Another revision

This has been changed slightly to reflect the fact that Selig officially granted the Dodgers an exemption from interviewing minority candidates. Is there even a sliver of doubt left that Torre is the guy?

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Another day passed on Wednesday without the Dodgers naming Joe Torre their next manager. But while it isn’t immediately clear exactly what the delay is, it is strongly apparent that negotiations have moved beyond the basic terms of what is expected to be a three-year contract worth about $12 million and have been narrowed to what is essentially fine print.
“I don’t ever classify anything as close or far until it is either done or not done, and it’s not done,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.
Colletti did say he is considering other candidates for the position. What he didn’t say, but didn’t have to, is that he won’t need any other candidates if a deal can be reached with Torre, which is all but a foregone conclusion and could be announced today.
Camille Johnston, the Dodgers’ senior vice president for communications, confirmed that a request by Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to commissioner Bud Selig that Selig exempt the club from his longstanding edict that minority candidates must be interviewed for high-profile positions has been granted.
Selig’s approval, according to a New York Times report, was based on two factors: that the Dodgers already have enough high-ranking minorities in their front office to put them at the forefront of the industry when it comes to diversity; and that it is so obvious Torre is the club’s choice as manager that to interview minority candidates just to satisfy Selig’s mandate would be a waste of those candidates’ time.
While that leaves absolutely no doubt that Torre is the Dodgers’ choice to become their manager, it remains anyone’s guess when he will become their manager.
“There are too many moving pieces for us to stick a timetable on (the managerial search),” Colletti said. “If things move fast, we could get some things taken care of in the next day or two. Or, it could be a longer process than that, I don’t know. It will be as quick and thorough as possible.”
Translation: either Torre takes the job, in which case the matter will be settled quickly, or he doesn’t, in which case the club will embark on a full-on search for its next manager that has already begun with Colletti making initial inquiries into potential candidates.
“We are talking about a number of people, and we are (eliminating) names and adding names,” Colletti said. “It may be a very short list.”
Maury Gostfrand, Torre’s New York-based agent, didn’t return a message left on his cell phone. But all indications are the final hurdle is the coaching staff and whether the Dodgers are willing to pay Torre’s coaches what he and they consider to be fair market value.
Over the past two seasons, manager Grady Little’s staff was believed to have been one of the lowest-paid in baseball. Torre’s coaches with the New York Yankees, at least some of whom are expected to follow him to the Dodgers, are believed to be among the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid, in the game, their salaries exceeding those of some big-league managers.
Case in point: in October 2000, when then-Yankees third-base coach Willie Randolph briefly appeared to be the frontrunner for Cincinnati’s managerial vacancy, Randolph reportedly was willing to take what was sure to be a salary cut to accept what would have been his first chance to manage in the majors. But when Randolph found out just how much of a salary cut he was facing (reportedly about 40 percent), he withdrew from consideration.
Torre is likely to be joined by Yankees bench coach Don Mattingly and third-base coach Larry Bowa. Other possibilities, according to various published reports, are Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli, both former Torre coaches in New York.
Bowa and Mazzilli are former big-league managers.
“Whoever the manager is, (the coaches) will (be chosen) under the same guidelines (as before),” Colletti said. “There will have to be a comfort level on his part and on my part as to who the staff is. The manager shouldn’t be saddled with anybody I force upon him, nor should the organization be saddled with anybody they don’t have full trust in.”

