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In his final days
Question of the Day
Frank Robinson was informed yesterday by Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten and general manager Jim Bowden that he will not be retained next season, and though an official announcement won’t come for another few days, the manager’s farewell after 51 years in the major leagues has begun.
During an afternoon press conference at RFK Stadium yesterday, Robinson all but revealed his fate. Without ever formally saying he is being let go after five seasons with the franchise, he strongly suggested that his managing career will end with Sunday’s season finale.
“I’m at ease,” he said, eyes welling.
Both Kasten and Bowden declined to comment on Robinson’s status, but a source familiar with the situation confirmed the 71-year-old was informed his tenure with the club will end when his contract expires Oct. 31.
An announcement is likely to come sometime this weekend, and Robinson likely will be given some sort of farewell tribute at Sunday’s game against the New York Mets.
“We agreed to make an announcement later on,” the manager said before Washington’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, the start of which was delayed 4 hours, 27 minutes by rain. “Sometime in the very near future.”
Rumors of Robinson’s pending dismissal had been circulating for more than a month, and few expected the Nationals to bring him back for another season. Until yesterday, though, no front-office officials had spoken to Robinson about his future, and he expressed his frustration over that several times publicly in recent weeks.
The Hall of Famer met with Kasten for about 20 minutes and Bowden for about 15 minutes and said the conversations were “as positive as they could be.” He did not meet with any members of the Lerner family, which assumed ownership of the club two months ago.
“I had my say,” Robinson said. “We sat down, each one, and I had my discussions with them … and said what I wanted to say about the situation here, and my situation.”
Robinson, who in 1975 became the first black manager in major league history, wouldn’t reveal whether he has been offered another position within the organization, but that has been a particularly sticky subject throughout this process. Robinson would like to remain with the franchise if he was given a position of some substantial authority, but few expect the club to make that kind of offer.
“You’re assuming that I’ve been officially fired,” Robinson said with a laugh. “If they feel like they want me to be a part of the organization beyond managing the ballclub, it’s up to them.”
Regardless of his baseball future beyond the weekend, Sunday will represent Robinson’s final game in uniform after a career that spanned six decades and included milestone moments as a player in Cincinnati and Baltimore and historic managerial stints in Cleveland, San Francisco, Baltimore, Montreal and Washington as well as a period working at league headquarters.
The Nationals haven’t announced plans for any ceremonies or festivities yet, but local fans (who have rooted for Robinson since his playing days with the Orioles) figure to shower him with praise over the season’s final weekend.
The manager said he expects these final days to be “different” and “strange” but said he can embrace his farewell, “contrary to what some people think.”
For all his success as a player, including induction into the Hall of Fame in 1982, Robinson has a sub-.500 record as a manager. With four games to go, he is 1,064-1,173 over 16 seasons. In five seasons with the Nationals franchise, he is 384-422 and is on the verge of guiding the club to its third-straight last-place finish in the National League East division.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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