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Still True Blue to Malone, Graziano

Dodgers: Fox officials say that despite failure to land Alou or Leyland they have faith in team's front office.

October 13, 1998|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers continued to search for a manager Monday while a high-ranking Fox Group official praised the efforts of team President Bob Graziano and General Manager Kevin Malone in the unsettling Felipe Alou situation.

In an interview with The Times on Monday, Peter Chernin, co-chief operating officer of Fox Group's parent company, News Corp., strongly supported the search being conducted by Graziano and Malone. Moreover, Chernin said he was especially pleased by the actions of the Dodgers' top decision makers, because they encountered unforeseen difficulties in trying to hire Alou, the Montreal Expo manager.

Alou repeatedly assured the Dodgers that he wanted to leave the Expos, saying his salary was only among the issues that concerned him about remaining with the struggling franchise. But on Sunday, Alou acknowledged he had declined the Dodgers' offer, which he'd agreed to in principle, because he was overwhelmed by the Expos' counteroffer.

"Certainly, just like Bob and Kevin, we would be happier if we were about to be announcing Felipe as the manager," Chernin said. "Felipe decided to stay in Montreal, but that doesn't mean that we blame someone for that.

"You can't run these businesses blaming your management every time something goes wrong. It's just not a realistic way to run things, and I certainly don't feel like anyone has done anything wrong. Sure, we would prefer to be sitting here with Felipe today, but he's not here, so we just have to move on.

"We have just come through a tough season. Quite frankly, the single most important thing in rebuilding this organization was the hiring of Kevin, which we feel nothing but great about. The reason we hired Kevin is because he had the best view for the long term, and I think everything we're trying to do is for the long term."

Malone, preparing himself in case Alou declined the offer, has been speaking with other candidates in the last two weeks. Davey Johnson and Kevin Kennedy are among the current and former field leaders atop his list, and Malone will continue to have conversations with them, and others, this week.

Johnson and Kennedy have worked with Malone before and each wants the job. Malone said he would be comfortable with either, but he stressed that they are not the club's only candidates.

"My assessment of this is that the Dodger job is a great job, and I'm not saying that because I'm the general manager," Malone said. "I'm saying that based on all the phone calls I've received in the past few weeks from people who would love to have this job. There are people out there who are under contracts, or in situations that they can't get out of right now, and they've told me how much they would want to be here if they could be.

"We're going to find the right man for this job, I have no doubts about that. There are a lot of people who seemed to think that Felipe was the right man for the job, and I was inclined to have the same feelings, but Felipe chose not to come here."

Although Malone is reluctant to criticize Alou, his longtime friend, sources within the organization said he and Graziano have reason to be disappointed in Alou.

During their meetings with Alou in the Dominican Republic and at his off-season home in Florida last week, Alou told the Dodger pitchmen that they had persuaded him to join the organization. Alou even acknowledged that he had accepted a plane ticket to travel to Los Angeles for a news conference scheduled Monday.

The Dodgers were twice rebuffed in their attempts to persuade Jim Leyland to apply for the position. Combined with the public courting of Alou, the impression is that the Dodger job isn't attractive.

Chernin disputes that, saying the process is still evolving. And he sees no reason to be concerned about the Dodgers' strategy.

"I would like to see them be successful in getting who their next choice is, but I will not get more involved in the process," he said. "Chase [Carey, Chernin's Fox Group counterpart] and I really do these things as a team. Generally, [the Dodgers] will call us and say, 'This is the way we're thinking about going,' and we may ask a couple of questions.

"But in general, I'm not sure I'm in a position to have great baseball debates with Kevin. We'll wish them good luck, and tell them to let us know how we can be helpful."

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