster. He has no inkling on free agents Tom Brunansky and Mike Boddicker.

"I hope both are back, but who knows nowadays?" said Morgan. "Everybody wants to play close to home. I know we have some young kids coming up and they'll get a chance to play. I wish [Phil] Plantier was a right fielder, but we don't know if he is or not. I know [Mike] Greenwell has the speed to play out there. Big Mo [Vaughn] will get every chance to be in there. You can't have enough powerful left-handed hitting."

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