Ray Knight isn't uncomfortable about following one of baseball's best. He's done it before.
In 1979, Knight took over as the Cincinnati Reds' third baseman, replacing a local icon by the name of Pete Rose. Knight produced his best season, batting .318 with 10 homers and 79 RBIs."It was difficult then," Knight said. "I had not done anything. I was a young man. I had not really proven myself at the big-league level."
On Monday, Knight officially assumed a position that's not so different from 1979. He was formally introduced as the Reds' next manager, replacing one of the most successful managers in the game.
Davey Johnson led the Reds to first place in 1994 and the NL championship series last season, but was let go by owner Marge Schott. Johnson, who has the best winning percentage of any active manager, signed on Monday with the Baltimore Orioles.
By contrast, Knight has never managed at any level and has less than three years' experience coaching. And he's going to be expected to win right away, at least as much as Johnson did.
It's a lot like 1979, though perhaps not quite as much pressure.
"I had to have baseball at that time. It was something I needed to make sure my future monetarily was going to be successful," Knight said. "I don't have to do this. I don't have to manage. I've got other things I can do. I want to do it."
If he stumbles, it will be a lot like 1993, the last time the Reds hired a famous former Reds player and coach with no managerial experience.
Tony Perez got the job and a one-year contract in 1993, and got just 44 games to prove himself. General manager Jim Bowden replaced him with Johnson, who brought along Knight as an assistant.
Knight has a little more security than Perez - the Reds agreed to a two-year contract. But he's working for the same impatient front office with the same demand to win now.
If anything, there's even more of an urgency to win this time around. As the 15,000 empty seats for playoff games at Riverfront Stadium demonstrated, Reds fans have been turned off by the game and the owner.
It'll be Knight's job to get them back.
Knight's first news conference as manager demonstrated that he's going to be a much different type of manager than Johnson. Knight emphasized the differences in philosophy (he's more aggressive and willing to take chances), the differences in temperament (he won't give players as much freedom), and the differences in his relationship with ownership.