The Cincinnati Reds today announced that they have fired manager Jerry Narron and hired former Olympics star Tanya Harding as his replacement.
Redsâ€™ owner Bob Castellini indicated that the inspiration for the move was supplied by Tony LaRussa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, a team with which Castellini was involved prior to purchasing the Reds. Castellini noted that in the aftermath of the death of Cardinals (and former Reds) pitcher Josh Hancock, LaRussa warned his players about members of the media looking for negative stories about Hancockâ€™s death and said, â€œThe first time I hear insincerity, Iâ€™m going to start swinging this fungo.â€
In light of the Redsâ€™ poor start this season, Castellini said, â€œWe decided that we needed a leader cut from the same cloth as Tony LaRussa, someone who is not afraid to swing a fungo if thatâ€™s what it takes to get the job done.â€
Harding is best known for an incident in January, 1994 when she was involved in a plot to injure rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Reds GM Wayne Krivsky explained, â€œWhat happened there was that Tanyaâ€™s ex-husband hired a guy to clank Kerriganâ€™s knee with a police baton. This was roughly the same time Tanya gained managerial experience, appearing in USA Pro Wrestling as manager for wrestler Art Barr.â€ Krivsky noted Hardingâ€™s lifelong involvement in athletics, including her managerial experience and her exploits in celebrity boxing and womenâ€™s professional boxing earlier in this decade. â€œSheâ€™s got a 3-3 record as a pro boxer. She saved a womanâ€™s life in 1996, using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive an 81-year old woman who collapsed in a bar in Portland, Oregon. Sheâ€™s shown that she plays the game the right way.â€
Castellini was less subtle concerning the impact he hopes Hardingâ€™s hiring will have on the Reds. â€œWeâ€™re just tired of the same guys beating us all the time, itâ€™s time we did some beating of our own. Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman best be looking over their shoulders, because Tanya and her fungo will be around. The same goes for Bill Hall - one good clank on the knee from Tanya and thatâ€™s one less Reds killer we have to worry about.â€
Asked later if that also applied to Ted Lilly of the Cubs, Krivsky offered, â€œIâ€™d say that it certainly might. Weâ€™ll have to wait and see. Itâ€™s early yet. Certainly, Lilly is a guy who has shown signs of being the type of player we would like to have Tanya address. But Iâ€™ll leave those decisions to the manager.â€
The Reds also announced that Edwin Encarnación was being recalled from Louisville and would start at third base in the series opener against the Washington Nationals. â€œWe wonâ€™t have any more problems with guys staying in the batterâ€™s box after the ball is hit,â€ Castellini said, â€œNobody is going to want to be a stationary target with Tanya around. We expect to see guys hustling from now on. This should show the fans we were serious when we said we would do whatever we had to do to bring championship baseball back to Cincinnati.â€