Royals players support Bell's decision
Retiring manager's squad understands his choice
MINNEAPOLIS -- When it came down to it, Buddy Bell just couldn't look his players in the eye anymore, knowing that he wasn't coming back next season as Royals manager.
No longer could he answer reporters' questions about who might be the closer in 2008 or what the Royals really needed for next season. That just wasn't in him. Bell was just too honest.
"I just thought that was a little dirty," he said at a news conference Wednesday when he announced he was stepping down at the end of this season.
Bell had discussed the possibility with general manager Dayton Moore as early as the first week of the season and finally decided it was time. So, three hours before Wednesday night's game against the Minnesota Twins, he called his players together and told them.
"He says he has a respect for us as individuals, and that says a lot," second baseman Mark Grudzielanek said.
"The respect we have for him is top of the class. We totally respect him. It's a tough decision for him, I'm sure, and it's awesome to see that he's going to remain in the organization."
Bell will continue in the Royals' organization as a senior advisor to Moore.
Asked what he'd miss most about managing, Bell didn't hesitate.
"The players," he said. "They're the best part of it. Players are the best. We've been through a lot in this organization the last three years I've been here, and we've had some tough times. But there's nothing like players -- sometimes you get a couple you'd prefer not to be around -- but 99.9 percent of the guys are very solid as heck and play their butts off. They're the best part."
His players returned the compliment.
"The respect for him is so much greater for him now, with the cancer he's gone through and all that," said center fielder David DeJesus. "But now standing in front of all these guys that he's been leading and saying that family is No. 1, that shows us how we want to live our lives.
"He's done a great job for us and he's still going to be with us, so it's not like we're losing him. He's just going to be in a different capacity. But we're happy that he's making the right decision for himself."
Shortstop Tony Pena Jr. has experienced something similar to this before. He wasn't with the Royals then, but his father, Tony Pena, resigned as manager in May 2005 and cleared the way for Bell's hiring.
"It's just baseball. You've got to understand," said Pena Jr. "I grew up in that environment, and not being able to be with my parents -- my dad, especially. So it's something he's doing for the right reasons."
Bench coach Billy Doran is one of Bell's closest associates.
"He certainly thought long and hard about it, and I'm sure it's the right decision," Doran said. "When you're close to somebody, you want them to be happy, you want them to do what's right. He's been through a lot since last fall."
Doran is almost certain to get consideration to succeed Bell.
"This has been an easy group to get attached to. This is an easy place to get attached to," he said. "Those decisions will be made in good time. We have to be concerned about the present."
Bell was asked about the players' reaction when he gave them the news.
"They were happy as [heck]," Bell said, laughing. "I think they were a little stunned. You know, players are so resilient. We just play and whoever the manager is, we play for him. And I'm sure that's how they'll approach it."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.