Saturday, July 12, 1997
Has managing lost
its appeal for Knight?


BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ray Knight needs none of this. He didn't have to make peace with Mike Morgan in order to pay the mortgage. He doesn't have to manage the high-maintenance Cincinnati Reds to make a buck.

Knight was drawn back to the dugout by a mixture of ego and morbid curiosity, but he might walk away tomorrow and never miss it. Since the early stages of last season, he has sounded progressively less in love with his job and increasingly anguished by its demands on his family.

Even if the Reds were to offer him another contract - a prospect which becomes less probable with each new crisis - it is not altogether clear Knight would accept. Managing intrigues him, but it has not consumed him. Life has afforded him alternatives.

"I love baseball enough to say that I'll manage for 30 years," Knight said Friday, "but I love my family far more than I love baseball. I came here wanting to see what it was like (and) I found out it's a tough, tough job. I was so clueless . . . The game on the field is such a small part of it."

He speaks his mind

Running a baseball team is at least as much of an art as it is a science, and Knight has been known to paint himself into corners periodically. He speaks his mind so candidly and so often that he sometimes foments brush fires in his clubhouse. Mike Morgan is not the only Reds player to chafe at Knight's perceived micromanagement, merely the only one willing to say so for publication. (Bold bunch, ballplayers.)

Reminded of Casey Stengel's theory - "The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided." - Knight laughed and then lamented he was not sure which of his players fell into what camp. Command is customarily lonely, but Ray Knight's sometimes resembles solitary confinement.

"No battle is easy," he said. "Some people get mortally wounded. Some people get crippled. Some people get their feelings hurt. In this situation, I've heard more negativity in a year and a half than I have my entire life. My life has been nothing but positives. "(But) I feel you have to be stronger than the situation. You have to be tougher than what anybody can throw at you. You've got to be able to know where your heart is. I know who I am."

And still, Ray Knight is openly conflicted. Though he would consider it a failure if he left the Reds without winning a pennant, he was not sure Friday afternoon whether he expected or even wanted to manage again.

'That hurt me immensely'

Can't say I blame him. Public feuds with retread pitchers are tiresome and undignified, but Morgan's sharp words cut Knight to the bone. You can say a lot of things about the Reds' manager, but you can not call him calloused.

"I was so angry and hurt," he said. "I've had people say they didn't like me, but I've never had anybody say they didn't respect me. And that hurt me immensely. But I understand. I'm able to look deeper."

Upon bridging what he had earlier referred to as irreconcilable differences with Morgan, Knight remembered that he had once spewed similar venom on Houston manager Bob Lillis following a published complaint from Knight's wife, Nancy Lopez.

"I was frustrated as I could be in 1984 in Houston," Knight said. "I yelled at my manager. I had a confrontation with him. I told him things that I didn't mean. I told him I had no respect for him. I called him a couple of nasty things . . . If he (Morgan) had done to me what I had done to Bob Lillis, somebody would have been hurt."

Knight's tirade does not justify Morgan's, but it may help to explain it. A ballplayer past his prime is a sensitive soul - "a keg of dynamite," Knight said - and must be handled with care. Managing baseball is one part strategy and nine parts psychology.

"I've always forgiven everybody," Ray Knight said. "Joaquin Andujar hit me with a pitch in spring training after he and I had gotten in a fight the year before. He hit me in my ribs . . . But by the end of that season I was picking him up at his place, and I bought him a fan because he didn't have one."

Ray Knight's heart is usually in the right place. Whether it belongs in the dugout, he's still deciding.

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