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The New Dodger Manager Davey Johnson / The Hiring

Mover and Shaker

Dodgers End Search With Johnson Deal

October 23, 1998|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Completing what has been an arduous process, the Dodgers have reached an agreement with Davey Johnson to manage the ballclub, and they will introduce him today during a news conference at Dodger Stadium.

Johnson, out of baseball this season, accepted the Dodgers' offer after completing negotiations Thursday night in Los Angeles with President Bob Graziano and General Manager Kevin Malone. Kevin Kennedy, an ESPN analyst, was the other finalist to succeed Glenn Hoffman.

Johnson becomes only the Dodgers' fifth manager since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958-- but their third in four months. The Dodgers have undergone dramatic changes in their first season under the Fox Group umbrella, and the hiring of Johnson is their latest major move.

Terms of the agreement won't be released, but Johnson is expected to receive a multiyear package worth about $1 million annually. The deal puts Johnson, who managed the Baltimore Orioles in 1996 and 1997, among the game's highest-paid field leaders.

The Dodgers were rebuffed in their efforts to hire Jim Leyland, and Felipe Alou declined their lucrative offer. But Malone had Johnson and Kennedy waiting in the wings throughout the process.

Malone's Dodger and Fox Group superiors are pleased by the high-profile move, and he says he believes he picked the right guy for the job.

"I feel very good about this," said Malone, who stressed that details remained unresolved and that an offer had not been made until Thursday. "All along, I've felt that the right person, and the best person, for this job is the person we hired.

"Davey is a proven manager and someone who meets the criteria we're looking for. He has the abilities we need to help the Dodgers reach another level, and that's why I had him high on my list from the beginning."

Johnson has been among the game's biggest winners while managing the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Orioles in 10 full seasons. He guided the Mets to the 1986 World Series championship, winning two division titles in New York, and also won division championships in Cincinnati at Baltimore.

Because of numerous clashes with owner Peter Angelos, Johnson walked away from the Orioles in '97 after winning the American League East division title and being selected AL manager of the year.

Dodger third baseman Bobby Bonilla played under Johnson in Baltimore in 1996, and Bonilla has often said it wasn't a good experience for him. Contacted at his off-season home in Connecticut on Thursday, Bonilla said his short Dodger career probably was nearing an end.

"The minute they sign him, I know I'm not going to be there much longer," said Bonilla, whom the Dodgers are close to trading to the Mets. "They know the situation; it's no secret how I feel [about Johnson].

"Alou or Leyland would have been great, although Leyland wouldn't go there, and I really don't know about Kennedy. But I do know about Johnson--and let's just leave it at that."

Johnson and Kennedy, also a former manager, moved to the front of the search process after Leyland twice declined to interview for the position and Alou rejected a three-year package worth about $3.6 million. Leyland went from the Florida Marlins to the Colorado Rockies, and Alou remained with the Montreal Expos.

Those developments created a perception that the Dodger job had lost some luster. Not surprisingly, Malone disagrees.

"The situations with Jim Leyland and Felipe were unique, and they dictated that you handled them a certain way," Malone said. "Because those individuals were in great demand, we had to react to those circumstances.

"It was my responsibility to talk with them because we were trying to find the best person for the job. You can't do that unless you talk with people to see if something can be worked out, and that's what we were doing.

"Sometimes, your process is dictated by timing and circumstances out of your control. But we never had all of our eggs in one basket."

Malone said he contacted Johnson, his colleague for two years in Baltimore, shortly after he removed Hoffman on Sept. 29. Malone said that Johnson understood that the club would first pursue Leyland and Alou.

"He knew from the get-go that I wanted him to be ready," Malone said. "He knew what was going on all along, because we had a good feeling we might be able to work something out."

Johnson received several strong endorsements from around the major leagues the past few days. Malone and Graziano recommended that the Dodgers hire Johnson in several meetings Thursday with Peter Chernin and Chase Carey, co-chief operating officers of Fox Group's parent company, News Corp.

Like Malone, Graziano says he is also pleased by the Dodgers' selection. But he was disappointed by erroneous speculation that accompanied the search.

"I think it has been a very good process for us," Graziano said. "As in any process, there are many things that you have to determine, and there were questions that we had to answer.

"I have no regrets about the process, but I do feel bad about not being able to correct some of the misperceptions that were out there. But that would have been too time consuming, and that would have delayed completing the ultimate objective."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Johnson Trail

New York

1984-90

Wins: 595

Losses: 417

Pct.: .588

Note: Won World Series in 1986

****

Cincinnati

1993-95

Wins: 204

Losses: 172

Pct.: .543

Note: Division title in 1995.

****

Baltimore

1996-97

Wins: 186

Losses: 138

Pct.: .574

Note: Division title in 1997.

* RANDY HARVEY: Johnson's stay may be short. Page 2

* ROSS NEWHAN: The winter games--free agency-- should heat up San Diego and New York. Page 12

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