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Baseball briefs

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 2, 2000

With his worst season complete, Francona gets fired by Phillies

MIAMI -- Phillies manager Terry Francona was fired Sunday after a season in which his team finished last in its division and with the second-worst record in the National League.

General manager Ed Wade informed Francona of the decision Sunday morning. Francona managed the closing game against the Florida Marlins, a 7-5 loss.

"This has been a tremendously difficult time for all of us," Wade said. "Those difficulties are compounded when you have to let good baseball people and good friends go."

This is the first major-league season since 1942 in which no manager lost his job during the season. Pittsburgh's Gene Lamont reportedly has been told he will be fired today.

Francona managed the Phillies to a losing record in each of his four seasons in Philadelphia. He finished with a 285-363 record. "It's been a difficult year," Francona said. "And when you have difficult years, the manager gets fired. I understand that."

Also dismissed were 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 will finish with his worst record this year, 65-97.

Wade said he would immediately begin to search for a manager and coaching staff, but a decision most likely won't be made before the World Series.

He identified third-base coach John Vukovich as a possible candidate to replace Francona, but is just beginning 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."

Ripken ready for more

BALTIMORE -- Cal Ripken is ready for the next step in his bid to return in 2001: Talking to management about a new contract.

Ripken emerged from an important September with little back pain and a potent bat, and he's already making plans for off-season workouts designed to get him ready for his 21st season in the big leagues.

"I first had to find out about my baseball side," Ripken said Sunday after the Orioles' 7-3 win over New York. "Now that I've found out about my baseball side, and I'm happy with it, the next step is to pursue the opportunity."

Outfielder Albert Belle, meanwhile, says he knows how Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron must have felt.

In an op-ed piece published Sunday in the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles slugger compared himself to other notable black players who faced prejudice in their careers.

"I have never received prestigious accolades, been acclaimed as a hard worker, winner, or team player, and have received unwarranted treatment that only Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood and Hank Aaron could have experienced," he wrote.

MARLINS: The team will not exercise a one-year option on Henry Rodriguez's contract, making the 32-year-old outfielder a free agent.

Acquired from the Cubs in late August for a pair of minor-leaguers, Rodriguez hit .269 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 36 games with Florida.

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