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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

Expos Increase the Stakes to Keep Alou in Canada

Baseball: Montreal is expected to surpass Dodgers' offer, which could make him the highest-paid manager in the majors.

October 11, 1998|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers' search for a manager took an unexpected turn Saturday night when Felipe Alou informed club officials that he probably will remain with the Montreal Expos, baseball sources said.

Alou met with Montreal officials for the second time in as many days Saturday at his off-season home near Miami. They negotiated the terms of a revised multiyear contract extension that would keep Alou in Canada into the next century--and might make him the game's highest-paid manager.

The Expos are putting enormous pressure on Alou to remain with the struggling franchise, including enlisting high-ranking Canadian government officials to speak with him. The Dodgers, preparing to introduce Alou at a news conference early next week, are now resigned to Alou remaining in Montreal, sources said.

Members of the Expo ownership consortium have told Alou that his ongoing presence would help the club in its efforts to build a new ballpark. Alou is expected to inform the Dodgers of his decision today.

Contacted at their homes Saturday night, Dodger President Bob Graziano and General Manager Kevin Malone said that the situation is still evolving.

But they aren't as optimistic as they were a few days ago.

"I think that Bob Graziano and I have put the Dodgers in the best possible position to make Felipe Alou the next manager of the team," Malone said. "I think we have shown Felipe that we are committed to winning, and that we believe he would be a big part of what we're going to accomplish here. But beyond that, the situation is out of our control.

"I have talked with Felipe many times in the past few days, and I understand that this is a very difficult decision for him. We're still hopeful that we can get something done, but it seems that the Expos are going to do whatever it takes to hang on to Felipe."

Although details remained to be finalized, Graziano and Malone offered Alou the Dodger job during several meetings in the Dominican Republic and in Florida during the past week.

Terms of the financial package haven't been released, but sources said that the club would have paid Alou $1 million to $1.2 million annually--placing him among the game's highest-paid field leaders. Alou is making $600,000 in the second year of a three-year, $1.8-million deal.

The Expos tore up the contract extension, which included a slight raise, that they recently offered Alou and agreed to match the Dodgers' best offer. But in the wake of the Dodgers' strong efforts to hire Alou, the cost-cutting Expos might be willing to double the Dodgers' offer, sources said.

That would put Alou atop the pay list. Jim Leyland became the game's highest-paid manager when he agreed to a three-year, $6-million deal to take over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday.

Leyland, who earned $1.5 million annually while he managed the Florida Marlins, knocked Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals off the top spot. La Russa has a three-year, $5-million deal.

While not commenting on the Dodgers' package, Graziano acknowledged they made a strong offer. And the Dodgers won't engage in a bidding war.

"We understand that Felipe is dealing with enormous pressure right now, but we've done everything we could do to present Felipe with an excellent opportunity," Graziano said. "We feel that we've done all we can do, and now we just have to wait for his decision."

Expo General Jim Beattie spoke cautiously.

"I don't want to jeopardize anything at this point," he said Saturday night. "I'm trying to handle everything with the utmost respect and confidentiality."

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