It was in the summer of 1979. Bob Lemon had recently been let go 65 games and 34 wins into the season as the manager of the Yankees -- the second year in a row he had been replaced midway into the season after earning American League Manager of the
It was in the summer of 1979. Bob Lemon had recently been let go 65 games and 34 wins into the season as the manager of the Yankees -- the second year in a row he had been replaced midway into the season after earning American League Manager of the Year Award honors for his efforts the previous campaign.
And during a lunch with friends back home in Long Beach, Calif., the subject was broached.
"Just took a lot of dumb pills in the winter," said Lemon.
It was as good an explanation as any about the fickle life of a big league manager.
Consider, Lemon guided the expansion Royals to a winning record in 1971 -- their third year of competition -- and finished second in the Associated Press Manager of the Year voting, only to be replaced after the '72 season.
He took a White Sox team that won 64 games in 1976 to 90 wins in '77 and was selected as the AL Manager of the Year by United Press International only to be let go 74 games into the '78 season.
And then there was his first stint with the Yankees. Lemon assumed the managerial reins from Billy Martin in late July 1978 and led the team on an eye-opening 48-20 record in the final two months of the season en route to a World Series championship, earning AL Manager of the Year honors from The Associated Press, only to be replaced by Martin 65 games and 34 wins into the next season.
Such is the life of a big league manager.
Winning isn't everything.
There are constant reminders, like Boston's decision on Wednesday to part ways with manager John Farrell, who five years ago walked out on a multiyear deal as manager of the Blue Jays to take the Red Sox job. He took Boston to a World Series championship in 2013, struggled through two lackluster seasons, then won AL East titles the past two seasons only to be eliminated both times in the AL Division Series.
A year ago, Dave Dombrowski, whom the Red Sox lured from the Tigers to run Boston's baseball operations after the 2015 season, had exercised an option on Farrell's contract for 2018, explaining at the time the importance of franchise stability.
As Rockies manager Bud Black often replies to questions, "That's baseball, right?"
Fair or not, the bottom line comes down to the fact Dombrowski and Farrell worked together the past two seasons and there was obviously something that didn't compute. Dombrowski was quick to point out the decision wasn't swayed by the elimination of the Red Sox from the postseason by the Astros on Monday.
It's not really all that unusual.
Ask Dusty Baker, who, after taking the Giants to the World Series and losing to the Angels in seven games in 2002, was told by the Giants that his contract wasn't going to be renewed.
Dave Johnson took the Orioles to back-to-back AL Championship Series in 1996 and '97 -- their first postseason appearances since the '83 World Series. He announced his resignation just hours ahead of the announcement that Ray Miller was taking the managerial job for '98.
Grady Little won 188 games in two years with the Red Sox, capped off by claiming the AL Wild Card in 2003, only to be let go after losing in the AL Championship Series.
Matt Williams won the Baseball Writers' Association of America Manager of the Year Award with the Nationals in 2014. After leading Washington to 89 wins the next year but coming up short of a postseason berth, he was let go.
Art Howe took the A's to three consecutive AL Division Series from 2000-2002 only to be encouraged by club officials to give strong consideration to an offer from the Mets after the '02 season, which he said showed him it was time to move on.
They did good jobs.
It was not, however, good enough to keep their jobs.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.