Tuesday, October 26, 1999

McKeon's answer could come today




BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        While the Reds barely intensified their efforts to retain Jack McKeon, the manager said he might announce his plans today.

        “You get a chance to sleep on it, who knows what might trigger something tomorrow?” said McKeon, who led Cincinnati to a 96-67 record this year, its best since 1976.

        McKeon expressed disappointment with management's one-year, $550,000 offer last Friday, a raise of approximately $40,000. McKeon was hoping to get a two-year deal for more money.

        Asked if the offer had improved, McKeon replied, “Not at this moment.” However, a source familiar with the talks said that the Reds had increased their offer slightly.

        Asked if he had begun negotiating with Managing Executive John Allen, McKeon said, “I don't know if you want to call it that or not, but we're talking.”

        It was obvious that something had happened to prevent McKeon from stepping aside, at least for another day.

        McKeon said that besides Allen, he also spoke with General Manager Jim Bowden and special assistants Larry Barton Jr. and Gene Bennett, all of whom encouraged him to stay aboard.

        “That was nice,” McKeon said. “Jim wants me, definitely. John said when he talked to me originally that he wanted me to come back, but how badly?”

        Neither Allen nor Bowden could be reached Monday.

        McKeon's contemplation and the silence from Reds management has left observers wondering whether the Reds and McKeon need each other more than anyone believes.

        Reds officials don't want to give McKeon a two-year contract, but they could be starting to realize that they have few alternatives at this time.

        Ken Griffey Sr., Denis Menke and Ron Oester, coaches on the current staff, all have been regarded at one time or another as managerial prospects. But just 21/2 years have passed since the Reds jettisoned Ray Knight, who had no previous major-league managerial experience. They'd think hard before bringing in another first-time manager so soon.

        Special assistant Bob Boone compiled a 181-206 record as Kansas City Royals manager from 1995-97, yet his name has been strangely absent from the managerial rumblings.

        Moreover, if the Reds suddenly hunted for a new manager, they'd have to get in line behind Anaheim, Baltimore, Cleveland, Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs — way behind, because everybody knows how McKeon has been treated and how little he has been offered.

        McKeon, 68, can leave baseball and live comfortably. If he wants to stay in the game, the Reds may be his best chance.

       



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