For weeks, Stump Merrill said he knew he was going to be fired as manager of the New York Yankees. That didn't stop him from feeling angry and hurt when it happened.
"When you've spent 15 years of your life to work for this kind of a goal, and you finally achieve it, and then you're told you're let go for betterment in the organization, that's a slap in the face to me," Merrill said yesterday after the team announced his dismissal.
General manager Gene Michael said he made the decision 3 1/2 weeks ago and said he told Merrill after Sunday's season finale. But the Yankees waited a day to let the world know.
"I don't want to get into specifics," Michael said. "I don't want to hurt him. He tried hard and did the best he can. . . . I thought we were in a rut. I didn't think the players were responding at all."
"It's no longer tampering to talk to me," said Merrill, who has one year left on his manager's deal and a separate, long-term personal-services contract. "So if somebody wants me, I'm available."
The Yankees finished fifth in the AL East at 71-91 after finishing last in 1990 at 67-95. Merrill, who has been with the Yankees' organization for 16 years, took over as manager when Bucky Dent was fired June 6, 1990. The team was 18-31 at the time.
"I don't feel the ballclub was responding well enough and sometimes that's not all the manager's fault," Michael said. "Sometimes the player personnel isn't good enough. It's unfair that the manager gets the brunt of the blame, but that's just the nature of the game."
Merrill was the last manager of the George Steinbrenner era. Players seemed to like him in 1990, but this year they questioned his moves -- always speaking not for attribution -- especially as the record sank in the second half.
His authority became a point of public debate after he benched Don Mattingly for a game when the first baseman declined to get a haircut. Merrill said he was acting on orders from Michael, but Michael later said the manager had misunderstood.
"I knew that was the first nail in the coffin. Not the first nail, but that was a nail in the coffin," Merrill said. "I know the facts of the situation and so does the front office and so does Mattingly, and that's all that matters to me."
Merrill, 120-155 over the two seasons, was the ninth manager fired since the start of the season and was dismissed nine days after the New York Mets fired manager Bud Harrelson.
Michael said that all the coaches other than hitting coach Frank Howard were free to take jobs with other teams. Michael said the new manager will decide on the rest of his staff.
The new manager won't be hired until after the World Series, Michael said. And it will be a name that is known.
"We're going to look for someone with major-league experience and it will probably come from the outside," Michael said.
* CUBS: Officials met yesterday to discuss manager Jim Essian's future but took no action.
Club president Don Grenesko said no decision was made about replacing Essian and no timetable set to resolve the situation. He did not say whether another meeting was planned for today.
Essian, 40, was expected to be reassigned within the organization, with general manager Jim Frey possibly taking over as field manager, according to published reports.
* BREWERS: Tom Trebelhorn emerged from a meeting with owner Bud Selig and said he still didn't know if he would be back as the team's manager.
Speculation is that Selig will make sweeping changes that could include Trebelhorn and General Manager Harry Dalton, who has held that position since 1977. Selig's greatest concern this season was sagging attendance. The Brewers drew only 1,478,814, their lowest since 1986.
* TIGERS: Hotel and motel operators in Wayne County, Mich., said they have agreed to charge customers a 1 percent tax on rooms to help pay for a new Tiger Stadium, but only if the new ballpark is built downtown.
Restaurants and bars also are expected to agree to collect the tax, and negotiations are continuing with rental-car companies, Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara said.
* PADRES: Shortstop Tony Fernandez underwent 1 1/2 hours of surgery to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb.