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It's Still Worth It to Keep an Old Fox in the Loop

September 29, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Ten years too late, Tom Lasorda became the Dodgers' interim general manager only to discover that he was, well, 10 years too late.

As much as he wanted the job when he replaced Fred Claire on June 22, Lasorda was equally relieved to be replaced by Kevin Malone three months later. On his 71st birthday last week, Lasorda was surprised to learn that he had aged only one year since the previous September. It felt like five.

He would be the first to tell you that his short tenure in the general manager's chair was unsuccessful because the Dodgers, despite his guarantee, didn't make the playoffs. In fact, they lost ground on his watch to the Cubs, Giants and Mets.

He made mistakes, although most were of a public-relations nature. Cameras caught him sleeping in his box during a nationally televised game. He pumped up the volume in a feud with Bill Russell. He waived Manuel Barrios, the young, hard-throwing pitcher Fox exec Chase Carey was extremely proud to have stolen from Florida in the Mike Piazza deal. To no one's shock, the Marlins immediately reclaimed Barrios.

Lasorda's most glaring error was that he traded for Jeff Shaw without knowing that the standard players' contract enabled Shaw to demand a trade at season's end, and then admitted he hadn't known.

Still, when it comes to baseball between the lines, he proved he is as savvy as Al Campanis thought when he envisioned Lasorda as his successor in the front office.

Lasorda made moves that he might not have if he had been building for the future. But that wasn't his mission. His mission was to win this season.

Even if Shaw exercises his option to leave, it was still a good trade. With 25 saves after the All-Star break, he was the team's MVP. As for Paul Konerko and Dennis Reyes, the players traded for Shaw, Lasorda was not as high on their potential as were others in the organization.

Perhaps history will prove him wrong, just as it might for including Peter Bergeron, Ted Lilly and Wilton Guerrero in the deal with Montreal for Carlos Perez and Mark Grudzielanek hours before the trading deadline. But Lasorda was forced to act because of injuries to Ismael Valdes and Jose Vizcaino.

Ultimately, nothing worked to revive the Dodgers.

If Lasorda has to take the fall for something, blame him for endorsing an inexperienced manager in Glenn Hoffman to succeed Russell. But there's probably nothing Lasorda or Hoffman could have done in light of injuries, Peter O'Malley's reluctance to spend money before the sale to Rupert Murdoch was completed and the ill-fated Piazza trade.

It's Malone's mess now. He would be well-advised to keep his promise by making sure Lasorda remains involved in the baseball decisions.


If I had a quarter for every baseball fan who called to tell me the reason he doesn't go to Angel games, I'd have a dollar. . . .

So it's not exactly the Gallup Poll. . . .

Nevertheless, the consensus is verified by more legitimate research, which indicates the Angels don't draw well even in a division race because they can't be trusted in September. . . .

In other words, the-gutty-little-Angels act might still play with the media but not the cynical fans. . . .

To avoid a dastardly three-quel, Disney must go to the free-agent market, although one player who should be near the top of their list, Piazza, may not be available. . . .

It appears as if he now is considered essential to the Mets' future, even if it costs them $100 million. . . .

If Piazza gets his nine figures, Dan Lozano reemerges as a candidate for agent of the year in one of the greatest comebacks since Truman beat Dewey. . . .

The Dodgers also are closely following the Piazza situation because it could affect whether they would consider trading Charles Johnson. . . .

The Marlins reportedly are interested in taking him back. . . .

After all that overachiever-vs.-underachiever business, the Angels finished only two games better than the Dodgers. . . .

If I ever wrote anything bad about Eric Karros, I take it back. . . .

Maybe Bob Costas is right about wild cards. Two teams that blew 7-0 leads within the last week of the season shouldn't be in a playoff for anything important.


While wondering if the next man to hit 70 home runs has been born yet--unless it's Mark McGwire--I was thinking, Kevin Kennedy would be the Dodgers' next-best choice for manager if they can't hire Felipe Alou, the Rockies will be sorry they fired Don Baylor, don't overlook Jim Abbott in a season of great baseball stories.

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