On the surface, it is ironic that managers of low-budget major league baseball teams expected to have little success are being fired at a record pace for, basically, having little success.
Tony Muser of the Royals was the latest to fall, becoming the fourth skipper to walk the plank since Opening Day.
The Royals are a young team with a payroll that ranks 22nd out of 30 major league teams. It is an organization known for developing talent, then not being able to pay the price to keep it around. We'll mention Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon and rest our case.
Muser, like Phil Garner (Tigers) and Davey Lopes (Brewers) and Buddy Bell (Rockies) before him, was saddled with a nearly impossible job. They were given plow horses and asked to make a run for the roses. An inability to even make it out of the starting gate, added to the indifferent results of past seasons, proved fatal.
Franchises that operate as small-market teams have a far greater dependency on gate revenue. So they can far less afford to have early-season failures result in lasting fan apathy.
The Yankees use their ticket revenue as tip money, but it's different in places like Detroit and Milwaukee, where resources are not limitless and where local radio and TV rights fees, sweetheart stadium deals and luxury-suite rentals can carry teams only so far, based on the current economics of the game.
The Brewers are hemorrhaging at the ticket window one year after opening a new ballpark. The Tigers, contrary to announced attendance figures, were lucky if they had 5,000 fans for a few games during their recently-concluded homestand at Comerica Park, which opened in 2000.
By displaying itchy trigger fingers, team owners are camouflaging their own lame efforts at fielding quality teams by hoping that changes in April lead to improvements in May that sell tickets come the key summer months.
Who will be the next manager to go?
Leading candidates include Jerry Narron of the Texas Rangers and Toronto's Buck Martinez.
But Charlie Manuel of the Indians is, as they'll being saying this weekend at Churchill Downs, moving up on the outside.
Manuel was the toast of Cleveland as the Tribe won 11 of its first 12 games, but his team is 2-13 since and posted its worst April record since 1997. Recent attendance at Jacobs Field, sold out for a record 455 straight games from 1995-2001, has very much reflected the swoon.
Manuel's firing doesn't appear imminent, but things had better pick up during May, a 29-game month in which the Indians will play exactly one contest - the May31 opener of a series against the White Sox - against a team that currently has a winning record.
The Tribe's May schedule includes eight games against the Royals and seven against Detroit, teams that have managed just single-digit win totals a month into the season.
1. Is Jennifer Capriati the first athlete in history to be kicked off a team for showing an interest in more coaching and more practice time?
2. Did Billie Jean King think someone bought a ticket to watch her coach?
3. What is the Fed Cup?
Dave Hackenberg is a Blade sports writer.
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