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Archive for Saturday, October 7, 2000

Dodgers fire Johnson

L.A. failed to make playoffs in two seasons under veteran skipper

October 7, 2000

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— Now the Los Angeles Dodgers are going fishing.

Davey Johnson was fired as the Dodgers' manager after failing to lead a team with one of baseball's highest payrolls to the playoffs in his two years in the dugout.

"These are tough days for everybody," Dodgers chairman Bob Daly said Friday.

Word of Johnson's dismissal leaked out this week while Johnson was on a fishing trip to Mexico.

Daly said the search to find Johnson's successor will begin next week, and that the Dodgers did not yet have a list of candidates.

Daly met with Johnson and team president Bob Graziano last Friday to discuss the season with the thought that a final meeting would be held this week.

"It was quite clear as we talked, everybody realized it was in the best interests that we should make a change," Daly said. "Davey said: 'I think it's time for me to move on, I think it's time for the organization to move on."'

Johnson asked for this week's meeting to be put off so he could go fishing in Cabo San Lucas.

"It was probably naive on our part," Daly said. "We couldn't get to him. As you know, it leaked out. I feel bad about that. I'm disappointed it got out, obviously somebody said something to somebody."

Daly, Graziano and Johnson spoke via conference call Thursday to finalize matters.

The Dodgers were 86-76 and finished second in the NL West this season after going 77-85 last year.

"I am proud of the progress that we made, and I am optimistic about this team's future," Johnson said in a press release.

The 57-year-old Johnson is under contract for next year at a salary of $1.5 million. His teams have a 1,148-888 record, finishing first or second in 11 of his 12 full seasons.

Johnson became the fifth manager fired since last Sunday, when Philadelphia's Terry Francona was dismissed on the season's final day.

Cincinnati's Jack McKeon, Pittsburgh's Gene Lamont and Arizona's Buck Showalter were fired the following day.

Although Daly said he wouldn't criticize Johnson, whom he called "a heck of a manager who has an excellent track record," the clear implication was that manager and team weren't the proper fit.

Daly said the strained relationship between Johnson and general manager Kevin Malone was a factor in the firing, and acknowledged making mistakes in several areas.

The GM stays; the manager goes.

"Not having a lot of experience in baseball other than being a passionate fan, this has been a learning process for me," said Daly, who bought a 10 percent interest and became chairman of the Dodgers nearly a year ago. Before that, he ran Warner Bros. with Terry Semel for 20 years.

"Sometimes things got a little out of hand," Daly said. "I tried, and I could not bring everybody together. I don't know if it affected our won-lost record. I take the responsibility as the CEO here."

Malone, who has two years left on his contract, apologized for the problems he caused.

"I admit I've been critical (of Johnson)," Malone said. "In looking back at it, I let my strong desire to win and my passion for success become visible."

Daly said 73-year-old Hall of Famer Tom Lasorda, who managed the team for nearly 20 years before suffering a heart attack during the 1996 season, would continue as a senior vice president.

The Dodgers, whose $94.2 million payroll this season was the third-highest in baseball, haven't made the playoffs since 1996, and haven't won a postseason game since winning the 1988 World Series.

The firing also means the Dodgers will have their fourth manager since Lasorda left.

Bill Russell succeeded Lasorda, and was fired in June 1998.

Glenn Hoffman, the Dodgers' third base coach this season, lasted until the end of the 1998 season and was replaced by Johnson.

Before Lasorda took the job in 1977, Walter Alston, another Hall of Famer, was the Dodgers' manager for 23 seasons.

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