Torre update: No news is, well, not necessarily bad news

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Another day passed on Wednesday without the Dodgers naming Joe Torre their manager. But while it isn’t immediately clear exactly what the delay is, it is strongly apparent that negotiations have moved beyond the basic terms of what is expected to be a three-year contract worth about $12 million and have been narrowed to what is essentially fine print.
“I don’t ever classify anything as close or far until it is either done or not done, and it’s not done,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.
Meanwhile, Colletti said he is considering other candidates for the position. What he didn’t say, but didn’t have to, is that he won’t need any other candidates if a deal can be reached with Torre, which is believed to be all but a foregone conclusion and could be announced as soon as today.
“There are too many moving pieces for us to stick a timetable on (the managerial search),” Colletti said. “If things move fast, we could get some things taken care of in the next day or two. Or, it could be a longer process than that, I don’t know. It will be as quick and thorough as possible.”
Translation: either Torre takes the job, in which case the matter will be settled quickly, or he doesn’t, in which case the club will embark on a full-on search for its next manager that has already begun with Colletti making initial inquiries into potential candidates.
“We are talking about a number of people, and we are tossing (out) names and adding names,” Colletti said. “It may be a very short list.”
Maury Gostfrand, Torre’s New York-based agent, didn’t return a message left on his cell phone. But all indications are the final hurdle is the coaching staff and whether the Dodgers are willing to pay Torre’s coaches what he and they consider to be fair market value.
Over the past two seasons, manager Grady Little’s staff was believed to have been one of the lowest-paid in baseball. Torre’s coaches with the New York Yankees, at least some of whom are expected to follow him to the Dodgers, are believed to be among the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid, in the game, their salaries exceeding those of some big-league managers.
Case in point: in October 2000, when then-Yankees third-base coach Willie Randolph briefly appeared to be the frontrunner for Cincinnati’s managerial vacancy, Randolph reportedly was willing to take what was sure to be a salary cut to accept what would have been his first chance to manage in the majors. But when Randolph found out just how much of a salary cut he was facing (reportedly about 40 percent), he withdrew from consideration.
Torre is likely to be joined by Yankees bench coach Don Mattingly and third-base coach Larry Bowa. Other possibilities, according to various published reports, are Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli, both former Torre coaches in New York.
Bowa and Mazzilli are former big-league managers.
“Whoever the manager is, (the coaches) will (be chosen) under the same guidelines (as before),” Colletti said. “There will have to be a comfort level on his part and on my part as to who the staff is. The manager shouldn’t be saddled with anybody I force upon him, nor should the organization be saddled with anybody they don’t have full trust in.”
Meanwhile, commissioner Bud Selig’s edict that teams looking to fill high-profile vacancies must interview at least a couple of minority candidates doesn’t appear to be an obstacle to the Dodgers quickly hiring Torre. The club can simply point out to Selig that it has been at the forefront of diversity, as evidenced by several high-ranking front office officials who are African-American (assistant general manager for player development DeJon Watson and special assistants Toney Howell and Vance Lovelace) or Asian (assistant general manager Kim Ng and Asian operations director Acey Kohrogi).

And, once again, some other stuff

Gonzo is gone-zo

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Dodgers left fielder Luis Gonzalez, a five-time All-Star who batted .278 with 15 homers and 68 RBI in his only season with the club, officially filed for free agency on Wednesday. The Dodgers aren’t expected to try to re-sign Gonzalez, 40, whose skills clearly had declined in his 18th major-league season.
Also filing were catcher Mike Lieberthal and infielder Ramon Martinez, whose 2008 options the Dodgers had declined to exercise on Tuesday. The Dodgers now have just 28 players on their 40-man roster, plus a handful of guys yet to be activated from the 60-day disabled list.
In other organizational news, the club promoted Gene Clines from minor-league outfield/baserunning coordinator to minor-league hitting coordinator, a position that was left open when Bill Robinson died suddenly in July. And former major-league infielder Mike Brumley, a speedster who played with six different clubs over an eight-year career, was hired as the Dodgers’ assistant minor-league field coordinator.

Colletti: Torre not a done deal

The Dodgers GM said he also is compiling a list of potential managerial candidates, although that presumably is only a fallback in the event the Torre thing falls through, which it doesn’t look like it’s going to. But that doesn’t mean it’s a lock.
“I have watched the last 72 hours, and I can’t believe what I’m watching,” Colletti said. “I’m telling you, we do not have an agreement, and I have seen more inaccuracy (in the media) than I can ever remember. … I don’t ever classify anything as close or far. It’s either done or it’s not done, and it’s not done.”
That having been said, Colletti was speaking early in the day and cautioned that things could definitely change later today. He didn’t specify what that meant, but he didn’t have to. It’s getting very difficult to imagine that Joe Torrey won’t be the next manager of the Dodgers, and it’s somewhat difficult to imagine that we won’t know that by the end of the day or early tomorrow.
Stay tuned. Or, if you would rather, go and do something else for a while and check back later. I wish I had that option.

NY Post: Torre agrees to three-year, $14.5 million deal

It is well past midnight (yes, I do sleep, just not that much), far too late to get anything else in for tomorrow’s paper, but the New York Post is now reporting that Torre has agreed to terms with the Dodgers on a three-year, $14.5 million deal that could be announced on Thursday. I’m not vouching for the validity of this report, just pointing out the fact that it’s out there. Says, as I posted earlier, that Torre is likely to bring bench coach Don Mattingly and third-base coach Larry Bowa with him, and that he might also bring Jose Cardenal, one of his coaches with the Yankees several years ago, as well. That would be great, as I developed a very close friendship with Jose when I was covering the Reds and he was on Bob Boone’s staff there as 1B coach, and he is one of my favorite people I have ever met in this game. … Looks like that’s all the news that’s fit to print tonight (or, if you prefer, this morning). I’m hitting the sack (finally), all the while anticipating a third consecutive day of being made a prisoner in my own home by this seemingly never-ending story … but hey, it beats working for a living. Good night, all.

