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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

If Winning Is Only Thing, Johnson Has to Be the Man

October 23, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Hiring someone like Davey Johnson, who previously managed other major league teams, is not a new experience for the Dodgers. They did it as recently as 1951.

In that case, it was Charlie Dressen, who managed Cincinnati for four seasons before moving to Brooklyn. In three seasons as the Dodger manager, his teams had two first-place finishes and a second in the National League.

It won't be a surprise if history repeats itself--if the Dodgers have success under Johnson and then, three years from now, are searching for another new manager.

Kevin Kennedy would have been the safer, saner choice, the choice the Dodgers as we knew them B.F. (Before Fox) would have made.

He also managed other teams, in Texas and Boston, but, unlike Johnson, Kennedy has deep roots in the Dodger organization, still lives near where he was raised in the San Fernando Valley and has no desire greater in baseball than to spend a couple of decades in the Dodger dugout as Walter Alston and Tom Lasorda did.

But maybe Kennedy is not as good a manager as Johnson. Few are.

Baltimore discovered that, winning 88 and 98 games while reaching the playoffs in his two seasons with them before returning in 1998 with a higher payroll and Ray Miller as manager and losing 83 games.

It was the same in New York and Cincinnati.

The Mets finished first or second in their division in all of Johnson's six full seasons with them, winning the World Series in 1986, but have not been to the playoffs since he was fired in 1990.

The Reds won the division title in two of his three seasons with them but have not been to the playoffs since he was fired after the '95 season.

Here's what management in all three cities has discovered: Can't live with him, can't live without him.

But at least Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone, the Orioles' assistant general manager when Johnson was there, knows the potential pitfalls. Malone must believe they can work together. You always believe you're going to be the one to change them.

*

I don't know if the Yankees are the best team ever. But they certainly are the best team ever without a player sure to be elected into the Hall of Fame. . . .

Their best possibility appears to be Derek Jeter, but he's too young to be considered a lock. . . .

These Yankees are better than the Bench-Rose-Morgan-Perez Cincinnati teams because of their starting pitching. . . .

I mean, when Andy Pettitte is your fourth starter in the World Series . . .

Neither the '72 nor '73 Oakland championship team with Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi and Bert Campaneris won 100 games. . . .

But they at least had pitching to match these Yankees with Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman, Blue Moon Odom and Rollie Fingers. . . .

The best teams I ever saw over a period of years were the '69, '70 and '71 Orioles. . . .

They won 109 games in '69, 108 in '70 and 101 in '71 with a nucleus that included the new Dodger manager at second base. . . .

Others were Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Mark Belanger and Paul Blair. . . .

Each of the four Baltimore starting pitchers in '71--Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Pat Dobson--won at least 20 games. . . .

But those Orioles are seldom mentioned in greatest-ever debates because they won the World Series only once, losing to the Miracle Mets in '69 and Roberto Clemente's Pirates in '71. . . .

It's a shame that because of free agency we might not have a chance to see whether the current Yankees stand the test of time. . . .

Bernie Williams is almost certain to check out the market. . . .

Maybe the Yankees won't miss him, with Ricky Ledee ready to play every day. . . .

Now you know why the Yankees were adamant about not including him in a potential trade for Randy Johnson. . . .

Now you know why the Angels were so eager to make a deal last year with Oakland for Scott Brosius. . . .

General Manager Bill Bavasi's insistence on including him in the package was one reason his talks with the A's about Mark McGwire broke down. . . .

If the Dodgers can't reach an agreement with Jeff Shaw, they might trade him back to Cincinnati. . . .

I hear Paul Konerko and Dennis Reyes are available.

*

While wondering if I'm the only person who would miss George Steinbrenner if he sold the Yankees, I was thinking: I would have gone to one of the games in San Diego but thought you had to be a Fox TV star to get in, the Padres lost seven consecutive World Series games and would love to have a chance to extend that streak next season, the distinction as the only team to win the season series from the Yankees is very small consolation for the Angels.

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