BOSTON, SEPT. 29 -- Job security among major league managers has reached an uncommon high as a season of shifting priorities draws to a close. There are, in fact, more managers under hire than there are teams to play for them.
That's because Kansas City Royals catcher Bob Boone has been named field boss of a possible Orlando expansion club. "I had no competition from those already in the ranks," Boone said. "It's good for me that no managers get fired anymore."
Indeed, with the emphasis among big league brain trusts moving back toward cost efficiency and building an organizationn from within, those more likely to come under fire these days are general managers.
"You're going to see a lot more patience with the guys in the dugout for the next few years," said Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Larry Doughty, one of those whose job is in jeopardy in the offseason. "Teams are back to building slowly rather than going for the quick fix, and the architect of the building process is the GM. So if things go wrong, he's the likely one to go."
The Chicago White Sox already have fired Larry Himes, even after he built the franchise's first 90-game winner in seven years. San Diego's Jack McKeon is gone, and Doughty and Atlanta's Bobby Cox might be on the way out too. "GMs have replaced managers as the scapegoats," Himes said.
Every manager, meanwhile, seems likely to begin next season where he'll end this one. Doug Rader received a two-year contract extension with the Angels, John Wathan was rehired by the Royals and Bobby Valentine escaped persistent early season rumors of doom in Texas to lead the Rangers to baseball's second-best record over the season's final four months.
Even the Yankees will not make a change of leadership, with George Steinbrenner's final act as managing partner the re-signing of Stump Merrill. If that's not a sign of a new era, nothing is.
More and more managers seem to be receiving virtual carte blanche directives, such as Baltimore's Frank Robinson, who will leave his Orioles office when he decides to do so -- and will have a front-office post waiting when he does.
"In a different time and a different climate, there's no way I would have made it back for next year," Wathan said. Bringing Their Gloves
Strange goings-on in the game's oldest ballparks lately: In Detroit, the Tigers are on a pace for their lowest full-season attendance in 13 years and drew consistently disappointing crowds last week for Cecil Fielder's pursuit of the 50-homer mark.
Those who did show up, however, sat in disproportionate amounts in the left field bleachers in hopes of catching Fielder's landmark home run. "Half the crowd sits out there," Tigers public relations director Dan Ewald said. "And they all bring their gloves."
There was, of course, the potential that Fielder would deposit No. 50 onto the Tiger Stadium roof, as he has done twice this season. Even that might not deter some fans, however.
Ewald said that after Fielder's Aug. 25 blast onto the roof, a stadium worker retrieved the ball from a gutter and club officials presented it to Fielder. The next day, however, four fans showed up at the team's offices claiming to have the ball.
In Chicago, meanwhile, the final days of 80-year-old Comiskey Park have been hectic ones. A reinforced security detail arrested 10 persons last week who were trying to take their seats from the stadium with them.
The guards' toughest task, however, apparently will be to save the turf that is scheduled to be transferred to a Chicago park. And to add to the frenzy, the White Sox and the demolition company contracted to raze the ballpark may end up in court over a recent dispute about who owns the bricks when the job is done. Morgan 'Had a Feeling'
Boston Red Sox Manager Joe Morgan's decision to send Jeff Stone to the plate with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth inning of Friday's showdown with the Toronto Blue Jays may rank as one of the all-time most-questionable decisions during a pennant race.
Stone, a 29-year-old outfielder who was a member of the atrocious 1988 Orioles, hadn't had a major league at-bat all season. He hadn't had a major league hit since July 1989. And left-handed hitters Danny Heep and Phil Plantier were on the Boston bench.
"I didn't expect to be up there," Stone said. But for whatever reason -- "I just had a feeling," Morgan said -- Stone was sent to the plate, and he delivered the game-winning single off Blue Jays relief ace Tom Henke.
Perhaps Red Sox fans were ready to add another chapter to their torturous history when they saw Stone at bat, but the scene certainly made for a great story. Stone grew up as one of 15 children in a poor family in rural Missouri. He learned to play baseball by hitting rocks with tree branches because he and his friends could not afford proper equipment. . . .
Kal Daniels of the Los Angeles Dodgers sustained a partially collapsed lung during a collision with a padded outfield wall at Candlestick Park in San Francisco Friday night and will not return home with his teammates Sunday.
Daniels, who is batting .296 with 27 home runs and 94 RBI, will remain in the Bay Area while his teammates go home for their final series of the season, against San Diego. The condition of his lung prevents him from flying in the pressurized cabin of a jetliner. . . .
Several Boston players privately are questioning the arrangement that has team physician Arthur Pappas -- also a part owner of the Red Sox -- determining whether Roger Clemens should pitch again this season with severe tendinitis in his right shoulder.
"It's just not right," one of Clemens's teammates said. "I'm not saying Dr. Pappas has done anything wrong or improper, but things just shouldn't be that way. He has an interest in the team, and Roger should be seeing a doctor with no concerns but him."
Club officials dismissed any suggestions of impropriety. "I don't even need to speak to that," Morgan said. "Dr. Pappas is one of the top people in his profession, and it's an insult even to suggest that something like that could enter into his thinking."