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BASEBALL

Who Might Be New Dodger Boy?

April 18, 2001|ROSS NEWHAN

If it is finally decided that Dodger Boy has opened his mouth one time too many, how does Bob Daly fill the cavity?

Does he select an interim general manager to get the Dodgers through the 2001 season with the idea of pursuing a full-time successor to Kevin Malone during the off-season?

Does he go after that full-time successor now, hoping he can convince an established general manager to break any contractual or moral commitments to his current club during the course of the season?

Has Dodger tradition and mystique been so tarnished it will be difficult persuading an established general manager to accept the challenge of rebuilding a club that has a $110-million payroll, an assortment of inflexible contracts that are difficult to trade and a comparatively barren farm system that has made recycling the roster and payroll virtually impossible?

Although those are complex questions with no definitive answers, industry sources believe . . .

* The Dodgers would reject the idea of a stopgap general manager in favor of pursuing a long-term replacement who could hire a staff, put a program in place and make the key trades and roster decisions that a contender will have to make over the next 5 1/2 months.

* The two most respected and likely targets among general managers receptive to a Dodger offer appear to be John Hart of the Cleveland Indians and Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics.

* The Dodgers remain an attractive lure because of the Fox resources, the Southern California glitz, a hollowed but still hallowed tradition and the challenge of rebuilding the organization's once-preeminent stature.

A closer look at the likely candidates:

1. Hart: Although recently announcing he would hand the general manager reins to assistant Mark Shapiro at the end of the season, Hart is simply ready for a new challenge, having done about as much as possible in Cleveland, where he took a doormat and turned it into a long-term champion and contender.

"John has always wanted to go to L.A. and now he has positioned himself to make that move," an American League general manager said Tuesday.

Hart refused comment about the Dodger situation when reached in Baltimore but insisted he has not been contacted by any club and had nothing "sitting in the wings" when he announced that Shapiro would take over. He recently received a five-year contract to remain as a consultant in Cleveland, and any interested club probably would have to match that length--no problem for the Dodgers the way they throw around multiyear deals. A larger problem might be that Hart is a dapper, articulate, high-profile executive who might force Daly, a former movie mogul, into a secondary spotlight.

2. Beane: The A's general manager also refused comment Tuesday, but sources familiar with his thinking said that as a Southern California product he considers the Dodgers to be a dream job. At 39, he is a bright, energetic force who has turned the small-market A's into a division champion by building from within and judiciously using trades and free agency to fill in. Beane is signed through 2005, but the uncertainty of the club's situation in Oakland, the feeling that the A's can go no further financially and the possibility of a sale might allow him to exercise an "out" clause even before a sale, sources said.

3. Dave Wallace: The former pitching coach returned to the Dodgers as assistant general manager last winter. He is basically in charge of the club's minor league operation and is building a home in Vero Beach, Fla., the new hub of that operation. If Malone is fired and the Dodgers choose an interim general manager, the respected Wallace would seem to be the logical favorite, although sources said he would have to be talked into it, having agreed to leave his position as the New York Mets' pitching coach and assistant general manager so that he could build in Vero and work with minor leaguers. He is viewed as a viable alternative if the more celebrated candidates reject the job, although coping with the general manager pressures and media demands may be out of character.

4. Bill Bavasi: It may seem improbable that the Dodgers would hire a man forced to resign as Angel general manager, but Bavasi has some things going for him. He is available, currently operating his own scouting service. His name is familiar in Dodger history, his father, Buzzie Bavasi, having been the longtime general manager. He knows how to work a payroll, is glib with the media--although never to the extent of proclaiming himself sheriff--and is popular in the industry. He made some questionable trades as Angel general manager, but his scouting and development staff assembled the home-grown core, including Darin Erstad, Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, Bengie Molina, Ramon Ortiz and Troy Percival.

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