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Girardi says no; O's starting over

The Baltimore Sun

SAN DIEGO -- Rejected by the man they really wanted, the Orioles yesterday went back to the drawing board in their managerial search, which will be a longer and more extensive process than the organization had hoped.

Joe Girardi yesterday morning turned down the Orioles' three-year contract offer, which was worth slightly more than $1 million per season, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, and the club must start over in its search for a permanent replacement for the fired Sam Perlozzo.

Andy MacPhail, the team's new president of baseball operations, said the search will resume Tuesday when he returns to Baltimore.

Until then, MacPhail vowed to speak to other Orioles executives and his friends in the game to compile a list of potential candidates. He wouldn't specify the number of names on the list, confirming only that he has had some discussions with Dusty Baker. In the meantime, the club is being run by interim manager Dave Trembley.

"I'm disappointed but undaunted," MacPhail said about Girardi's decision. "We will go on and this was probably a preemptive strike to try to find a manager, but I think now I'll probably go through a little more methodical process and start with a longer list of names and then sort of whittle my way down."

The Orioles have discussed many names internally, but haven't interviewed anybody else, and it's unlikely they will do so until later next week.

Among the names that have been discussed are Baker, the former Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants manager; Davey Johnson, the last manager to guide the Orioles to a winning season; Joey Cora, the Chicago White Sox's bench coach; Jerry Manuel, the bench coach of the New York Mets; and Don Baylor, the former Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies manager. Even former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly has been mentioned, but MacPhail has said it's his understanding that Kelly isn't interested in managing again.

Most of the candidates have ties to MacPhail, the former president of the Cubs. That includes Baker, who isn't interested in the Orioles opening, according to two team sources. MacPhail said that he spoke to Baker yesterday morning and he'll continue to speak with him. Baylor, who started a long and productive major league career with the Orioles, worked with MacPhail with the Cubs.

"Why wouldn't I be interested in managing the team I started with?" said Baylor, who said he hasn't heard from the Orioles. "Absolutely, I'd be interested. I've sat back and observed some things and I would love to get back in. I've always had passion for the game. I haven't lost that."

MacPhail said he won't rule out anyone and it will come down to which manager is the right fit.

"There are a lot of people who are very qualified managers in baseball today. There's not just a sea of one," he said. "You guys will find, I'm more likely to be methodical, and take my time to make sure I'm comfortable with the final answer. I won't wait forever and I won't drag my feet, but I won't move until I'm comfortable with the decision."

MacPhail wants to make sure his next offer goes out to someone who "wants to manage the Baltimore Orioles." He thought Girardi, who was the 2006 National League Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins before he was fired after one season after disputes with ownership, was that guy. According to two team sources, the Orioles were surprised when Girardi's agent, Steve Mandel, phoned MacPhail yesterday morning and told him his client was rejecting the Orioles' offer made late Wednesday.

In an interview with The Sun yesterday, Girardi, 42, didn't get into specifics, but said repeatedly that the job just wasn't a good fit for him right now.

"I was flattered that the Orioles called me," said Girardi, who impressed Orioles executives in his interview Tuesday, a day after Perlozzo was dismissed in the middle of his second full season as manager. "It's a great city, a great organization. I have the utmost respect for Andy. As a coach or a player, I always loved going there [to Baltimore]. I am not going to get into a whole lot, but it just wasn't the right time for my family. I was impressed. But timing-wise, it just wasn't right."

Girardi should be a top candidate for several openings this offseason, including the New York Yankees job if Joe Torre retires or is fired. Torre spoke to Girardi Wednesday night and said yesterday that the former Yankees coach and player "seemed in-between" with his decision.

Girardi disputed that contract issues and a reluctance to manage a team owned by Peter Angelos played a part in his decision. The Orioles' proposal of more than $1 million per season dwarfed Perlozzo's annual salary of $600,000.

Asked if money was an issue in Girardi's backing away, MacPhail said, "I would think that very unlikely. ... First, I did talk to both Joe and Steve and they made it clear to me that money was not the issue. Secondly, we started at a good level plus let them know there was some flexibility. There was no indication to me that was an issue."

The news was treated with a collective shrug in the Orioles' clubhouse after a 6-3 victory over the San Diego Padres that improved Trembley's record to 2-1 as interim manager.

"I don't [care] about Joe Girardi," reliever Jamie Walker said. "I care about my teammates in here. That's his choice. The last time I heard [about him], I think he got fired from the Marlins for something."

Jay Gibbons and Jay Payton backed Trembley, saying they hope he gets a chance to at least manage the team for the rest of the season.

"We have a good club here," Payton said. "If somebody doesn't want to manage us, so be it. I'm very happy with the guy we got. I hope he gets an opportunity to be here all year and we'll see what we can do. I respect Trem a lot and I think he's good for this team. To be honest, I am glad that Joe Girardi doesn't want to be our manager."

Said Gibbons: "It's not a big deal. We'll roll with Dave Trembley. Dave Trembley is not afraid to make mistakes. He doesn't manage scared."

Asked whether Trembley will get serious consideration, MacPhail said, "Dave has got the benefit of not having to go through an interview. Dave's got the benefit of going through an audition, which the others don't have. That's why I mentioned I would likely do something on a more methodical basis, but I think that is some degree an indication that we're comfortable with Dave at the helm until we sort out how we want to go now into the future."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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