By Tony Jackson
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.