And some other stuff

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
In addition to losing their manager on Tuesday, the Dodgers also lost five players from their 40-man roster when pitchers Rudy Seanez and David Wells and infielder Mark Sweeney all filed for free agency and the club declined to exercise the 2008 contract options on catcher Mike Lieberthal and infielder Ramon Martinez.
Lieberthal, the little-used backup to Russell Martin, receives a $100,000 buyout of his $1.5 million option. The club is expected to try to re-sign him at a lower figure. The Dodgers also are likely to re-sign Seanez, a middle reliever who made just $700,000 this season, and possibly Sweeney, who was acquired in August and is second on baseball’s all-time pinch-hits list. The club won’t re-sign Martinez, who batted just .194 this year. The Dodgers also are highly unlikely to re-sign Wells, who is 44 and might simply retire.
The Dodgers presently have just 29 players on their 40-man roster.

The Torre story (it’s not done yet, but should be soon)

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Although there were widespread reports on Tuesday that the Dodgers had all but reached agreement with free-agent manager Joe Torre to replace Grady Little, who resigned on Tuesday following several days of speculation about his job status, all indications are that so far, no such deal is in place.
Still, the job appears to be Torre’s if he wants it.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who joined Little in a joint conference call with reporters to announce Little’s resignation, didn’t specifically acknowledge having spoken to Torre about the job and denied that an agreement with Torre or anyone else had been reached.
“That is not accurate,” Colletti said. “What is accurate is that we are going to discuss who the next manager is, asking around a little bit to see where (potential candidates) are at and what their thoughts are. That is where we’re at.”
Shortly after the conference call, a flood of media reports in both Los Angeles and New York indicated that an agreement had been reached. But a well-placed Dodgers source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, insisted later on Tuesday evening that no deal was in place and no deal was imminent.
Torre, 67, rejected a one-year, $5 million offer with up to $3 million in incentives last week to remain with the New York Yankees for what would have been his 13th season at the helm. Although the Dodgers aren’t expected to match that offer in terms of annual salary, they are expected to give Torre a lot more job security in the form of what probably will be at least a three-year contract to become the Dodgers’ sixth different manager since Tommy Lasorda’s heart attack-induced retirement in 1996.
Torre is expected to bring at least two members of his New York Yankees staff with him in bench coach Don Mattingly and third-base coach Larry Bowa.
Asked if an announcement on a new manager could come as soon as today, Colletti didn’t bite.
“I can’t put a timetable on it,” he said.
Maury Gostfrand, Torre’s New York-based agent, didn’t respond to messages left on both his office and cell phones.
Meanwhile, Colletti seemed to shoot down numerous reports that he offered Little’s job last week to Joe Girardi, who was officially named on Tuesday as Torre’s successor with the Yankees. Although Colletti didn’t mention Girardi specifically, he did say that he hadn’t offered the job to anyone.
Asked during his own conference call for the Yankees on Tuesday about the possibility of an offer from the Dodgers, Girardi ducked the question.
“To me, this is about New York today,” Girardi said. “I will say from the time of last November until today, I talked with several clubs.”
Little was signed through next season with a option for 2009. Financial details of his departure weren’t disclosed.
“That is between Grady and the club,” Colletti said.
Both Colletti and Little denied that the search for a new manager was being done behind Little’s back, saying Little had informed Colletti about 10 days before the end of the season that he wasn’t sure he wanted to return in 2008. Colletti stressed that he encouraged Little to return, but admitted he was talking to other candidates while awaiting Little’s decision, which, officially at least, didn’t come until exactly one month after the season ended.
“I knew where he was leaning, and it was incumbent upon me not to just get caught with nothing at the end,” Colletti said.
Instead of getting caught with nothing, it appears Colletti is at least closing in on landing a certain Hall of Fame manager in Torre, who guided the Yankees to playoff appearances in each of his 12 seasons at the helm. Those seasons included 10 division titles, six American League pennants and four World Series championships, all of which came in his first five seasons as manager.
Although Torre’s success in New York is undeniable, it also is worth mentioning that it came with an organization that routinely has a player payroll around, or in excess of, $200 million. Before joining the Yankees, Torre also spent a total of 15 seasons managing in the National League with New York, Atlanta and St. Louis, compiling a combined record of 894-1,003 and making just one postseason appearances.
He guided the Braves to the N.L. West title in 1982, but they were swept out of the best-of-five N.L. Championship Series by the eventual World Series champion Cardinals.
With the Yankees, Torre was 1,942-1,173.

The Grady story

Enjoy

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
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.