Green said it was a volatile situation that would create an inevitable confrontion.
The inevitability recently became a reality, leading Friday to another inevitability: Green's firing as manager of the Yankees for apparently refusing to make coaching changes that the owner, George Steinbrenner, demanded.
Steinbrenner announced that former shortstop Bucky Dent, manager of the club's triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, for the last three years, will replace Green, who was removed with a year remaining on his two-year contract.
Steinbrenner also fired four of Green's coaches--Pat Corrales, Lee Elia, Charlie Fox and Frank Howard--although Howard was first offered Dent's job at Columbus, which he turned down. Rick Down, a roving hitting instructor who formerly coached with the Angels, was selected to replace Dent at Columbus.
Two of Green's staff--bullpen coach John Stearns and pitching coach Billy Connors--were retained by Steinbrenner to work with Dent, while Mike Ferraro and Gene Michael were reassigned by the organization and will coach first and third base, respectively. Champ Summers, a minor league hitting instructor, will join the major league staff in a similar capacity.
The managerial change, coming with the sixth-place Yankees at 56-65 and 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East, is the 17th since Steinbrenner purchased the team in 1973. Dent became Steinbrenner's 11th different manager.
Four of the others--Billy Martin, Lou Piniella, Clyde King and Michael--are still employed by the Yankees in various capacities.
"Some things never change," Green said Friday, alluding to his firing and the Yankees' instability.
Said relief ace Dave Righetti: "I respected Dallas and his coaches. They worked hard and I appreciated that. But this just goes with the territory here. We've never had it any other way. To me, this is normal--and that's no joke."
Added first baseman/designated hitter Ken Phelps: "There are six weeks left in the season. If they were going to do this, it would have made more sense to bring back (former managers) Billy (Martin) or Lou (Piniella), someone more familiar with the team."
The latest change took shape two weeks ago when Steinbrenner publicly derided Green and his coaching staff for aligning fielders in the wrong places and for what he perceived to be a lack of effort by the team.
The outspoken Green refused to back away, calling Steinbrenner "manager George" and a second-guesser. Green predicted at the time that he would be fired.
Neither Green nor Steinbrenner were available for more than brief statements Friday, but Green confirmed that his firing revolved around Steinbrenner's desire to make changes in the coaching staff.
"I told him, as I always told him, that if he's going to do that, the head honcho, the manager, has to go first," Green said, hurrying to leave the team's Detroit hotel Friday morning.
Said Steinbrenner, in a statement released through the team's publicity department: "We welcome Bucky, who has worked hard for this chance. I still consider Dallas to be a close friend."
Later, while refusing to answer questions, Steinbrenner added: "I made a change. I've got nothing critical at all to say about Dallas Green. Perhaps there were things I did that disappointed him and things he did that disappointed me. I'm sorry that Dallas and I aren't going to see this thing through together."
Green, who managed the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series victory in 1980 and helped the Chicago Cubs win an Eastern Division title in 1984 as general manager, was hired to manage the Yankees on Oct. 7, 1988.
He was the first manager selected by Steinbrenner from outside the organization and, with the owner's urging, promised a new discipline and team ethic.
The Yankees opened the season with a victory in Minnesota, lost their next seven games, and have never been more than two games above .500.
Free-agent pitcher Andy Hawkins has been the only constant in a rotation that had to be rebuilt after the release of Tommy John and Richard Dotson, injuries to Dave LaPoint and John Candelaria and the trade of Al Leiter. The Yankee pitching staff had a 4.54 earned-run average--the American League's worst--going into Friday night's game at Detroit, which New York lost, 7-3.
The offense--decimated by the injury to Dave Winfield, the trade of Jack Clark and the free-agent departure of Claudell Washington--has also been inconsistent, with the Yankees trading for Mel Hall, Jesse Barfield and Steve Balboni in a modest attempt to improve the production, then finally trading Rickey Henderson in hopes of strengthening the pitching.
Of Green's firing, second baseman Steve Sax said: "I respect Dallas and feel sorry for him. It's been tough with all the injuries and changes. I thought he did a good job."
Said first baseman Don Mattingly: "Dallas worked hard and he never gave up on us. In his heart, I think he really believed we were going to win it. It's too early to talk about the timing of this thing. We'll have to see if the change turns it around."
Dent, 37, had a 68-62 record this season at Columbus. Dent, who has a 367-344 record in five seasons of managing--three at Columbus and two at Class-A Ft. Lauderdale, retired as a player in 1984 after 12 seasons in the majors, six with the Yankees.
He had a career batting average of .247, delivering his biggest hit--a three-run homer off Mike Torrez--in the Yankees' 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the one-game playoff for the 1978 division title, the year the Yankees won their last World Series.
New York trailed by 14 games in August of that summer, and Dent said Friday that he was confident the 1989 team can overcome its deficit.
"I'm excited about the opportunity and realistic about the pressure and problems," he said. "I can only try and do my best for as long as it lasts. I know the track record here. I know there are no guarantees."
It was only last February, in fact, that George Steinbrenner was saying that Dallas Green faced no problems, that he would still be managing the New York Yankees when they won the World Series in October.
YANKEE MANAGERS Yankee managerial changes under George Steinbrenner's ownership: Sept. 30, 1973--Ralph Houk resigned. Jan. 3, 1974--Bill Virdon named. Aug. 1, 1975--Virdon fired. Billy Martin named. July 24, 1978--Martin resigned. July 25, 1978--Bob Lemon named. July 29, 1978--Martin named for 1980. June 18, 1979--Lemon fired. Martin named. Oct. 28, 1979--Martin fired. Dick Howser named. Nov. 21, 1980--Howser's resignation announced. Gene Michael named. Sept. 6, 1981--Michael fired. Lemon named. April 26, 1982--Lemon fired. Michael named. Aug. 3, 1982--Michael fired. Clyde King named interim manager. Jan. 11, 1983--Martin named. Dec. 16, 1984--Martin fired. Yogi Berra named. April 28, 1985--Berra fired. Martin named. Oct. 27, 1985--Martin fired. Lou Piniella named. Oct. 19, 1987--Piniella promoted. Martin named. June 23, 1988--Martin fired. Piniella named. Oct. 7, 1988--Piniella fired. Dallas Green named. Aug. 18, 1989--Green fired. Bucky Dent named.