It’s official: Grady is out

The Dodgers have scheduled a conference call for 4 p.m., at which time they are expected to announce the firing of manager Grady Little after two seasons at the helm. Little guided the club to an 88-74 mark and the National League wild card in 2006, after which the Dodgers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the New York Mets, but the Dodgers fell off to 82-80 this season and finished fourth in the National League West. Both owner Frank McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti said on the final day of the regular season that Little would return in 2008. It isn’t clear what happened in the interim to change their minds. The Dodgers are believed to have actually offered Little’s job last week to former Florida manager Joe Girardi and at one point even believed Girardi was on the verge of accepting the position. But Girardi was formally introduced earlier today as the new manager of the New York Yankees, replacing Joe Torre, who turned down a one-year, $5 million offer earlier this month to remain with the club. Torre now becomes the leading candidate to replace Little with the Dodgers. Numerous media reports over the past 24 hours have indicated the Dodgers might already have a deal in place with Torre, but that has yet to be confirmed.

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The latest … which is coming out only in tiny trickles

What we have learned today is that this is NOT being done at the ownership level, that baseball operations has a major hand in it and appears to even be driving it. So I was wrong on that count. Frank McCourt is NOT usurping Ned Colletti’s authority, despite what I implied on this blog last night. The other thing that I have been able to pin down is that one way or another Grady appears to be out. No way you can bring him back now, not after all this. What I can’t figure out is why it’s taking them so long to announce that.

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Here’s the latest

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
Staff Writer
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.

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Offseason? What offseason?

This is what I just filed for tomorrow. Not a lot of concrete facts here, just mostly a lot of speculation and rehashing what others have already reported. But IMHO, there is far too much smoke here for there to be no fire. The guess here is that Joe Torre is coming — and Grady Little, a good man who might not be a great manager but nevetheless deserves better treatment than this, is going.

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
There were strong indications on Monday, including at least one published report out of New York, that the Dodgers are close to hiring Joe Torre as their next manager. This despite the fact their present manager, Grady Little, is under contract through next season, and the fact that both owner Frank McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti said last month that Little will return in 2008.
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.
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.
“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.”
There also were reports the Dodgers might have offered a job last week to former Florida manager Joe Girardi, to be either their manager or bench coach, but were turned down. Girardi has been formally offered the job of manager of the New York Yankees, a job that became vacant last week when Torre rejected a one-year, $5 million offer with incentives.
That offer represented a 33-percent cut from Torre’s 2007 base salary of $7.5 million, but it still probably was far more lucrative than what the Dodgers would be willing to pay him. Little’s salary this season was believed to be between $600,000-$650,000.
The fact the Dodgers have been so conspicuously silent on the matter would seem to be an indication the story has legs. Colletti rarely fails to return calls from reporters, but he has been unreachable since the middle of last week.
Little returned home to Pinehurst, N.C., more than two weeks ago, and one of his first orders of offseason business was to decide what changes he wanted to make among his coaches, all of whom were given permission in the interim to seek employment elsewhere. But that decision has been curiously long in coming, which could be another indication something unexpected is afoot.
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 club hasn’t won a World Series since 2000 and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round each of the past three seasons.
It also is worth noting that before he was hired to manage the Yankees, Torre had little success in managerial stops with the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. He reached the playoffs just once, with Atlanta in 1982, and the Braves were promptly swept out the then-best-of-five National League Championship Series by St. Louis. Moreover, when the Yankees hired Torre after the 1995 season, they were widely criticized for the move because of the perception he was a subpar manager.
That perception quickly went away when Torre guided the club to a World Series title in 1996, its first since 1978. But there are whispers around baseball that Torre is still itching to prove he can be a successful manager without the benefit of the $150 million-$250 million payrolls the Yankees have every season.
The Dodgers had a player payroll this season of about $109 million.
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 for the manager’s job until it ultimately went to Girardi, and Mattingly’s agent released a statement on Monday 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.
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 told reporters that the 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.

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That’s the way it was, and weeee LIKED it

OK, after scouring YouTube, this was the only clip I could find of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man character, and it’s cleverly superimposed over CNN’s Jack Cafferty, but I wanted to use it to make a point (so just ignore Jack and focus on Dana).

Anyway, the point is that this character is what I’m reminded of whenever I hear National League fans trashing the designated hitter and trying to make a case for why their league has the “purer game” because the pitcher bats, and they make this claim even as the N.L. continues to go down in flames every October because not having the DH puts them at such a huge disadvantage in the World Series (refer back to my David Ortiz vs. Ryan Spilborghs point from a couple of posts ago). If the Red Sox win tonight, it will be the third time in four years that the A.L. champ has swept the N.L. champ. If the N.L. ever does wise up and adopt the DH, I can envision some old baseball purist like Carvey’s character, 20 years down the road, lamenting about how much better the N.L. was back when the pitcher would bat. “We used to get humiliated in every World Series, and that’s the way it was, and weeee LIKED it.” Hey, I’m a lifelong N.L. fan and a lifelong baseball purist. But there is nothing pure about one league routinely getting steamrolled every year. The DH is an idea whose time has come. For one league, it was an idea whose time came 35 years ago.

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