Miami Marlins’ new owners, as new owners are wont to do, are cleaning house, bringing in their own people to replace the other guys’ people. One of the victims of the new broom is “special assistant” Jack McKeon, who is 86 and may be obliged now to consider retirement. Slowly but surely the baseball guys are being ushered out of the game, to be replaced by MBAs, computer geeks, and assorted corporate drones. Unless you’re one who really digs spreadsheets, this melancholy trend is not improving the game. The suits are better in team and league offices, but it’s hard to argue that the game is.
McKeon has a long and distinguished career in the Major Leagues as a manager and team executive. He’s one of those guys who never played in the bigs — he spent 15 years in the minor leagues as a catcher — but succeeded as a Major League manager. Over the decades he achieved a winning record managing the Kansas City Royals, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Red, and finally, the Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins). As the Padres’ GM in the early eighties he cooked up so many deals he earned the nickname “Trader Jack.”
The jewel in McKeon’s managerial crown is the 2003 Marlins, which he managed to a six-game World Series championship over the New York Yankees. The Marlins stumbled out of the block that year and were 16-22 under manager Jeff Torborg when Marlins GM Larry Beinfest lured McKeon out of retirement, calling him a “resurrection specialist.” The label was apt, as the elderly (as these things are measured in baseball) McKeon resurrected the young Marlins to a world championship. He has managed and held various front office jobs since reaching baseball’s pinnacle in 2003.
There are many insightful and amusing McKeon quotes from over the years. My favorite comes from when a young reporter, after the final game of the 2003 World Series, asked McKeon what it felt like to be the oldest man to manage a World Series winner (McKeon was 72 at the time). His reply (I’m quoting from memory): “Son, I’ve been around so long I remember Preparation A.”
Just so, Jack. Many of us who love baseball and also remember Preparation A are sorry to see you leave the game, and hope that one of the 29 others teams will be nimble enough to take advantage of your considerable baseball savvy and talent. After learning of his dismissal, McKeon said he was sorry to go. He likes Miami, the fans there, and his job. But, he concedes, after all this time in the game, he understands that’s beisbol.