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Malone Says He Talked but Didn't Tamper

Baseball: Twins will investigate conversation Dodger general manager had with his friend Tom Kelly.

October 15, 1998|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Minnesota Twins on Wednesday launched an investigation into whether the Dodgers had improper contact with Manager Tom Kelly.

Minnesota President Jerry Bell is concerned about a phone conversation Kelly had with Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone on Sunday. According to Kelly, Malone was seeking to interview him for the vacant Dodger position.

The Dodgers did not have the Twins' permission to speak with Kelly. Under major league baseball tampering rules, Malone should not have spoken with the Minnesota field leader unless the Twins approved.

Bell and Minnesota General Manager Terry Ryan are expected to continue examining the situation today. If they become convinced that rules have been violated, the Twins could file tampering charges against the Dodgers.

"They have not called me, they didn't call Terry [Ryan], and they didn't call [owner] Carl [Pohlad]," Bell said. "We'll have to see what's up."

Kelly, who is signed through the 2000 season, said Malone hoped he was interested in the position.

"Kevin asked me if I had any interest in talking about their position, and I told him no," said Kelly, who guided the Twins to World Series championships in 1987 and '91.

"He was trying to get a hold of Terry, and he asked if I had any interest. If I said yes, he was going to ask permission to speak with me."

Contacted while traveling in Ohio, Malone on Wednesday denied that the Dodgers were seeking to interview Kelly. Moreover, Malone denounced recent speculation about the Dodgers' search for a manager.

"All of this speculation just isn't the truth," Malone said. "People are out there saying and doing things that we have no knowledge about, and they're trying to make it seem like we're doing something wrong.

"As for all the speculation about Tom Kelly, I've had a relationship with Tom Kelly for a long time. Tom Kelly is a friend of mine, but I would never do anything that is against the rules. I don't know how or why this whole thing started, but this just isn't the truth."

Malone acknowledged he had recently spoken with Kelly, whom he considers a longtime friend. Malone was reluctant to comment on their discussions because of the tampering speculation, but a source within the Dodger organization said Malone had only sought Kelly's opinion on potential candidates for the job.

"I wouldn't feel comfortable commenting on conversations I have with my friends, but I've done nothing wrong," said Malone, who formerly worked in the Minnesota front office. "I have a lot of friends in the game, and I talk with them often, but I understand what the rules are.

"I don't break the rules, and I don't appreciate people claiming that I do. When you have a manager opening, you're going to have a lot of speculation, but this is ridiculous. All we're trying to do right now is find the best manager for the Dodgers."

The Dodgers had hoped to introduce Felipe Alou at a news conference this week, but the Montreal Expos signed the respected manager to a multiyear contract extension Sunday.

Davey Johnson and Kevin Kennedy--in that order--are now atop Malone's list, and he plans to meet with them this weekend.

Johnson, who is out of baseball, managed the Baltimore Orioles for two seasons while Malone was their assistant general manager. Kennedy, a baseball analyst for ESPN, and also a former manager, worked with Malone in Montreal.

Contrary to news reports, the Dodgers have not requested permission to speak with Dusty Baker of the San Francisco Giants, Bobby Valentine of the New York Mets or anyone else under contract for the upcoming season. And they won't, which Malone wants understood.

"I understand why these things are out there, but that doesn't make it right," Malone said. "Felipe Alou was the only person we requested permission to speak with. That's it.

"We're really focusing on the available candidates, who aren't under contract, who fit our criteria: Davey Johnson and Kevin Kennedy."

Informed of the tampering allegations, team President Bob Graziano supported Malone. And Graziano reaffirmed that the Dodgers' manager search has been portrayed inaccurately.

"Other than Felipe, we haven't offered the job to anyone," Graziano said. "This is nothing but rumor and speculation, and it's senseless to continue commenting on this."

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