By Tony Jackson
Grady Little didn’t sound like a man who had spent the past four weeks fretting over his job security. He didn’t sound like a guy who had just had his second chance at managing in the major leagues ripped from his fingers.
“There is a lot of belief out there that I have been dealt an injustice here, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Little said during a conference call with general manager Ned Colletti on Tuesday to announce his resignation as manager of the Dodgers after just two seasons. “Ned and I have been privately in communication since the end of the season, and we mutually decided this is the best direction for the Dodgers to take.”
Little declined to give specifics for his decision, except to say it had nothing to do with speculation in recent days that either Joe Girardi or Joe Torre was about to take his job. In fact, the Dodgers’ courtship of Girardi and Torre came about only because Colletti was unsure whether Little wanted to return.
“I have my own personal reasons,” Little said. “There were a lot of things on my mind. We had a tough season this year, and tough seasons happen all the time.”
Little leaves after guiding the Dodgers to a disappointing, fourth-place finish in the National League West this season, the club collapsing down the stretch to lose 11 of its final 14 games as clubhouse acrimony between the veterans and young players bubbled to a very public surface. The Dodgers had reached the playoffs as a wild card in Little’s first year at the helm, losing to the New York Mets in a Division Series.
Little, 57, told Colletti with about 10 days to go in the season that he was having doubts as to whether he wanted to return for a third season.
“I wanted Grady Little back,” Colletti said. “I encouraged him a handful of times to think it through. I knew where we were when the season ended, but I told him to take some time, and we would talk about things when things calm down.”
When Colletti contacted Little just before the World Series, Little remained noncommittal and still seemed less than enthusiastic about returning. At that point, Colletti began considering other candidates, but only as possible alternatives if Little opted not to return. Colletti insisted that Little could have remained as manager if he had wanted to.
Little told Colletti on Tuesday morning that he had made up his mind.
“It’s nothing specific,” Little said. “It’s just something myself and my family have talked about. We included Ned in our conversation, and this is the decision we made. It wasn’t an easy decision … but it’s final. My plan is to play with my grandkids.”
Little said the thought of managing in the future is “not even on my radar.”
Colletti said he and Little remain close and that he plans to meet socially with Little, who lives in Pinehurst, N.C., either just before or just after next week’s general managers’ meetings in Orlando, Fla.
“I told him if he wants to come back to the organization in a different capacity, the door will always be open for him,” Colletti said.
Little managed four seasons in the majors (two with Boston) and compiled an overall record of 358-290, including 170-154 with the Dodgers.