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Leyland Looks for New Home

Baseball: Longtime Pirate manager will resign at end of season. Angel or Marlin job could be next.

September 18, 1996|From Associated Press

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Leyland, unhappy with ownership-ordered trades and salary slashing, said Tuesday he will resign at the end of the season to pursue a job with a contending team.

Leyland, a two-time NL manager of the year, said Aug. 29 he planned to honor a $1 million-a-year contract that ran through the 2000 season. But he changed his mind after realizing the Pirates may not contend again for years.

"It wasn't a tough decision, but it was a sad decision," said Leyland, who rebuilt a 98-loss team in 1986 into a three-time division champion only to see the roster dismantled for financial reasons.

Leyland, 51, offered Tuesday to resign immediately, but owner Kevin McClatchy asked him to stay on for the rest of the season. Leyland will seek a job with a contender and is not interested in another rebuilding situation. The Florida Marlins are rumored to be interested in hiring him to replace John Boles.

"If I have to sit out a year, I'll sit out a year to get the right situation," Leyland said.

The Pirates have not been above .500 since the team's former owners allowed Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Doug Drabek to leave during or after the 1990-92 NL East title run.

Leyland's 11 seasons in Pittsburgh make him the majors' senior manager with the same club.

Although the Angels and Florida Marlins are not contending for playoff berths this season, the makeup of the franchises could make them attractive to Leyland.

"I think this is going to be my last shot," he said. "God bless Tommy (Lasorda) and Sparky (Anderson), but I'm not going to manage as long as they did."

Pirates general manager Cam Bonifay tried to dissuade Leyland from leaving. But McClatchy, who recently ordered the team's top-paid players be traded for prospects, wouldn't stand in Leyland's way.

"Last year in Oakland, they had new ownership that was going in a different direction," McClatchy said. "Tony La Russa decided he didn't want to stay on, and they hired Art Howe and he's had a good year. And Tony's done well in St. Louis.".

The Pirates recently traded top winner Denny Neagle, third baseman Charlie Hayes and outfielder Dave Clark. They are looking to trade Jay Bell, Jeff King, Orlando Merced and Carlos Garcia as they cut their payroll from $21 million this season to $18 million in 1997.

"That was kind of a shock," Leyland said. "Cam and I sat down with Kevin to talk about signing free agents. He explained the situation. I didn't go along with it, but I understood it."

Leyland said he won't talk to any team with a manager under contract. Boles is under contract through 1997, but the Marlins appear eager to meet with Leyland as soon as possible.

"We said that at the end of the '96 season we were going to ask John how he thought it went and if he was enjoying the position, and we would evaluate the entire situation," Marlins president Don Smiley said. "Given that evaluation ... either we are or aren't in the market for a field manager."

Leyland and Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski once worked together with the Chicago White Sox, and Leyland and Marlins owner H. Wayne Huizenga were close friends of the late Carl Barger, the former Pirates and Marlins president.

Dombrowski can't talk to Leyland until the Boles situation is addressed and, if the Marlins seek it, the Pirates give him permission to talk to Leyland.

"I don't know," Dombrowski said when asked if he would contact Leyland. "I'll have to wait and see what I read and what is said. ... I won't see John until Friday. I'm sure we'll visit and start talking."

Leyland said his next team must be a contender, something the Marlins have not been since they joined the NL in 1993.

"I'm looking for a team that has a shot," Leyland said. "If not, I'll take my kids to school (next season) and fire my lawn man and do it myself."

Leyland made up his mind to quit during the Pirates' just-concluded 6-5 West Coast trip. During the trip, pitching coach Ray Miller was told by management he was free to leave. None of Leyland's other five coaches -- Rich Donnelly, Gene Lamont, Tommy Sandt, Milt May or Spin Williams -- have been rehired.

Leyland was the NL manager of the year in 1990 and 1992. But the Pirates have not been above .500 since 1992.

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