This is a (very) revised version of what I wrote earlier. It’s anybody’s guess what is going here, but it SOUNDS like this is being done at the ownership level, not at the baseball ops level
By Tony Jackson
Although there were multiple reports out of New York on Monday that the Dodgers were close to hiring, or had already hired, Joe Torre as their manager, what little word there was coming from the organization clearly indicated otherwise. That did not mean, however, that the Dodgers aren’t exploring the possibility of replacing their current manager, Grady Little, with Torre, whose 12-year tenure at the helm of the New York Yankees ended last week when Torre rejected a one-year, $5 million contract with incentives.
A story in Monday’s editions of the New York Post, citing two sources with “knowledge of the Dodgers’ universe,” said the club is talking with Little about possibly buying out his contract, which also carries an option for 2009.
Another story that hit the wires on Monday night, from the Journal News of Westchester (N.Y.) County, which also cited two sources “close to the situation,” said Torre could be named the Dodgers’ manager in the next 24 hours.
Colletti didn’t respond to messages left both on his office and cell phones. Little didn’t respond to messages left on his office, cell and home phones. But one Dodgers source with knowledge of the situation said “there is no truth to the story as it presently stands,” which is a long way from saying there is no truth to the story at all.
Another source within the organization, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “I don’t know where any of this is coming from, but if you write it, you’ll look like an idiot.”
Meanwhile, Torre himself made a guest appearance Monday night on the Late Show with David Letterman in which Letterman asked Torre about rumors involving him and the Dodgers.
“There has been a time or two that something has been in the newspaper that hasn’t been true,” Torre said. “There is nothing to any of it, so far.”
The key words to that statement might be “so far.”
Although nothing appears imminent, there are indications that the Dodgers are at least exploring the possibility of replacing Little with Torre — and it is possible that exploration is going on at a level higher than Colletti. Both Colletti and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said at the end of the season that Little will return in 2008. But that was before it became clear that Torre wouldn’t be returning to the Yankees.
Meanwhile, Dodgers officials have been conspicuously silent in recent days, to the point that few in the organization are even returning calls from reporters. The only official comment to come out of Chavez Ravine on Monday was a vague dismissal of the matter by the club’s chief spokesperson.
“Grady Little is the manager of the Dodgers,” said Camille Johnston, the Dodgers’ senior vice president for communications. “Beyond that, there is no further comment.”
Torre, 67, managed the Yankees for 12 seasons, the longest uninterrupted tenure of any Yankees manager since Casey Stengel (1949-60). Torre guided the club to the playoffs every year and won 10 division titles, six American League pennants and four World Series. But the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000 and were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round each of the past three seasons.
One interesting subplot of the Dodgers possibly hiring Torre has to do with Don Mattingly, who was Torre’s bench coach this season and his hitting coach the previous three seasons. Mattingly was widely considered the favorite to succeed Torre until that job ultimately went to Joe Girardi on Monday, and Mattingly’s agent released a statement later in the day saying his client was “extremely disappointed” that he didn’t get the job.
The statement went on to say Mattingly had informed the Yankees he wouldn’t accept a position as a coach on Girardi’s staff. That would make Mattingly a natural fit for a potential Torre staff in Los Angeles, especially given that Mattingly’s son, Preston, is a highly regarded Dodgers prospect.
Preston Mattingly, a second baseman, batted .210 this season at Single-A Great Lakes.
Little, 57, just completed his second season as Dodgers manager. Although he led the club to the playoffs as a wild card in 2006 — the Dodgers were swept in the first round by the Mets — the team collapsed down the stretch this year and finished fourth in the National League West with an 82-80 mark after losing 11 of its final 14 games.
It was during that stretch, on Sept. 20, that a clubhouse rift between the veterans and young players became public when second baseman Jeff Kent complained to reporters after a loss at Colorado that several of the team’s promising young players, “don’t get it.” That same week, a reporter for the Dodgers’ radio affiliate, KFWB, citing unnamed players as his source, said Little had lost the clubhouse.