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Tuesday, October 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Mariners
Who will be the next skipper?

By Larry Stone
Seattle Times staff reporter

Bobby Valentine
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Possible candidates for Mariners manager

The last time they had a managerial opening, in 2002, the Mariners dragged it out for several weeks and interviewed 12 candidates before settling on Bob Melvin.

This time around, it's liable to be a quicker, and more compact, process.

"We'll run a search, as exhaustive as we can," general manager Bill Bavasi said yesterday at the news conference announcing Melvin's firing. "I'll say there will probably be less interviews than some clubs have had in the past. We'll probably target somebody, go after him, and go from there."

Bavasi, while not giving a timetable, acknowledged the presence of other teams with openings puts some urgency on a decision he called "huge" for the organization.

"When we do get down to whatever that small number is, I think we have to move fast," he said. "Why take a chance and wait? Plus, we have work to do."

Bavasi stressed that right now, the field is wide open. The winnowing process will soon begin, however; in fact, Bavasi indicated he would begin contacting potential candidates as soon as yesterday.

"You can't cross anybody off the list," he said. "Right now, we just want to make sure we don't miss anybody."

Speculation immediately began to center on some prominent former managers such as Grady Little, Art Howe, Bobby Valentine, Jimy Williams, Don Baylor and Lee Elia, the latter having strong links to Seattle's glory days under Lou Piniella.

Several people with connections to Bavasi through his time as GM of the Angels (1994-99) and farm director of the Dodgers (2002-03) could also figure in the mix.

Bavasi said the Mariners would follow the mandate of commissioner Bud Selig that teams consider minority candidates for managerial openings. Besides Baylor, other minorities could include A's third-base coach Ron Washington, former Brewers manager Davey Lopes and Angels coach Alfredo Griffin.

Joe Maddon: The longtime Anaheim Angels coach may be high on Bavasi's list.
Many baseball people believe that longtime Angels coach and minor-league manager Joe Maddon will wind up high on Bavasi's list. Maddon, 50, has had three stints as interim manager of the Angels and is currently their bench coach. He also held that position in 2002, when the Angels won the World Series.

Asked about the job yesterday in Anaheim, where the Angels held a workout to prepare for their AL Division Series against Boston, Maddon told the Los Angeles Times he's "focused on what we're doing here right now, and when this is over, then I'll think about things like that."

However, those with knowledge of the situation believe Maddon would be very interested in the Seattle job, and the interest is likely to be mutual.

Little, fired as Boston manager last winter after two seasons, is an intriguing potential candidate. He guided the Red Sox into the postseason with 95 wins last year, and had them five outs away from the World Series before the Yankees rallied. He was fired after the season largely based on his unpopular decision to leave his ace, Pedro Martinez, in that game.

Reached yesterday, Little said he "has interest in one day getting another opportunity to manage in the major leagues, yes."

Asked specifically if Seattle seemed like a good situation for him, he replied, "In comparison to what I've done this year, it certainly does."

Little, 54, has been a special advisor to Cubs GM Jim Hendry. "Any time you get an opportunity to manage at the major-league level, it's a good opportunity," he said.

Little's predecessor as Red Sox manager, Jimy Williams, is another potential candidate. He has a recent link to Bavasi and the Mariners, having been asked by the GM earlier this year to serve as an informal consultant in evaluating the team's Class AA farm team in San Antonio.

Williams, 60, has managed previously in Toronto (where he was hired, and fired, by Pat Gillick, Bavasi's predecessor and still a Mariners consultant), Boston and Houston. He was fired at this season's All-Star break by the Astros, who took off on a torrid playoff run under his replacement, Phil Garner.

Howe, just fired by the Mets after two seasons, has considerable knowledge of the AL West from his seven seasons as manager of the Oakland A's, including playoff appearances in 2000-02.

Reached in New York, Howe indicated interest in the Mariners' job.

Grady Little: The current Cubs advisor would like to manage again.
"I know the Seattle organization is one of the better organizations in baseball," Howe said. "They've always been in a competitive situation, which is what any manager would like to be in. They have good people."

Howe, who signed a four-year deal, is still owed $4.7 million for two more seasons by the Mets.

"I'm in a situation where I'm going to look for a good fit," he said. "I know Seattle has always been in the hunt. As a manager, you want a chance."

Howe's predecessor on the Mets, Bobby Valentine, just finished his first season managing the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan. But he has an out clause in his five-year deal that allows him to leave at the end of each season for a major-league job. Valentine has been portrayed as a leading candidate to return to the Mets, whom he led to the 2000 National League pennant, but sources indicated that he would also be receptive to the Mariners' position.

That's the case as well with Elia, who served as Piniella's longtime hitting coach before stepping down after the 1997 season to deal with health issues. He followed Piniella to Tampa Bay two years ago after pulling himself out of the Mariners' managerial hunt. Now the 67-year-old Elia, who managed the Cubs and Phillies in the 1980s, is known to be interested, and is thought to have made that clear to Mariners officials.

Baylor, who successfully battled cancer last year, has managerial experience with the Cubs and Rockies, and was Howe's bench coach for two years with the Mets.

Within the Mariners' organization, the likeliest person to get a look is Dan Rohn, the Pacific Coast League manager of the year this season with the Tacoma Rainiers.

Two other names to tuck away are Terry Collins, former Astros and Angels manager who was hired by Bavasi in 1996 to replace Marcel Lachemann in Anaheim, and Jim Riggleman, former manager of the Padres and Cubs who now serves as the Dodgers' bench coach. Collins is also in the Dodgers organization as minor-league field coordinator, where he worked closely with Bavasi. Riggleman was one of four finalists for the Mariners' job in 2002.

Other managers who are available include Bob Brenly, who managed the Diamondbacks to the World Series title in 2001 (with Melvin as his bench coach) but was fired earlier this season; Mike Hargrove, who guided the Indians to two American League pennants; Larry Bowa, just fired as Phillies manager; and Jim Fregosi, who led the Phillies to the 1993 NL pennant.

Other names who could figure in include Dodgers third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, former Mariners coaches John McLaren and Sam Perlozzo (another 2002 finalist), and Brad Mills, the Red Sox bench coach. As manager of the Dodgers' Class AAA team in Las Vegas in 2002, Mills won the Southern Division championship.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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