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Little's resignation clears the way for Torre in LA

Yankee skippers: Joe Giradri (left) once played for Joe Torre. Now Girardi is Torre's successor as New York's manager. Yankee skippers: Joe Giradri (left) once played for Joe Torre. Now Girardi is Torre's successor as New York's manager. (FILE/RON KUNTZ/REUTERS)

Both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have stubbed their toes in recent days - the Yankees by offering Joe Torre a pay cut they knew he would refuse and the Dodgers by letting Grady Little dangle amid rumors he would be replaced by Torre or Joe Girardi.

Yesterday, Girardi accepted the Yankees job and the Dodgers announced Little had resigned.

In both cases, two of the most storied franchises in baseball have been left trying to regain their dignity.

The Little resignation was somewhat bizarre, as the former Red Sox manager opted out with a year remaining on his contract.

"Ned [Colletti, general manager] and I have been in constant communication since the end of the season and decided mutually that this was the best move for the Dodgers organization to take," said Little.

Colletti actually said, "I wanted Grady Little back. I encouraged him to think it through."

Little said talk of Torre being hired by the Dodgers did not affect his decision.

"None whatsoever," he said. "I have my personal reasons."

Those personal reasons could include a negotiated buyout (the one year plus an option) that Little walked away with by saying the right things. Another factor may have been Torre's uneasiness with getting a manager fired so he could take the job.

Little, 57, was let go by the Red Sox after the 2003 American League Championship Series and forever will be known for leaving Pedro Martínez in Game 7 long enough to lose a lead the Sox never regained.

The Dodgers had the best record in baseball at one time in July but finished only two games over .500. There was disharmony in the clubhouse, which was unusual for a Little team.

Colletti, who acknowledged he was weighing the interest of possible candidates while Little was making his decision, would not address Torre specifically, though Torre is seen by many as the odds-on favorite.

"We've talked to other people a little bit to gauge their level of interest," said Colletti, "because talking to Grady at the end of the season, I wasn't sure he was coming back."

Colletti denied the Dodgers had started negotiating with Torre, but according to a source close to the Dodgers, owner Frank McCourt was trying to work out a deal with Torre last night.

Agent Scott Boras's ill-timed leak to that Alex Rodriguez had opted out of his 10-year, $252 million contract with the Yankees - in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series - took some of the onus off the Yankees for what was seen by many as a clumsy handling of the Torre situation. Yankees ownership has said the team will not try to re-sign Rodriguez.

Torre certainly would fit the Dodgers, given that they're a team with resources and he is a big-name manager who would get the fans excited about baseball, much the way Tommy Lasorda did.

Colletti put out feelers to Girardi, with whom he had ties dating to their days with the Chicago Cubs, when Girardi was a player and Colletti public relations director.

Girardi was the 2006 National League Manager of the Year for his fine work in Florida but was fired after a lengthy clash with owner Jeffrey Loria. Girardi turned down a chance to manage the Orioles this year after new president Andy MacPhail fired Sam Perlozzo and went back to TV work for YES and Fox.

At his introductory news conference yesterday, Girardi said, "I think any of us would be somewhat surprised to get the job because it's such an honor. I'm extremely excited and thrilled.

"I can't be Joe Torre, because I'm made up different. I'm a different character. I'm just worried about being myself and getting the most out of the guys."

The Yankees, who paid Torre $7.5 million this past season, will pay Girardi about $7.5 million over three years, according to a Yankees source with knowledge of the contract. The Dodgers evidently were willing to go to $6 million over three years for Girardi, but his first love and dream job was managing the Yankees.

With Girardi in, Don Mattingly, Torre's bench coach and the runner-up, is out. He will leave the organization, and there's a good chance he will wind up Torre's bench coach in Los Angeles. His son Preston is a top shortstop prospect in the Dodger organization.

Tony Peña, who was also a candidate in New York, could remain as a coach on the Yankees staff or go with Torre.

Mattingly is one of the most popular Yankees ever. But he never has managed, even in the minors, and the Yankees front office apparently didn't feel he was ready to manage in the big leagues. Yankees players nevertheless seemed to be rooting for him to get the job.

Girardi inherits a team in transition, and not just because Rodriguez is leaving. Free agent closer Mariano Rivera and his agent, Fernando Cuza, met with Yankees officials in Tampa yesterday, but they did not work anything out. Jorge Posada, who once shared catching duties with Girardi in New York, is also a free agent. He would garner considerable interest, particularly from the rival New York Mets, if he were to enter the market after a 10-day period in which the Yankees can negotiate exclusively with him.

"You are going to miss those 54 homers and 150-plus RBIs [from Rodriguez], but to me, you can't look backwards, you have to look forwards," Girardi said.

Girardi, 43, proved to be very good with younger players in Florida, where he brought along Hanley Ramírez, Miguel Cabrera, and others. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Girardi made a push for the Yankees to trade for Cabrera to replace A-Rod at third base or to pursue a deal for lefthander Dontrelle Willis.

Mattingly was gracious upon learning that he hadn't been selected, saying Girardi is "a good baseball person and totally will be a great manager there in New York." He said he wouldn't become anti-Yankee, adding, "I'm not going to be rooting for the Red Sox."

Material from wire services was used in this report

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