Perez, Green have Met their managerial match New Met brings tough approach to tough task

May 25, 1993|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Dallas Green is who you get when the payroll is huge and the effort is puny.

He walks around a clubhouse like John Wayne in spikes, the biggest, baddest, loudest and profanest New York Met of them all. He manages on gut instinct, not numbers off a computer printout. He refuses to make excuses for millionaires who fail to run out fly balls. And he is so candid he'll tell he is not afraid of getting fired.

"I thought guys like me were dinosaurs," he said.

Not yet.

There is still room in the increasingly corporate world of baseball for a tough man to fill an even tougher job.

At 58, Green is in the midst of a career rebirth, plucked off his Pennsylvania farm May 19 and brought to the big city to replace Jeff Torborg as the 15th manager in Mets history.

Last night, he returned to the scene of his greatest triumph, Veterans Stadium.

It was here, in 1980, where Green celebrated a World Series victory as manager of the Phillies.

So it was awfully strange to see him inside the visitor's clubhouse, filling out a lineup card, calling his friends around the city, even directing the flow of questions at a friendly news conference.

But Green let his guard down for a brief moment when Paul Owens, the architect of the 1980 Phillies team, wandered into the clubhouse.

The men hugged. "I love you," Owens told Green. "I miss you."

Later, while Green continued to work the phones, Owens talked of his one-time protege and of the impact he will have on the Mets.

"Dallas will do a good job with the Mets," Owens added. "He'll shake them up. He'll embarrass them. He'll get them to play."

This is a job that may tax all of Green's skills as a manipulator and a motivator. The Mets are so bad they trail the expansion Florida Marlins in the National League East.

The core of their lineup is either old or overpaid or both. Their farm system needs a tuneup.

"From what I hear," Green said, "this is a mess. They haven't been good offensively or defensively."

Much like the Orioles spiraled downward in the mid-1980s, the Mets have only themselves to blame for their trip to baseball skid row.

They have a front office that believed Eddie Murray would be a great guy to have in the clubhouse, Bobby Bonilla could replace Darryl Strawberry, and Vince Coleman was the answer to a team's prayers as a leadoff hitter.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Torborg, bright, industrious, personable, was brought in to manage last year. He never had a chance.

Enter Green, one of baseball's last tough men.

"I guess this is a little bit of a honeymoon time," Green said. "We're happy and kissing. Any time a manager gets fired, it's traumatic for a team. They have to get the feel for the guy. Is he for real? I tried to give them an idea of who Dallas Green is. We'll treat 'em as men, until they prove us otherwise. The Mets know they haven't played up to their capabilities. I guess I'm the guy who hits them in the head with a 2-by-4."

His message may be getting through.

"You hear the name Dallas Green, and you find out he's a straight shooter," said pitcher Dwight Gooden. "He's in charge. It's his ballclub. But I don't think a change in managers is going to get us to win 15 or 20 straight games."

Green also is realistic. Armed with a contract that extends through the 1995 season, he is talking of a long rebuilding program to replenish the Mets.

Watch him. He has never failed to win. After he took the Phillies to the 1980 title, he went to Chicago, and built the Cubs into a winner as both general manager and team president. It was Green who traded for Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe, and who signed free agent Andre Dawson.

But when the Cubs went corporate in the late 1980s, Green went back to his Pennsylvania farm. He emerged briefly in 1989 as one of George Steinbrenner's sacrificial managers. But unlike most, Green didn't take orders from the Boss, which led to his ouster.

Now that he's back, he talks about winning.

"We all learn and change," he said. "I'm Dallas Green and I'll stay here. I'm still not afraid to get fired for what is right. There is a right way to approach a baseball game and a wrong way."

Green said that it's his job to teach the Mets how to win again. He has to make some big decisions in the next few months. When they back up the moving vans to Shea Stadium, Coleman and Murray are sure to be among the first to go. Other calls will be tougher to make.

"It's too early to get a sense of any feeling in the clubhouse," he said. "It has been a brutal year for a lot of our players. The fans have been on them. The media, too. It has not been a fun time. I'm not ready to give up on 1993. I won't give an inch. I'm not looking for miracles. I'm looking to get back in the pack."

What he's looking for, is a little honest effort from his team of millionaires.

"The money end of it has taken away a little of the digging attitude that you have to have to be successful," he said. "No question, going 0-for-4 and losing a ballgame may not hurt as much as it used to for the players. I have to bring back that focus. I have to make it hurt."

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