Phillies Fire Manager Terry FranconaMARK LONG , Associated Press
Oct. 2, 2000 6:05 AM ET
MIAMI (AP) _ Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ed Wade was anxious about the phone call he had to make.
Unable to leave a voice message at the team's hotel Sunday morning, Wade left Phillies manager Terry Francona a text message that they needed to talk.
Francona knew what was coming.
Francona was fired after a season in which his team tied the Chicago Cubs for the worst record in the majors at 65-97.
``It's been a difficult year,'' Francona said. ``And when you have difficult years, the manager gets fired. I understand that.''
Francona remained with the team through the season finale, a 7-5 loss to the Florida Marlins on Sunday that completed a three-game sweep.
Philadelphia, losers of 11 of its last 14 games, is now in the market for a manager.
Wade identified third-base coach John Vukovich as a candidate to replace Francona, but said he has just begun to compile a list of potential successors.
``We'll spend the next several days and weeks putting together the best list we can, and talk to the people we feel are most qualified,'' Wade said. ``If somebody has major league managerial experience, that's a benefit. It's not an overriding necessity.''
Francona had a losing record in each of his four seasons in Philadelphia.
The Phillies also dismissed four coaches: hitting coach Hal McRae, first base coach Brad Mills, pitching coach Galen Cisco and bench coach Chuck Cottier.
Francona improved the club from 68 to 75 to 77 victories in his first three seasons, but finished with his worst record this year.
``The reason our record is the way it is, is because we played bad and didn't win,'' rookie outfielder Pat Burrell said. ``The coaches have done everything in their power to make us win. That's all we can ask for as players. It's our fault for not winning the games.''
Francona, a players' manager with a laid-back approach, often was criticized for his failure to motivate a team that has a solid core of young, talented players.
``I'm not going to label Terry other than a good friend, a hard worker and a guy who deserved a better fate than what occurred this season,'' Wade said. ``We all learn from our experiences and I think Terry will learn from this experience.''
The Phillies entered the season with high expectations after increasing their payroll in the offseason.
Philadelphia traded for starter Andy Ashby _ an All-Star in 1999 _ and signed free agent closer Mike Jackson to upgrade a pitching staff that already included Curt Schilling and Paul Byrd _ both All-Stars in '99.
But Ashby struggled before being dealt to Atlanta, and Jackson didn't throw a pitch for the Phillies after injuring his shoulder.
Schilling was traded to Arizona, and Byrd won just two games before finishing the season on the disabled list.
``Last year, we thought we identified fairly specifically what our needs were ... but those moves didn't work the way we anticipated they would work,'' Wade said. ``So we probably have more needs we have to address. But at the same time, I'm not prepared to give up on the core group we have.''
An offense that finished fourth in the NL in batting average and sixth in runs last year also fizzled. The Phillies were next-to-last in hitting and scored the fewest runs in the majors.
Those were numbers Wade couldn't ignore.
``This has been a tug-of-war in my gut for probably six weeks,'' he said. ``I had a continual fight with myself to say, 'No, I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to make a change.' ... Unfortunately, as much as I wrestled with it, I still continued to come to the conclusion that this was the right decision.''
Notes: Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu stole his career-high 28th base. He had 27 last year. ... Florida's Mark Kotsay had a chance to finish with a .300 batting average, but grounded out in his final at-bat. ... The Marlins said they will not exercise a one-year option on OF Henry Rodriguez's contract.