Pena gives up on managing the Royals

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The underachieving Kansas City Royals' frequent on-field mistakes finally took their toll on Tony Pena.

Just hours after shortstop Angel Berroa's ninth-inning baserunning blunder contributed to a 3-1 loss in Toronto on Tuesday night, Pena resigned as manager of the woeful Royals.

''I feel that at this time we have not played to the top of our abilities,'' Pena said in a statement released by the team. ''The Kansas City Royals are on the right track by committing to their young players, and I believe the Royals will be contenders for a long time if they don't change their direction.''

His announcement came two weeks after he'd been given a vote of confidence by the team's owner and general manager and less than two seasons after his selection as American League manager of the year.

''We are not playing well,'' Pena told The Kansas City Star after Tuesday night's game. ''It's tough to go to the ballpark and lose game after game. I haven't been eating. I haven't been sleeping. I don't want to get sick.''

Bench coach Bob Schaefer, 60, will replace Pena on an interim basis in the first managerial change in the majors this season. Schaefer also managed the Royals for one game on an interim basis in 1991 between the firing of John Wathan and the hiring of Hal McRae.

General manager Allard Baird said a permanent replacement would be found as quickly as possible.

''We'll take as long as we need to hire a new manager,'' Baird said. ''The timetable to fill this position is secondary to finding the right individual to manage this ballclub.''

Berroa's blunder was typical of the way the Royals played while losing a franchise-record 104 games in 2004 and getting off to the worst start in the major leagues this year. He led off the ninth inning with a double, but was thrown out at second base after Mike Sweeney flied out to center field.

''I think he went too far and there was no reason for him to get into the double play when we're down two runs,'' a downcast Pena said hours before his resignation became public.

After starting 16-3 in 2003, the surprising Royals competed into September and finished 83-79 for their first winning record since 1994. Pena was named AL manager of the year and Berroa was honored as the league's top rookie.

The next year, they loaded up on high-priced, underachieving veterans but never competed. In a signal to disappointed fans that they were giving up on the season, they traded star outfielder Carlos Beltran to Houston before the All-Star break.

Baird said Pena, whose record is 198-285, would be offered a job in the organization.

''He's a guy who has a tremendous passion for this organization,'' Baird said. ''He's still talking about the direction of the ballclub. That says a lot about who he is and what he is.''

A five-time All-Star catcher during his 18-year playing career from 1980-97, Pena was a coach with Houston when the Royals chose him to replace the fired Tony Muser early in the 2002 season.

''There are good people and good teachers working in this organization, from the front office all the way to the bottom. I wish this team and the fans the very best,'' Pena said in his statement.

Hampered by a tight budget, the once-proud Royals have not appeared in the postseason since winning the 1985 World Series. The team had the second-lowest opening-day payroll in the majors this season at $36.9 million, ahead of only Tampa Bay.

The Royals will host the Devil Rays in a four-game series in Kansas City this weekend.

Baird said Pena had played ''a major role in the development of our young players.''

''Under Tony's leadership, he has positioned many of our young players to be the foundation for the further success of the organization,'' Baird said. ''Despite our early season struggles, this team has battled with an intensity that reflects Tony's personality.''

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