Potential managerial retirees won't go quietly

Number of prominent managers expected to leave after 2010

December 13, 2009|By Phil Rogers

Bobby Cox isn't normally a one-word answer guy. But he wasn't in a real expansive mood during this exchange last week.

"How many rocking chairs are you going to get?" a reporter asked.

"None," the Braves manager answered.

They were speaking about Cox's transition from the dugout into retirement, which is expected to happen after the 2010 season. But for Cox and others in a distinguished group of 60-somethings, life after managing is a sensitive subject.

Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland, Cito Gaston and Cox have combined to manage 138 seasons, winning 11,216 games and 21 pennants. Their teams have won 11 of the last 20 World Series.

"We have been able to hang on quite a long period," Cox said last week. "They are all great managers and good baseball people."

Leyland, the baby of the group at 64, is the only one whose contract doesn't expire after next season. He signed an extension with the Tigers last June that takes him through 2011.

Gaston, like Cox, almost certainly won't manage again after next year. At 65, he has a four-year contract as a consultant with the Blue Jays, beginning in 2011.

Torre, who turns 70 in July, says he doesn't plan to return to the Dodgers after next season. But he understands those who say he never will quit.

"My wife doesn't believe me at all," Torre said earlier this fall. "I never get tired of this stuff. That's one thing I found out. You think once you win it, you say, 'OK, I got it, I don't need to do this anymore,' but you do. You need to do it."

The public divorce pending between owners Frank and Jamie McCourt - a situation limiting the flexibility of general manager Ned Colletti to spend for players - could prompt Torre to give heir apparent Don Mattingly a chance sooner rather than later.

Piniella, 66, has said he won't manage the Cubs beyond 2010 but joked last week that he was going to get a 15-year extension.

"I'll go change pitchers on a golf cart," he said.

La Russa, 65, sought only a one-year contract to return to the Cardinals after a two-year deal ended in October. There's almost no telling what he will do in 2011.

He's certain to be rumored as a replacement for Piniella, assuming Piniella does retire. He could wind up in some role with the White Sox, given his relationship with Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who gave him his first managerial job in 1979, when he was 34.

La Russa hinted last week that he wouldn't mind a chance to serve as an adviser to the general manager, if not become a GM himself.

"When you don't feel like you should be in the dugout anymore, if you only know baseball, you'd like to (still) be part of an organization," La Russa said. "If it's not on the field, it's upstairs somewhere doing something."

Cox, 68, is on his fifth consecutive one-year contract, all designed to let him decide at season's end if he wanted to step away. He says he still thinks he "could manage another five years, probably," but voluntarily is joining longtime Braves general manager John Schuerholz in an adviser's role after one more in the dugout.

"I'll miss it, but we have an arrangement where I'm going to do a few things for the club, scout around," Cox said. "Luckily our minor league teams are all very close to Atlanta. There's no driving time at all. … [But] it's going to be hard not going to the ballpark every day."

Double-barrel aces: Despite the presence of Cliff Lee, who was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts in October, the Phillies have joined the Angels and Yankees in pursuit of the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay.

ESPN quoted sources saying that Halladay would waive his no-trade clause to sign with the Phillies, Angels, Yankees or Red Sox and would consider waiving it for the Rays or Dodgers but that he doesn't want an extension beyond 2010.

He lives near the Phillies' complex in Clearwater, Fla., making them the front-runner if he does reach free agency.

As dominant as Lee was after being traded from Cleveland in July, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. hasn't begun contract talks to stop him from becoming a free agent after 2010. He knows he has only enough money for Lee or Halladay long term, but sources say he hasn't ruled out adding Halladay's $15.75 million salary for next year.

Amaro refused to part with right-hander Kyle Drabek, 22, in talks for Halladay in July and appears just as protective of Drabek this time. But left-hander J.A. Happ and outfield prospects Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor are apparently in play.

Moving target: While many outside the sport cry for technology to play a bigger role, few managers interviewed last week were in favor of expanding instant replay beyond home run calls. Leyland even said he would like to drop the use of superimposed strike zone boxes on telecasts.

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