MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Brewers fired manager Ned Yost on Monday, hoping to pull out of another late-season slump that has jeopardized the team’s chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 1982.
Third-base coach Dale Sveum will take over as interim manager for the remainder of the season. The Brewers have lost seven of eight and fallen into a tie with Philadelphia for the NL wild card lead.
At 83-67, the Brewers have just 12 games to rebound.
Milwaukee came into this month with a five-and-a-half-game lead in the wild card but since has lost 11 of 14 — including a four-game sweep completed by the Phillies over the weekend.
The Brewers were idle Monday and were scheduled to begin a three-game series with the Central-leading Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.
“This was a very difficult move to make, and we appreciate all of the work that Ned has done to develop this team into a contender,” general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement. “In the end, this was a collaborative decision made to put our club in the best position for the final two weeks of the season.”
The team scheduled a news conference Monday night in Chicago. Yost did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone by The Associated Press.
Members of NL Central rivals Chicago and Houston, who played another neutral-site game in Milwaukee on Monday after Hurricane Ike made it too difficult to play their scheduled series in Houston over the weekend, expressed surprise at the move.
“That was a shocker,” Astros owner Drayton McLane said. “Has a team ever done that at this point of the season this close to the playoffs?”
It was not known whether there had been a similar firing in the majors.
In 1983, Philadelphia fired Pat Corrales when it was in first place with a 43-42 record. Under Paul Owens, the Phillies reached the World Series.
In 1982, the Brewers fired manager Buck Rodgers after a 23-24 start. Popular Harvey Kuenn took over, and his “Harvey’s Wallbangers” went to the World Series.
“It was a big surprise to me,” said Astros infielder Mark Loretta, formerly of the Brewers. “It makes you wonder who really made that decision.”
Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Yost was a “good man.”
“I don’t know the situation here with the Brewers, but I’ve got a lot of respect for Ned and it’s not easy when you get fired,” Piniella said. “But I hope everything goes well for him. He’s a good baseball man, and he’ll be back.”
Bench coach Ted Simmons, once considered a potential successor should Yost be fired, has been reassigned to an “advisory role,” making his long-term status with the team unclear.
By shaking up its on-field leadership, Milwaukee is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s collapse. In 2007, the Brewers held an eight-and-a-half-game division lead in late June but slid to 83-79 and missed the playoffs.
The Brewers came into 2008 with even higher hopes for the playoffs and received a major boost when they made a trade with Cleveland for ace CC Sabathia on July 7. That acquisition certainly has worked out, as the reigning AL Cy Young winner is 9-0 in 13 starts with six complete games and a 1.59 ERA.
But little else — not the other starters, the shaky bullpen or a home run-happy offense that has gone colder than a Wisconsin winter — is working for Milwaukee these days.
Now Yost has paid the price.
Yost became a lightning rod for fan criticism in Milwaukee in recent years as he stubbornly stuck by players mired in slumps and refused to criticize them in public — even when they got in shoving matches in the dugout during games.
And the Brewers haven’t looked like contenders in some of their biggest series this season, including a three-game sweep by Boston in May, a four-game sweep by Chicago at home in July and the just-completed four-game sweep by Philadelphia.
Yost was in his sixth season as the Brewers’ manager. When Milwaukee hired him from Atlanta after the 2002 season, the team was in the midst of four straight seasons with 94 losses or more.
Under Yost, the young Brewers improved to records of 81-81, 75-87 and 83-79 in the past three seasons — a significant improvement for a franchise that hadn’t had a winning record since 1992. But Yost seemingly couldn’t get the Brewers to take the next step.
Yost spent 12 years on the Braves’ coaching staff with Bobby Cox, and Atlanta won division titles every year Yost was there except the strike-shortened 1994 season.
— AP sports writer Colin Fly contributed to this report from Milwaukee.