Jack McKeon wanted to stay as the Cincinnati Reds manager. The club wanted him back.
After an awkward week of wrangling over terms, both sides got what they ultimately wanted: McKeon gets to keep managing, the Reds get to keep him for at least one more year.
McKeon accepted a one-year contract extension Thursday that was less than he thought he deserved after a remarkable season. McKeon, 68, wanted a multiyear deal after leading the small-market club to 96 wins and a close brush with the playoffs.
With the Reds holding firm to a one-year offer and no other club interested in hiring him as manager, McKeon had limited options. He thought about his ultimate goal.
"I like to manage," McKeon said from his home in North Carolina. "I'm happy with the result. I'll take it one year at a time."
Midway through the season, chief operating officer John Allen and general manager Jim Bowden concluded that McKeon should get an extension. The Reds' ownership change forced a delay in making the offer.
"Jack and I talked some time in late July or early August, then a lot was made in the media about the delay," Allen said. "With the ownership change, it was the right thing we had to go through."
Marge Schott's sale to three limited partners wasn't completed until this month, and Allen waited until the new ownership was in place before dealing with personnel matters.
He met with McKeon at the end of last week and offered a one-year deal with a slight increase over the approximately $500,000 he made this year. McKeon was upset with the timing and the terms.
He went home to North Carolina and mulled over his options: accept less than he wanted or walk away and end his managing career. Some players, coaches, scouts and front-office employees called and urged him to stay.
Asked why he accepted, McKeon said, "A lot of things. First, my desire to manage again. Second, all the phone calls I received were certainly an influence. And my family wanted to see me continue because I was happy doing it."
Allen declined to talk about why the club offered only one year.
"We wanted Jack to manage," Allen said. "It was just a matter of sitting down and hammering out the details. We wanted Jack back and that's what we got accomplished."
With McKeon handling a youthful lineup, the Reds competed for the playoffs despite a $35 million payroll that was by far the smallest of the contenders.
The Reds finished with their most wins since 1976 and were in line to make the playoffs as the NL wild card until losing three of their last four games, resulting in a tie with the New York Mets. The Reds lost a one-game playoff with the Mets in Cincinnati.
Within hours of McKeon acceptng his extension, the rest of the coaching staff agreed to terms for 2000.
"This year to win 96 games with a $35 million payroll and see the development of (all the young players) was just phenomenal," Bowden said. "Jack and his coaching staff did such a great job that it was a no-brainer."
McKeon's job will be tougher next year. The club stands to lose cleanup hitter Greg Vaughn through free agency and the starting rotation remains a big concern.
"We had a remarkable bunch of players this year," McKeon said. "They played their hearts out. A lot of them developed very quickly. I hope now we can sustain that and get better."
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