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Miley, Gullett shouldn't have to take the fall

By Hal McCoy

Dayton Daily News

CINCINNATI | It stinks. It stinks to high heaven.

Dave Miley can now audition for the television lead in The Fall Guy. When a baseball team turns to Silly Putty, the first head chopped always is the manager's and that was Miley's skull rolling down the banks of the Ohio River Tuesday outside Great American Ball Park.

And that was pitching coach Don Gullett's head rolling right behind Miley's.

Of all the rhetoric, and there were enough words spoken to fill a Webster's New Collegiate Tuesday, first baseman Sean Casey said it clearly after Miley and Gullett were fired: "This isn't Dave Miley's fault and this isn't Don Gullett's fault. Ultimately, it is our fault on the field. I've been around and I see the business aspect, but it is never the fault of one or two guys. It is everybody's fault, from top to bottom."

Miley and Gullett are victims of high expectations and low performance. The higher-ups in the organization handed Miley a roster full of holes and presented Gullett with a pitching staff of Venus di Milos and said, "Go get 'em, guys."

When it didn't happen, they paid the ultimate price, unemployment and unwarranted blame.

More than one player wondered about the front office's guilt and said the team should put a Johnson & Johnson ad on the outfield wall because the team is taking a Band-Aid approach. Maybe a Hoover is needed, or Terminex, to sweep out and fumigate the entire mess, top to bottom.

Bench coach Jerry Narron becomes the manager and minor-league pitching instructor Vern Ruhle becomes the pitching coach and to that all of baseball says, "Good luck, guys, you'll need it."

And here is an interesting nugget: When Narron was fired by the Texas Rangers, his major-league managing record was 134-162 over 296 games. When Miley was fired his record was 125-164 over 289 games.

Neither Narron nor Ruhle have been promised anything beyond the end of this season. They have 92 games to take aim and prove what they can do, but their ammunition is limited.

One of Narron's first moves Tuesday was a closed clubhouse meeting and it met with early approval.

"He tightened the bolts and said, 'I'm old school and this is the way it is and that's the way it is going to be,'" said outfielder Jacob Cruz.

"I hope he sticks to that. I liked what he said."

It is true that Miley probably lost the clubhouse, but that happens often when a team claims squatter's rights on last place. Some petty moves like removing the massage recliners from in front of the lockers of Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn were ill-advised. And it wasn't good when he removed the No. 32 jersey worn by Danny Graves that Dunn hung on the wall in honor of a teammate he believed was done wrong.

Not only did Miley remove it, when Dunn asked for it back he was told that Miley gave it to his wife to for a charity auction — a nice gesture, but the shirt was given to Dunn by Graves.

The team Miley tried to win with was three-dimensional offensively — solo home run, two-run home run, three-run home run. All power, no nuances. No speed, no situational hitters, no bunting ability and a dislike for seeing runners in scoring position.

The pitching staff Gullett tried to win with is next-to-last in the National League with a 5.66 earned run average, only 0.03 better than Colorado, which plays its home games in the thin mile-high atmosphere of Coors Field.

The fatty parts of that ERA figure belong to Eric Milton (7.82), Paul Wilson (7.77), Ramon Ortiz (6.51) and Ben Webber (8.03). General manager Dan O'Brien brought in Milton, Ortiz and Weber and he tendered a two-year $8.2 million contract to Wilson, even though the team knew he was carrying partial tears in his rotator cuff and labrum.

O'Brien was asked directly if he and his staff shouldn't share or take blame for the darkness of last place and failure. He didn't play dodgeball.

"As an organization, we have to assume responsibility," he said. "It's a group effort and we have a contribution to make to the overall (failure or success). Not everything has fallen into place perfectly."

So far, all that has fallen are the heads of Miley and Gullett. And that won't be enough to turn around a proud franchise that has become moribund and stagnant.
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Reds change lineup
But until boss can be boss, expect the same

By Paul Daugherty
Enquirer staff writer

By the end, poor Dave Miley bore the look of a prelim fighter: Eyes glazed, expression muted, head droopy, as if his neck were a rubber band. He twitched a little, blinked too often and wore the thousand-yard stare of the condemned. Don't hit me no more.

We've seen that look before. Dave Shula owned it, when Mike Brown mercifully fired him. Bruce Coslet did, too. It's the look of a man cut off at the knees. Miley was Coslet in a wishbone C.

General manager Dan O'Brien fired Dave Miley Tuesday, along with pitching coach Don Gullett. It was dirty, necessary business. When a team stops playing for its boss, there is nothing to do but ask the boss for the keys. The Reds quit on Miley more than a month ago.

Whether that was because they knew Miley wasn't in charge or they were mad he took their recliners or that he cut Danny Graves or didn't play Adam Dunn the night his mommy and daddy were in attendance is anybody's guess. It doesn't matter now. When workers sense the boss isn't the boss, the game is over.

Maybe interim manager Jerry Narron will be allowed to send Eric Milton to middle relief or call up Steve Kelly and/or Chris Booker from Class AAA. Maybe he won't need permission to sit Rich Aurilia.

Meanwhile, a guy could get whiplash watching all the home run balls that Gullett's pitchers allowed.

But firing Miley and Gullett is like slowing a hurricane with a window fan.

The Reds are a dysfunctional organization. Top to top. They're edging ever closer to 1990s Bengals irrelevance. During the Lost Decade, we stopped cursing the Bengals and started laughing at them.

Miley's team didn't do much of anything right. "Basic, small fundamentals" were screwed up routinely, an obviously incredulous Narron said Tuesday. (Uh, Jerry, you were Miley's bench coach, right? Why the shock?)

Miley was in over his head. He got the managing job because he was loyal, humble and cheap.

Who hired him?

O'Brien hasn't showed that he's any better at his job than Miley was at his. O'Brien's two prize free-agent pitchers - Milton and Ramon Ortiz - throw batting practice two out of every five nights, starting at 7:10. O'Brien signed off on Paul Wilson's multi-year deal even as he knew Wilson's shoulder was Spam. And so on. O'Brien looks to be in over his head. He got the general manager's job because he was loyal, humble and cheap.

Who hired him?

The only constant in the Reds' five-year losing streak is a well-intentioned man who is in over his head. That'd be chief operating officer John Allen, who keeps his job because he's loyal, humble and ....

Who retained him?

The same loyal, humble, spectacularly philanthropic and benevolent man. Carl Lindner.

During the dregs of the Lost Decade, people asked me a lot about Mike Brown. What kind of guy is he? For 10 years, my answer was the same: He's a good man who doesn't know how to run his football team. I don't know Carl Lindner well. I know him through his actions. He is a good man. Who doesn't know how to run his baseball team.

O'Brien and Miley were Lindner hires. The decision to spend $27 million for three years of aging Barry Larkin - at the expense of much-needed younger talent - came straight from Lindner's heart. And so forth.

After 10 years of hanging in the public stocks, ducking tomatoes, Mike Brown hired a fantastic coach and let him go to work. Carl Lindner, in his sixth year of running the Reds, can do the same thing. Make Miley's firing mean something. Or start ducking the tomatoes.

Meantime, bid fond farewell to Dave Miley. It's a tough business. Nice guys don't always finish last. Sometimes, they don't even finish.
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