Waiting ends, and so does Torborg's Mets job Long-rumored exit opens door for Green

May 20, 1993|By Steve Serby | Steve Serby,New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- The Jeff Torborg Era came to an end last nigh as the New York Mets waited until the end of their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates to fire him and paved the way for new manager Dallas Green.

Earlier, there had been indications of a great debate behind closed doors about the successor to Torborg, who reported to work saying he had heard nothing from the hierarchy about his job status.

In the eighth inning last night, the Mets finally called for a news conference one-half hour after the game in which Bobby Bonilla's 10th-inning homer beat Pittsburgh, 6-4.

Green was named the club's 15th manager and third since 1990, not counting Mike Cubbage, who was 3-4 as an interim in 1991 after replacing Bud Harrelson.

At the news conference, Mets GM Al Harazin said: "I don't think there is anything I detest more in sports than scapegoating. We all share the blame. I certainly accept my share. I told the players we have all let Jeff down.

"We simply had to turn the club around and get it headed back in the direction we were for the better part of the '80s. When we didn't get off well, I still wanted to wait, at least until the All-Star break, but after three heartbreaking one-run losses in Montreal, I knew we couldn't wait any longer."

Harazin announced that coaches Barry Foote and Dave LaRoche also were let go.

The blustery, no-nonsense Green last managed with the New York Yankees in 1989 and lost his job when he referred sarcastically to George Steinbrenner as Manager George.

Green's intimidating style is in marked contrast to Torborg's. He once engaged in a shouting match with reserve outfielder Stanley Jefferson, who was livid that he was being sent down to the minors. Green emerged from his office and barked for all to hear, "Look in the mirror, big boy!"

The installation of the powerful Green clearly puts in peril the position of Harazin. Green, in his second season as Mets scout, has experience as a winning manager with the 1980 Phillies and winning GM and president with the 1984 Cubs.

At game time, a pall hung over Torborg and his coaching staff and a dark cloud hovered above the entire team as it tried to get ready for the Pirates.

There was resignation in Torborg's voice as he stood outside the dugout that soon no longer would be his. It seemed so cruel that he would have to be answering questions about his imminent departure but Torborg, who will be paid the remainder of his four-year, $1.9 million deal, played the good soldier to the end.

"I can't stand out here and be real jovial and say I'm not aware of what's going on," Torborg said, referring to the whirlwind of rumors he first heard yesterday morning on his wife's radio.

Torborg met with his staff before the game and the Mets locker room was closed to the media at 6 p.m., or 50 minutes earlier than usual. Torborg's assistants would not divulge their meeting with Torborg in his office but there was a sense of the inevitable etched on all their faces.

"My gut feeling is something's going to happen," hitting coach Tom McCraw said. "If I had to bet my life, I'd bet they're going to make a change. Speculation ... no denials."

Third-base coach Cubbage said: "I think it's an unsettling day. The feeling around here's kind of like the weather. It's a dreary day."

Torborg said he saw no need to ask management about their plans. "In Cleveland one time they held a press conference to say I was still the manager." Three weeks later he wasn't the manager.

He sounded as if he already had read the handwriting on owner Fred Wilpon's wall. "I knew there was a challenge here," Torborg said. "I didn't know exactly what it was going to be. I just wish I was able to get more out of the team than I did, that's all."

He said he was embarrassed that he had failed. He could understand why the Mets were mulling a new direction. He finished 85-115. "I haven't gotten the job done, very simple bottom line," Torborg said.

Some players felt the hullabaloo over the manager's plight was a distraction. Others expressed guilt over their performance and sorrow for Torborg. And others matter-of-factly took the view that events like these are the law of the land when a team does not live up to expectations.

Torborg said he was a big boy and didn't feel as if he were twisting in the wind. Losing his third managerial job would be no relief; in fact, he would welcome the opportunity to keep trying to turn around a team in a dreadful free fall. "I know how it's done," Torborg said. "No fanfare, bands playing, cheerleaders."

Asked if he thought last night would be his finale, Torborg said, "If it is, I'd like to win the sonafagun."

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