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Little unsure he wants job

Sox manager put off by team's hesitation

MIAMI -- Faced with the increasing likelihood that he will be fired as Red Sox manager, Grady Little said yesterday that he's not sure he wants to manage the Red Sox next season.

"I'm prepared for the likelihood . . . I'm not sure that I want to manage that team," Little said by phone from his home in North Carolina. "That's how I felt when I drove out of town.

"If they don't want me, fine, they don't want me. If they want me to come back, then we'll talk and see if I want to come back up there. That's the way I feel about it."

Little said he hasn't heard a word from Sox brass since returning home. "All I know is when I left there, there was some hesitation. That's all I need to know," he said. "If Grady Little is not there, he'll be somewhere.

"Right now I'm disappointed that evidently some people are judging me on the results of one decision I made -- not the decision, but the results of the decision. Less than 24 hours before, those same people were hugging and kissing me. If that's the way they operate, I'm not sure I want to be part of it."

If Little is fired, that may not play well in a clubhouse in which numerous players expressed their support for the embattled manager after last Thursday's devastating Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

"That's not my problem," he said. "Just add one more ghost to the list if I'm not there, because there are ghosts. That's certainly evident when you're a player in that uniform."

Little was on the last year of a two-year deal he signed in March 2002. The Sox won 93 games in his first season, 95 this past season, when they also won the American League wild card, their first playoff appearance since 1999. The team holds one-year options on him for both the 2004 and 2005 seasons, but last March told Little they wanted to wait until the end of this season before deciding whether to exercise those options. Little, unwilling to go through another season of being a lame duck, almost certainly would not be amenable to just having the club exercise his option, which the Sox have until Oct. 31 to do. He wants the security of a multiyear deal. "The reason anyone wants to make changes is they feel that the team should have done better than it did," he said.

Winning the wild card and advancing to the seventh game of what Yankee manager Joe Torre said was the greatest series in which he took part wasn't enough?

"I'm not sure," Little said. "You've got to win the World Series in Boston before it's considered winning."

Little again said if he had to do it over again, he would have left Pedro Martinez in to pitch the eighth inning of Game 7, when the Yankees rallied from a 5-2 deficit to tie the score off Martinez.

"I know that wherever I go, I'll do the best I can," Little said. "I know what we did there. I'm sorry the results of one decision caused so much pain, and it sure helped sell a lot of papers. I feel bad for it. But gol'dang, I can't turn back the clock and make another decision, not knowing whether the results of that decision are good or not."

Speculation has been rampant at the World Series about who the Sox might pursue if Little is let go, as expected. Dodger coach Glenn Hoffman, the former Red Sox shortstop who declined an invitation to interview before Little was hired, is a name that has surfaced here. Hoffman had briefly managed the Dodgers when Tom Lasorda was interim general manager there, and told associates that with the Sox GM situation unsettled at the time, he didn't want to go through that experience again.

"Only time will tell," Little said, when asked how he thought the club would perform under a new man. "But if they think it's going to get better, they'd better watch out. I know how it was when I got there, and I know how it is when I'm leaving."

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek last weekend said there were a "billion things" that could have caused the Sox clubhouse to fall apart last season, and it was because of Little that it did not do so.

"Most things people don't even know about," Little said. "Everyone knows the final results. We didn't win the World Series, so we lost. I'm only thankful that they're pointing the finger at me, and not at a player, because I can take it. I'm telling you that right now."

Little was asked if Martinez spoke with him after the Game 7 loss. "He came and gave me a big hug and thanked me for the opportunity, just like a lot of other players did," Little said.

Little said, "To tell you the truth, this ain't bothering me like it's bothering a lot of other people. I'll tell you right now, I did the best I could do, and I still think [his handling of Martinez] was right. Baseball people think that -- maybe not Red Sox fans -- but baseball people tell me over and over.

"But in Boston, it's not just this one decision, or just one game. It's like this in May. People are talking about devastating losses, and it's the end of April or first of May. That's serious stuff. You don't play 162 games. You play 162 seasons a year. Every game is a season. That's why this doesn't affect me like it does a lot of people."

Because Major League Baseball doesn't want the World Series upstaged, any announcement regarding Little's status probably won't come until after the Series.

"If Grady Little is not back with the Red Sox, he'll be somewhere," Little said. "I'll be another ghost, fully capable of haunting."

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