Cincinnati Reds Fire Manager Jack McKeon

Jack McKeon was fired as manager of the Cincinnati Reds today following a season in which his team finished 10 games out of first place after its electrifying trade for Ken Griffey Jr.

McKeon was NL manager of the year in 1999 when the small-market Reds won 96 games and narrowly missed the playoffs. This season, the Reds finished second in the NL Central, but way behind St.Louis.

Reds general manager Jim Bowden said the team would not renew McKeon’s contract and would immediately begin looking for a successor.

“Jack has been a part of the development of the good, young Reds players you see on the field today,” Bowden said. “But the organization has decided to take a different decision in its leadership from the dugout.”

Francona Fired in Philly

The Reds completed their season Sunday with a 6-2 loss to the Cardinals. Cincinnati finished at 85-77, compared with 96-67 the year before.

This was the fourth major league team the 69-year-old McKeon has managed. He had a 291-259 record after replacing Ray Knight as manager of the Reds on July 25, 1997.

His firing came a day after Terry Francona was dismissed as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Gene Lamont was to be fired today as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Reds created much of the preseason buzz this season with the acquisition of Griffey. The perennial All-Star outfielder was traded from Seattle, making a return to his hometown and joining his father on the Reds.

Griffey batted .271 this year, with 40 home runs, 118 RBIs and 100 runs. Other than his average, it was a strong season for Griffey, but clearly not enough to send the Reds into first place.

The Reds practically conceded the division race when they traded Denny Neagle to the Yankees in July. They also tried to unload Barry Larkin, but the star shortstop rejected a trade to the Mets, and Cincinnati resigned him.

Later, the Reds traded outfielder Dante Bichette to the Boston Red Sox in another move to lighten their payroll.

After 11 seasons as general manager of the San Diego Padres from 1980 to 1990, McKeon joined the Reds’ front office in 1993 as a senior adviser for player personnel. McKeon consulted with Bowden on trades and player evaluations.

In 1999, McKeon led the Reds within one victory of the playoffs. McKeon was disappointed when the team hired him only for the 2000 season, declining to give him the multiyear contract he had wanted.

More Changes for Reds?

“Although Jack had been out of baseball a few years when we hired him, we knew his baseball knowledge would benefit the Reds,” Bowden said. “The organization recognizes and appreciates his contributions both on the field and off, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Bench coach Ken Griffey Sr., pitching coach Don Gullett, bullpen coach Tom Hume and third-base coach Ron Oester are under contract to the Reds for next season.

Bowden said hitting coach Denis Menke, first-base coach Dave Collins and instructor Harry Dunlop have permission to speak to other teams about jobs.