Little resigns, paving the way for Torre

By: AP
By: AP

LOS ANGELES - Grady Little is out as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a move that sure seems to pave the way for Joe Torre to take over. One report said Torre and the Dodgers had already reached a deal that would give the former New York Yankees manager a new job only weeks after he parted ways with the club.

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 with the New York Yankees, 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 job was still open in Los Angeles.

"We haven't hired anybody," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "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."

Little resigned on Tuesday 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 on a conference call. "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."

Colletti said he had a sense the 57-year-old Little was leaning toward stepping down, so he recently discussed the job with potential replacements. One of those candidates, Colletti acknowledged, was Joe Girardi, hired by the Yankees as Torre's successor earlier Tuesday.

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.

"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."

The 67-year-old Torre managed the Yankees to four World Series championships and 12 playoff appearances in as many seasons before turning down a one-year, $5 million offer for next season with an additional $3 million in incentives on Oct. 18.

Torre, who completed a three-year, $19.2 million contract this year, ranks eighth on baseball's career list with 2,067 victories and has won a record 76 postseason games.

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 Colorado Rockies.

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

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

Even so, Colletti said he wanted Little back.

"I encouraged him a handful of times to think it through," Colletti said.

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 before 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.

That led to Little's dismissal.

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 the GM and manager.

"We should be playing next week," McCourt said, referring to the playoffs. "It's sort of an odd place I'm at right now. I feel the fans' disappointment. I share it. On the other hand, I feel something very positive here. The future is very, very bright."

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.

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


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