McRae out as Rays manager

ST. PETERSBURG ó Hal McRae was fired as manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Monday, one day after the team finished a miserable 55-106 season.

It was the second straight season of 100 or more losses for the Devil Rays, and the worst record for the team since it began play in 1998.

McRae replaced Larry Rothschild on April 18, 2001, and managed the Devil Rays to a 58-90 record over the remainder of the season. McRae had been hired the previous November as bench coach.

McRae was the third manager fired in two days. The Chicago Cubs got rid of Bruce Kimm on Sunday and Detroit fired Luis Pujols earlier Monday.

The Devil Rays, who have finished last and have lost at least 90 games in all five of their seasons, tied Detroit for the worst record in the majors this year.

McRae accepted a position as an assistant to the general manager. McRaeís job as manager was to run through 2003 ó under his new post, his contract was extended through 2004.

ìIím not making him a scapegoat,î GM Chuck LaMar said. ìIím responsible for the personnel. I think he couldíve won more games with better talent.î

A rough-and-tumble player with Kansas City for most of his playing career, he managed the Royals from 1991-94. He was later the hitting instructor for Cincinnati and Philadelphia before joining the Devil Rays organization.

From the start, many felt McRae was set up to fail in Tampa Bay because of the clubís financial problems and a history of poor personnel decisions by LaMar.

The general manager trimmed the payroll to about $34 million last winter ó lowest in the major leagues ó and McRae was expected to compete in a division dominated by the high-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox with one of the youngest rosters in baseball.

LaMar said he will begin immediately to compile a list of potential replacements, but that it may be three or four weeks before someone is hired because heíd likely be interested in interviewing possible candidates from clubs participating in the playoffs.

McRae didnít lobby for his return, but had the support of his players, who insisted the manager wasnít responsible for the team sharing the worst record in baseball with the Tigers.

ìWe just donít have a very good team. Thereís nothing he can do about it,î outfielder Ben Grieve said last week. ìYou could put any manager in the major leagues on our team and we would have lost 100 games.î

LaMar has been the teamís general manager since the franchiseís inception. While his personnel moves over the past five seasons have made him the target for widespread criticism, he remains under contract for two more years.

He said the decision to replace McRae was made during a meeting with the manager earlier Monday.

ìOn most nights when he took the field, he was outmanned. Iíll go on record as saying this organization has never made excuses about payroll, about ownership moves or any of these types of things, especially Chuck LaMar,î LaMar said.

ìIím responsible for the personnel on the field, and the personnel right now isnít good enough to win as many games as everybody in this organization would like.

ìItís getting better. Weíre going to get the job done. But no excuses have ever been made by me or anybody else.î