Piqued by a mountain of losses, Rockies push Baylor from dugout

The first casualty of the Colorado Rockies' losing season was Don Baylor -- the only manager the team has had in its six seasons.

"After a long, thorough and very difficult evaluation, we feel a change in chemistry is necessary on the field and in the clubhouse," owner Jerry McMorris said yesterday after firing his manager.

Despite the high-priced additions of pitcher Darryl Kile and second baseman Mike Lansing, the Rockies finished 77-85 -- their first losing season in four years.

"Major-league baseball has enjoyed a remarkable 1998 season, but all of us at the Rockies have been very disappointed in our own season," McMorris said. "We didn't play like we expected to play."

Baylor, 49, a former Orioles outfielder, led the Rockies to a 440-469 record. He was offered a position as vice president, reporting directly to McMorris, but he did not immediately accept it.

With Baylor as the manager, the Rockies won 67 games in 1993, the most for a first-year NL team. They earned the NL wild-card playoff berth in 1995, the quickest an expansion team has made it to the postseason. The Rockies went 83-79 in both 1996 and 1997 but slipped back this season.

Both Baylor and Bob Gebhard, the general manager since the Rockies' inception in 1993, were criticized all year after an eight-game slide in early April.

Although Baylor will not return to the dugout, Gebhard will be back in the front office. McMorris said the team also will create a vice president's position with broad player personnel responsibilities.

Among those reportedly being considered to replace Baylor are the Florida Marlins' Jim Leyland, Montreal Expos' Felipe Alou and Milwaukee Brewers' Phil Garner.