Bell takes managerial reins of worst team in baseball

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Buddy Bell, hired as manager of the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, promised no quick turnaround for the team with the worst record in the majors.

"It's going to take some time to figure this out," Bell said in a news conference at Kauffman Stadium. "Right now we are looking for small victories."

Bell, a five-time All-Star third baseman, was bench coach with the Cleveland Indians. He takes over a struggling franchise that hasn't made the postseason since winning the 1985 World Series and is on pace to have one of the worst seasons in modern baseball history.

Bell managed his first game Tuesday night when the Royals hosted the New York Yankees.

"We're very excited about this," general manager Allard Baird said. "If you look at his career -- 18 years in the big leagues -- he's a teacher, a communicator.

"He's been there and has experienced it as a player and as a teacher. He has patience but is extremely demanding."

Bell will need patience.

Lacking speed, power and experience, the Royals went into Tuesday night's game 13-37, 20 1/2 games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. Their record after 50 games is the same as the 1962 New York Mets, who lost a major league record 120 games, and the 2003 Tigers, who lost 119.

The 53-year-old Bell managed at Detroit in 1996-98 and Colorado in 2000-2002, compiling a record of 345-462. He is the first Royals manager in about two decades with previous experience as a major league skipper -- something owner David Glass insisted upon after Tony Pena resigned May 10.

"I think it's critically important at this stage of our development," Glass said Tuesday. "We haven't hired an experienced major league manager since Dick Howser."

Howser managed the Royals in 1981-86, going 404-365.

Bell has had plenty of experience with struggling teams. In his first year with the Tigers, Detroit lost 109 games. But Bell rebounded the next year to go 78-83, a 26-game improvement that had him second in voting for AL manager of the year.

He was fired by the Rockies in April of 2002 when the team started 6-16.

"Managers change jobs. Managers seemingly don't manage one team for a long period of time," Glass said from his office in Bentonville, Ark. "Each time they're forced to make a change, they wind up being better the next time. With an experienced manager, you get someone who's tried it and failed and is a better man because of it in almost all cases."

Bell said he didn't mind the challenge of taking over a struggling team.

"Over the years, I have made a lot of friends in this great game of ours, and I don't necessarily have to manage," he said. "If I was going to manage again, it was going to be in an organization that I can help thrive.

"This was the best situation for me and the Kansas City Royals, and that was very important to me."

Pena was AL manager of the year when the Royals were a surprising 83-79 in 2003. But the next year, despite adding such high-profile veterans as Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago, the club lost a franchise-record 104 games.

"This will be a great loss to our major league team and organization, but we're ecstatic for Buddy," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "This is a great opportunity that he wanted and that we are confident he will succeed in."

Bell and his father, Gus, combined for 4,337 hits -- the second-best father-son duo after Barry and Bobby Bonds, who have 4,348. Bell's son, David, plays for the Philadelphia Phillies.

"We're very excited to get him," Glass said. "He's a good baseball guy, from a good baseball family. He will be good working with young players. He will buy into the youth movement. He's tough but fair, and I think he will make a very good manager for the Royals."

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