04/30/2002 6:01 pm ET
Players take blame for firing
Royals say they don't expect immediate changes
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Mike Sweeney wanted to hide his head under the pillows Tuesday morning with the news that came out overnight.
"We were hoping it was a nightmare and it wasn't true," Sweeney said of manager Tony Muser's firing late Monday. "But unfortunately the beginning of the season was a nightmare, and last night, with Tony getting fired, was a nightmare as well."
The timing of the move, especially coming off a two-hit shutout by Jeff Suppan, created surprise in a clubhouse that has earned just seven other victories all season. But by no means was there shock that the move happened.
"It's like the painting was on the wall," Sweeney said. "We didn't want it to happen that way. The sad thing was that pretty much everyone knew it wasn't a matter of if. It was a matter of when."
Said starter Dan Reichert: "It was completely out of our hands. It's kind of sad it happened the first day of our road trip."
Sweeney might not agree with the "out of our hands" part. The first baseman became the focal point in the clubhouse during the final days of the Muser watch as he came to his manager's defense. He accused some teammates over the weekend of playing as if they didn't care.
With the move completed, Sweeney's defense continued.
"It's tough because we're losing a great friend and a great manager," he said. "I think Tony should hold his head up high. He did the best he could with what he had here in Kansas City."
Asked whether Muser's firing should light a spark under the club, Sweeney didn't like the reasoning.
"I don't feel we needed a spark to be lit," he said. "Definitely, firing Tony wasn't the answer to lighting a spark. If you want to light a spark, then you hold players accountable for wins and losses."
In catcher A.J. Hinch's mind, that accountability has already started.
"This is a business where winning matters," Hinch said. "I think each of us now has to look in the mirror and say, 'Are you doing your job to the best of your ability? Are you preparing the best and doing the things necessary to help the Kansas City Royals win?'
"Because if you're not, then I think you really have to look a little deeper into yourself and improve that. There's no doubt that things can't continue the way they've continued."
In some ways, they will. John Mizerock's status as interim manager doesn't give him much time to make many overhauls. Reichert, for one, expected the status quo in many facets of Muser's workout programs and staffing.
"You just got to take it day-to-day right now," Mizerock said, "come to the ballpark every day, fill out the lineup card, put the best lineup out there and go from there. The players need to do their jobs."
Mizerock's decade-long tenure in the organization affords him familiarity with many of the club's younger players, including Reichert. The one thing Reichert expects to see is the same thing that came across during Mizerock's introduction.
"Intensity," Reichert said. "He obviously cares about the game a lot. We'll see how he does at the big-league level. Triple-A is a lot different than the big leagues. But I think he'll fare fairly well. As long as we go out and play hard for him, he'll give us anything he's got."
If the intensity is mutual, even Sweeney thinks it's not too late to wake up from the Royals' nightmare start.
"Absolutely," he said. "We have almost 140 games to play. There's plenty of good baseball to be played. We definitely have time to turn this season into a positive. That's a goal."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.