Can't blame Pena

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Whatever Tony Pena's flaws as a manager -- which, according to most who know him, are few -- you can't fault his sense of timing.

Pena, the Kansas City Royals field boss until he said 'No mas' Tuesday night, fell on his own sword following a crisp, one hour and 44 minute loss to the Jays' Roy Halladay, a former Cy Young Award winner.

No shame in that.

But after 33 games -- 25 of them losses -- Pena just couldn't take it any more. He resigned his post and went quietly and willingly into the dark night.

Nobody had an inkling, not even Royals general manager Allard Baird. In the midst of their usual post-game debriefing, Pena dropped his bomb on Baird at the team hotel.

Maybe Pena is just psychic.

Had he stayed on another 18 hours to endure yesterday's game, who knows what state of mind he would have been in. He may very well have gone postal after what transpired in the series finale. Losing is nothing new to the Royals, but their poor record only hurts more when a potential win turns into a defeat.

The young Royals, owners of the worst record in baseball, got an early lead for interim manager Bob Schaefer, fell behind, battled back, fell behind again, battled back again, then blew up real good in the late innings.

The result was their 26th loss, a dreadful 12-9 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays.

Kansas City took a 9-7 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but set-up man Ambiorix Burgos spit out the bit. When the carnage was over, he had allowed five Toronto runs on five hits -- no help from his defence -- and a rare opportunity for a victory had disappeared.

"We had some bad luck early but battled back, got some runs," Schaefer said. "We got the lead and went to our big boys (in the bullpen) and it just didn't work out. Burgos didn't miss many bats but, hey, he's a young kid."

Canadian Matt Stairs drove in three runs with three hits, including a two-run homer off lefty Scott Schoeneweis that gave Kansas City the lead in the top of the seventh.

Despite their record, the Royals were stunned to learn of Pena's decision. He is well-liked and highly regarded within the industry. It would not surprise anyone to see Pena managing again before the season is finished.

"(Pena) called me (Tuesday) night at 12 o'clock and told me that he resigned," Stairs said. "It was a complete shock. Unfortunately, he thought it was best for the team, the way we've been playing.

"So once again, it comes down to the fact that the team sucked and it's not the front office or the ownership or the management's fault. It is the players fault.

"It was surprising. He's definitely going to be missed around here."

One thing is sure.

Pena wouldn't have missed being part of yesterday's bit of ugliness at the Rogers Centre. The two pitching staffs combined to give up 20 earned runs on 28 hits and 15 walks in a game that took nearly four hours to complete, in sharp contrast to the tidy, 104-minute effort the night before that drove Pena over the edge.

"This is a young team," Schaefer said. "That's what you're going to get, especially from the pitchers: Inconsistency."

The bottom line for Toronto is they got the job done, no matter how unartistic. They swept the Royals, an important accomplishment coming on the heels of last weekend's whitewash at the hands of the Chicago White Sox.

Toronto's 19th win keeps it right there in the mix in the top half of the American League East as it heads out on a six-game trip to Cleveland and Minnesota.

Yesterday's messy bit of business will quickly be forgotten in the flow of a long season. That's the kind of constructive amnesia that keeps managers from pulling the plug.

Problem for Pena was that most every night had a similar result.


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