KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Everyone from the front office to the clubhouse refused to blame John Wathan for Kansas City's chronic losing, but the good company man was fired just the same yesterday as the Royals' manager.
"I don't know that it's the manager's fault," said Royals general manager Herk Robinson. "It represents the failure on everyone's part."
But the Royals have spent the month of May in last place in the American League West. And that follows up a sixth-place finish last year under Wathan, the worst in franchise history.
"There comes a time when changes have to be made sometimes for the sake of change," Robinson said, "and this morning was the time."
Bob Schaefer, the club's bench coach, was named interim manager. Robinson, however, said he expected to have a new manager named by tomorrow night.
Among prominent candidates are former Houston manager Hal Lanier, Pittsburgh coach Gene Lamont, Milwaukee coach Don Baylor, former Royal Hal McRae, now a coach for Montreal, and ex-New York Mets manager Davey Johnson.
Wathan, 41, who will be kept on this year as a consultant, said he wanted to wait a couple of days before discussing his firing. He did say he was "shocked" that he was fired now because several key players are out with injuries, and because he and Robinson were discussing the club's future only Tuesday.
There was no joy among the players over the decision, and they were quick to take the blame for the team's failures.
"This is a sad day," said reliever Jeff Montgomery.
Said first baseman George Brett: "I really think everyone in this room feels responsible for this. This was our fault."
Robinson said he agonized over firing Wathan, who had spent all 21 years of his pro career as a player, coach and manager in the Royals organization.
"John was a wonderful, wonderful person," he said, "But right or wrong, in our business we don't do a lot of things in a conventional way."