Little Out As Dodgers Manager, Torre In?

Wednesday, October 31st 2007, 7:26 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Joe Torre may have a new job lined up with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Soon after Grady Little resigned as Dodgers manager on Tuesday, one report said Torre and the team had already reached a deal that would give the former New York skipper another gig only weeks after he parted ways with the Yankees.

The New York Post reported on its Web site Tuesday night that Torre had agreed in principle to a $14.5 million, three-year contract with the Dodgers, but a baseball official with knowledge of the search said no deal was imminent. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the job was still open.

Torre's agent, Maury Gostfrand, declined comment.

Torre and his former bench coach, Don Mattingly, have discussed the possibility of joining the Dodgers together, according to a person with knowledge of those talks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the manager's position in Los Angeles was vacant.

``We haven't hired anybody,'' Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said on a conference call. ``We're talking to some people, that's all I'm going to tell you. We'll talk about where we go from here at a later date.''

Still, it seems a job once held by Hall of Famers Walter Alston and Tom Lasorda will soon be filled by another big winner: Torre.

The 57-year-old Little stepped down with a year remaining on his contract in a move he said he considered for some time. First, he called it ``a mutual resignation.'' Later, he said it was his choice to leave.

``I've got my own personal reasons. There's a lot of belief I've been dealt an injustice here. That couldn't be further from the truth,'' Little said. ``My plans? To play with my grandkids.''

When asked if reports that the Dodgers were speaking with Torre influenced his decision, Little replied firmly: ``No.''

The 67-year-old Torre, who managed the Yankees to four World Series titles and 12 playoff appearances in 12 seasons, completed a $19.2 million, three-year contract this year. He ranks eighth on baseball's career list with 2,067 victories and has won a record 76 postseason games.

On Oct. 18, Torre rejected a $5 million, one-year offer from the Yankees with an additional $3 million in performance bonuses.

Colletti refused to put a timetable on picking Little's successor. The GM stressed that Little would have kept his job for next season had he decided to come back.

Colletti said he sensed Little was leaning toward stepping down, so he began discussing the job recently with potential replacements. One of those candidates, the GM acknowledged, was Joe Girardi, hired by the Yankees as Torre's successor earlier Tuesday.

The Dodgers entered this season as the clear-cut favorite to win the NL West and had the league's best record in mid-July. But they dropped 11 of their last 14 games to fade out of contention, finishing at 82-80.

Clubhouse unrest surfaced between veterans and young players during the season's final two weeks, when the Dodgers lost seven straight games to the NL champion Colorado Rockies.

Little managed the Boston Red Sox from 2002-03 before he was fired despite winning more than 90 games each season.

The Red Sox led the Yankees 5-2 late in Game 7 of the 2003 AL championship series when Little opted to leave in pitcher Pedro Martinez instead of going to the bullpen. The Yankees rallied to tie the game before winning in the 11th on a homer by Aaron Boone, leading to Little's dismissal.

That was the last time Torre led New York to the World Series, where the Yankees lost to Florida in six games. They haven't won it all since 2000.

Speaking before what turned out to be Little's final game for Los Angeles, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said Little would return next season and he was encouraged about the Dodgers' direction under their GM and manager.

``I feel something very positive here,'' McCourt said then. ``The future is very, very bright.''

The Dodgers went 88-74 to win the NL wild card in Little's first season as manager before they were swept by the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs. The Dodgers have won only one postseason game since winning the 1988 World Series.

``This is a difficult day for many of us,'' Colletti said. ``Grady is a man I'm very fond of. Our friendship and relationship I expect to last as long as we're here on earth.''

Little said he told Colletti at season's end that he wasn't certain he wanted to return.

``I told him I needed to go home, drive across the country, do some serious thinking,'' Little said.

Colletti responded: ``I encouraged him a handful of times to think it through.''

When asked if health was a factor in his decision, Little replied: ``I have a combination of a lot of reasons. I'll leave it at that. All of them are personal.''

Might he manage again?

``That's not even on my radar,'' Little replied.