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McKeon Article


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I pulled this off AZ Central .. was nice seeing trader jack in the morning paper, even if the article wasn't any new .... also, on a side note, i'll be peeved if the fish don't beat fossum tonight


Honesty is McKeon's trade


Mark Gonzales

The Arizona Republic

Aug. 3, 2004 12:00 AM


Sugarcoating hasn't been a trademark of 73-year-old manager Jack McKeon.


McKeon and his defending World Series champion Florida Marlins open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks tonight at Bank One Ballpark.


The day before Houston's Jimy Williams was fired last month, McKeon said that some of the Astros players "have to be held accountable."


After being heckled by some San Francisco fans who were upset that Barry Bonds was intentionally walked four times, McKeon quickly told them that more were in store as he went for a walk outside of his hotel.


And despite his reputation as "Trader Jack" for his blockbuster trades while serving as general manager of San Diego in the 1980s, McKeon's longtime passion always has been managing.


"He was really into it with the minor league players, more so than with the major league players," said Dick Hager, who became an associate of McKeon's in 1962 when McKeon managed for Triple-A Vancouver and Hager was an area scout for the Minnesota Twins in Eugene, Ore.


"He battled and cared for them."


McKeon's enthusiasm was evident last season when he was hired by Florida and transformed a young, underachieving team into a World Series champion.


The challenge is just as great this season for McKeon, whose Marlins are six games out of first place in the National League East. But he's not making excuses.


"Everyone's expectations are very high, but that's no different than anyplace," McKeon said three weeks ago while managing the National League All-Star team.


McKeon's work with Florida was just the latest in a series of projects he has helped turn around. He spent four years managing at Omaha (1969-72), helping the expansion Kansas City Royals form a homegrown nucleus of talent that challenged the New York Yankees.


Perhaps McKeon's greatest achievement before last season occurred during his time as GM with San Diego. He made four blockbuster trades, including one three-way deal in 1983 that helped the Padres reach the World Series in 1984.


"Jack isn't afraid of anyone," said Hager, 76, who worked with McKeon in four organizations before retiring last winter. "I remember one winter we were trying to make a trade with the Chicago Cubs, and he chased (GM) Dallas Green all over the room."


One of McKeon's biggest feats last year was quickly acclimating himself with a young Marlins team and four coaching holdovers from Jeff Torborg's staff.


"Jack is a different breed," said coach Perry Hill, who came to Florida from Montreal with Torborg in 2002. "He takes what he's got and has the ability to make it work. He's got a magical touch. He doesn't complain . . . . He says give me 25 guys and let's go.


"He's a no-nonsense guy. He tells you what he expects and he holds you accountable - players and coaches alike. You don't find that very often."


During his 2 1/2-year break from baseball after getting fired by Cincinnati, McKeon stayed in touch by watching games at his North Carolina home.


"I visited him, and he had every game on that he could watch," Hager said. "He doesn't miss anything."


McKeon's current task is trying to get more offense out of a team that has struggled after a quick start. The addition of Paul Lo Duca should fortify the offense, while landing Guillermo Mota should ease the loss of Armando Benitez, who recently went on the disabled list.


"(McKeon) is doing his part," Marlins All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell said. "Sometimes when you're struggling a little, you got to shuffle the lineup, and he's doing that. I don't think his approach or his passion has changed.


"He doesn't sugarcoat anything. If he has a problem with you, he'll tell you face to face. I think most players appreciate that. They might not always like what he has to say, but he doesn't filter through any back channels to let you know how he feels. He'll tell you to your face, and that honesty you have to respect."

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