Tony La Russa spoke with at least one representative from the New York Yankees on Thursday about possibly replacing manager Buck Showalter, and a source close to the Oakland manager believes he won't end up with the Orioles.
La Russa, 51, acknowledged talks with a third team yesterday, ** although he would not specify if it was the Yankees. "I've spoken to someone else besides St. Louis and Baltimore," La Russa said. "Other than that, I have nothing to say. I'd like to get this done by sometime next week."
The contract for Showalter, 38, expires at the end of the month. La Russa is, in many ways, a good fit for the Yankees. He's a big-name manager, perhaps the biggest, perfect for the Big Apple. He could have major input on the Yankees' player personnel decisions, because New York's general manager often rendered powerless by the presence of owner George Steinbrenner.
But there are potential problems. There is Steinbrenner, who often makes a tough situation worse. The Yankees have right fielder Ruben Sierra, whom La Russa detests. La Russa has never been fond of the media, and New York is media central.
A source close to La Russa indicated yesterday that he thinks Orioles owner Peter Angelos is somewhat reluctant to meet La Russa's $1.5 million salary demand. La Russa reportedly is asking for added authority in player personnel moves, as well.
All of which could increase the chances that Cincinnati manager Davey Johnson -- outspoken in his desire to manage Baltimore -- and Showalter will be the front-runners to replace manager Phil Regan, if and when that move is made by Angelos. Showalter told an acquaintance yesterday that he would be very interested in talking with the Orioles, in the event he is fired by the Yankees.
Randy Smith, who appears to be the Orioles' top choice to replace Roland Hemond if Hemond is replaced, could have as many as three general manager jobs from which to choose. Smith, who interviewed with the Orioles and Montreal Expos this week, was approached by a third team yesterday that he would not identify.
But in all likelihood, that team is the Detroit Tigers, who are expected to fire GM Joe Klein. Smith said his interview will take place early next week (Montreal has pushed very hard for Smith, and if an offer hasn't yet been made, one probably will be forthcoming).
Smith said yesterday, "I'm going to weigh my options, and I'm not going to make a decision without looking at everything. I'm going to find someplace I'm going to consider home for the next couple of years, and longer."
But Smith, who severed ties with the San Diego Padres on Thursday, admitted to some nervousness. "Reality sets in when you stop getting paychecks, and as of today, I'm not getting a paycheck," he said. "I'm anxious to find out about my future."
Smith has an understanding with Angelos that before making any final decision, he will talk with the Orioles again.
Gerry Hunsicker is the front-runner to replace Smith in San Diego. But club sources with the Orioles and Padres confirmed yesterday that San Diego president Larry Lucchino asked Angelos whether permission would be granted if the Padres wanted to talk to assistant GM Frank Robinson, and were told yes. To date, however, Lucchino has not actually asked to interview Robinson.