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NATIONAL LEAGUE ROUNDUP : Mets’ Cashen Takes Harrelson With Him on His Way Out of New York

It was no surprise that the New York Mets fired Manager Bud Harrelson. The surprise was that it happened Sunday in New York.

When he announced Friday that he will step down as general manager at the end of the season, Frank Cashen said that Harrelson’s fate would be decided in a few days.

But the Mets announced a morning news conference that the move was being made to prevent Harrelson from taking any more criticism.

“It was cruel and inhuman to allow it to continue,” said Cashen, who told Harrelson he was out Saturday afternoon. “He has a job in the organization next season if he wants it.”

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That seems doubtful. One club executive said Harrelson was surprised and upset by the decision.

The Mets, even after losing free agent Darryl Strawberry to the Dodgers, were favored to win the National League East title. But with injuries to key pitchers beginning in training camp, the Mets never really contended. They are closer to last place than first.

Although he managed 284 games, Harrelson, 47, didn’t manage the Mets for a full season. He took over for Davey Johnson on May 29, 1990, and lacked a week of finishing this season. At 75-80, the Mets are heading for their worst finish since going 68-94 in 1983.

“I’m not really surprised at what happened,” pitcher Frank Viola told the Associated Press.

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“The situation was as bad 10 to 12 weeks ago, and that’s when it should have happened. Buddy’s an organization man and a great guy. You hate to see him lose his job. However, you have to ask if he was managerial material.”

Was he?

“You saw the results,” Viola said. “He wasn’t in the best situation. This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen a manager fired, and it’s never that easy.”

The list of criticisms against Harrelson grew as the season progressed. He had several clubhouse problems and some of the players thought bench coach Doc Edwards was calling the shots.

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Pitcher David Cone and Harrelson had a heated shouting match and almost came to blows in Cincinnati over how much control Edwards had.

“We thought that when Davey Johnson was fired that the front office did so in order to have more of a say,” Cone said. “That may not have been true, but that’s how we perceived it. We also thought Doc Edwards had too much input. It boils down that we need a manager who is his own boss and not a puppet.”

Said NL home run leader Howard Johnson: “I’m not happy that he was fired, but I’m glad for Buddy’s sake that all the talk is over. He was in a similar situation as Davey Johnson. It was a no-win situation, and it was inevitable that he was going to get fired, just like Davey.”

The Mets made Mike Cubbage, a coach, the interim manager. He won his first game, 4-3, Sunday over the Philadelphia Phillies, as Viola (13-15) ended a seven-game losing streak.

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Although Cubbage said he would like to have the full-time job, he is not expected to get it.

The Mets’ No. 1 choice reportedly is Jeff Torborg, manager of the Chicago White Sox, who is said to be at odds with the front office. If he quits, he would go to the top of the Mets’ list.

What kind of manager do the Mets need?

“Someone who makes the decision himself, not his coaching staff,” Cone said. “Somebody with Davey’s personality, Dallas Green’s personality, Buck Rodgers’ communication to players and someone like Jim Leyland who is also an excellent communicator.”

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Pittsburgh 6, Montreal 3--Barry Bonds hit his 25th home run and Bob Walk won for the first time since July 14 in this game at Pittsburgh.

Bonds, seeking his second consecutive most valuable player award, has 111 runs batted in.

Chicago 5, St. Louis 3--Rick Sutcliffe (6-5) overcame wildness to continue his late-season comeback in this game at St. Louis.

Cincinnati 8, San Diego 1--Chris Sabo hit a three-run home run to break the game open in the sixth inning at Cincinnati.

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