NEW YORK -- Before he made his debut as the Chicago Cubs' interim manager last night, Joe Altobelli talked about the secret of managing.
"If we hit three three-run homers and win 9-3 tonight, I guess people will say I'm a genius," he said.
The Cubs hit two homers, one by George Bell and one by Damon Berryhill. But it wasn't enough to make Altobelli a genius or stave off an 8-6 loss to New York just hours after Don Zimmer was dismissed as manager.
Altobelli didn't outlast his old friend by long. He was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing home plate umpire Steve Rippley's warning to Chuck McElroy after he threw an inside pitch to Dwight Gooden, who earlier had plunked Doug Dascenzo. Altobelli was replaced by Chuck Cottier, who became the Cubs' third manager of the day.
"It hasn't been one of the great Joe Altobelli days -- not that anyone cares," Altobelli said after the last-place Cubs dropped six games back of Pittsburgh.
The Cubs responded to Zimmer's firing by jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning against longtime nemesis Gooden, who is 23-3 against them.
But then the Mets ambushed Cubs starter Rick Sutcliffe (2-4) with four runs in their half of the first and three more in the second. The second-inning shower was Sutcliffe's earliest of the season.
"There was obviously a lot going on before the game, but the idea is to forget about it once the game gets going," Sutcliffe said.
Altobelli called on Les Lancaster, who yielded doubles to Dave Magadan and McReynolds to put the Cubs in a 7-3 hole.
The Cubs trailed 7-5 in the last of the fifth when Rippley warned McElroy for throwing too close to Gooden on a belt-high fastball. That soon resulted in Altobelli's ejection, and also later brought a clubhouse tirade from general manager Jim Frey, though he later supported Rippley's attempt to keep order.
Dascenzo left the accusations to others, but he knows he narrowly escaped great harm. The Gooden pitch grazed his back just below his collar.
"When you see a guy hitting the corners and throwing head-to-toe fastballs and then all of a sudden you're diving out of the way of a high fastball . . . I'll never know if he was trying to throw at me or not," he said.