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They May Be Frank's and Beane's Team

Ross Newhan / ON BASEBALL

October 11, 2003|Ross Newhan

Although there is no reason to think it is already in the works or about to happen, it can be classified as obvious, inevitable and legitimate speculation.

More than ever, the planets seem aligned in such a way as to suggest that what could be a cosmic turnover in front-office personnel under a new Dodger owner might include the arrival of Billy Beane as general manager, or even president-general manager.

It is too early, of course, to know exactly what direction Boston developer Frank McCourt will take with the current Dodger staff if Major League Baseball approves his purchase of the club, but it would not be a surprise if insomnia is rampant among the executives at Chavez Ravine.

Chairman Bob Daly said several months ago he will not remain under a new owner, and that situation has not changed, according to people familiar with Daly's thinking.

The status of President Bob Graziano and General Manager Dan Evans, however, is far less certain, particularly amid the probability that Corey Busch, the former San Francisco Giant executive and current McCourt advisor and MLB official, is expected to assume a significant role with the team.

A one-time press secretary and aide to the late George Moscone when Moscone was a state senator and mayor of San Francisco, Busch already thinks blue, being a graduate of UCLA.

As for Beane?

Well, let's paint by numbers:

1. There is no minimizing his credentials as architect of the small-market Oakland A's playoff run, even though they failed to survive the first round for the fourth year in a row and some in baseball think his blueprint was inflated in Michael Lewis' book "Moneyball."

2. He has told more than one person more than once that he would love to have the Dodger job and live closer to his Orange County-based daughter from a previous marriage.

3. His relationship with A's owner Steve Schott has become an open wound and his frustration with the economics and constant turnover -- shortstop Miguel Tejada is soon expected to join the passing parade -- was uncharacteristically illustrated when the A's were defeated by Boston in the division series after having won the first two games and Beane snapped, "If you want to give me $50 million more, I'll promise you we won't blow the 2-0 lead."

4. McCourt's familiarity with Beane's resume and industry stature was enhanced last November when McCourt's hometown Red Sox offered an extravagant contract that Beane briefly accepted before deciding he was too much of a West Coast guy to make a long-term commitment on the East Coast.

The numbers represent a potential portrait, but who knows?

While his grandfather was a part-owner of the Boston Braves, Frank H. McCourt Jr. has no track record in baseball.

Would he choose to start fresh with a heavyweight general manager who undoubtedly would jump at the chance to start fresh himself in an improved economic environment while demanding a considerable measure of autonomy?

Would Schott let Beane out of a contract that runs through 2008, as he was willing to do with the Red Sox scenario but might be reluctant to do with a club in the general neighborhood and a club at which Beane has been casting flirtatious glances for some time?

Would McCourt, with the clock ticking on an important off-season for the Dodgers and his purchase approval still at least a month off, risk additional delay in free-agent and trade decisions by engaging in the protracted hiring of a new general manager who might then change the free-agent and trade direction of the previous GM?

Tough questions that Evans, who hasn't met McCourt, said he isn't allowing himself to worry about.

Evans returned to his Dodger Stadium office Friday after meeting with some of his player development staff in the Arizona Instructional League and said it has been "business as usual," that his mandate from Daly and Graziano is no different than a year ago.

He hasn't received a 2004 budget yet -- and News Corp. will now leave that to McCourt -- but Evans said "very few clubs would have specific numbers this early" in the off-season.

"We don't need to have everything decided by Oct. 10," he said. "We just need to flush out some options and have an internal game plan by the end of the month. We're doing things we normally do."

In one of the most combustible and controversial periods in club history, nothing has been normal around Dodger Stadium since News Corp. bought the team as a vehicle for developing its regional networks, and there is no predicting when normality will return amid this second ownership change in less than six years.

Nor can it be certain that Beane, who could not be reached Friday, would be the only GM candidate if McCourt decides to make a change at a time when at least three other teams -- the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets -- are looking for a general manager, and three more might be soon.

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