The Detroit Tigers will have a new manager to go with their new ballpark next season.
The Tigers replaced manager Larry Parrish with former Milwaukee Brewers manager Phil Garner on Thursday, seeking a new direction for a team headed to a new stadium.
The Tigers and Garner agreed to a four-year deal, terms of which were not available.
Detroit general manager Randy Smith said Thursday that he spoke with Parrish and offered him the opportunity to remain in the organization as a scouting assistant. Parrish did not make an immediate decision on the new assignment.
Garner was fired in August after eight years at Milwaukee in the midst of a seventh straight losing season. He takes the reigns of a team that this season finished a disappointing 69-92 in Parrish's first full year as Detroit manager.
Garner's best season as Brewers manager was 1992 his first in Milwaukee before the payroll gap between teams got extreme. That season, he nearly guided the Brewers past Toronto for the AL East title and was runnerup for AL Manager of the Year. Milwaukee now plays in the NL Central.
"I see some good players," Garner said Thursday outside the Tigers new home, Comerica Park. "I wouldn't tell you I'm smarter than anyone else, that there will be a turnaround and we'll have a 100-win season, but I think we can do some things."
Courting Garner may indicate that the Tigers will raise the team's payroll. Garner, 50, was reportedly so frustrated by Milwaukee's comparatively low payroll that he planned to resign as manager there at the end of this season. He left Milwaukee with a 563-617 record.
Owner Mike Ilitch declined to discuss Thursday whether the Tigers would go on a shopping spree.
"It's the nature of the game. There's a lot of movement in the game. A lot of insecurity in the game," Ilitch said.
Weeks ago, Garner said he hoped to join a team with a payroll of at least $50 million to $55 million, with the willingness to raise it by $8 million during the season to add players needed to make the playoffs.
The Tigers' payroll this season was $35 million, 20th-highest among 30 big-league teams.
In introducing Garner, Smith suggested the man known as "Scrap Iron" during his playing days was the right man for the job because of his motivational skills and "his burning desire to win."
"He'll lead us into Comerica Park and into the new millennium," Smith said.
The Tigers wanted to announce the move Wednesday but ran into trouble with baseball commissioner Bud Selig because they failed to show that they considered minority candidates, Detroit radio station WDFN reported Thursday, quoting sources close to the team.
Parrish did not return messages left Thursda at his Florida home.
The Tigers are expected to take a payroll in excess of $50 million next season into Comerica Park, a $300 million ballpark being built about a mile from Tiger Stadium and scheduled to be ready in time for next season.
Detroit's record might show last season's dismal showing wasn't Parrish's fault, although the record also demonstrates managers often take the blame anyway.
"If you look at the numbers our team put up, I don't know what anyone else could have done in this situation," Parrish said shortly before the season ended.
Garner takes over a team that in many categories last season was among the worst in the majors. The Tigers had a .261 batting average, drew just 458 walks, struck out 1,049 times and had just 704 RBIs. Detroit's pitching staff had a 5.17 ERA.
Parrish took over the team on an interim basis on Sept. 1, 1998, after Buddy Bell was fired. The Tigers were 13-12 under Parrish and the club rewarded him with a two-year contract, removing the "interim" label in October.
Before coming up to the parent club, Parrish managed several seasons in the Tigers' minor league system, compiling a 178-163 record. In 1996, with Parrish at the helm, Jacksonville won both halves of the Southern League regular season and captured the league championship.
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