Leyland To Stay With Marlins
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A team of 6-year-olds in Mount Lebanon, Pa., almost got a veteran skipper with a World Series win on his resume.
But Jim Leyland decided instead he would stick around to manage the Florida Marlins.
Leyland ended speculation he might jump ship to another team _ particularly the Chicago White Sox or Baltimore Orioles. He said he didn’t have any other offers and wouldn’t have entertained them.
``I definitely was either going to manage the Florida Marlins in 1998, or my son’s little league team in Mount Lebanon,″ Leyland said Saturday, a day after announcing he would return to the Marlins.
After wrestling several days over whether to return to a team that will face a depleted roster as new owners attempt to cut costs, Leyland said he decided he owed it to the Marlins.
``Within the last week or so, I’ve left 10 times, I’ve stayed 10 times, but at the end of the day, this is the right thing to do,″ he said.
Leyland had a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave if the team was sold. On Thursday, current owner Wayne Huizenga announced that he is close to completing a deal to sell the Marlins to team president Don Smiley.
The new owners will have to slash the team’s payroll _ possibly as much as $30 million _ to break even, which they have said they plan to do.
Huizenga, who spent his own money to add high profile free agents to the team that won the World Series, said he was losing more than $30 million a year on the team.
Leyland left his last managing job with the Pittsburgh Pirates partly because the team drastically cut its payroll.
That, and fatigue, had Leyland leaning toward taking a year off, with the intention of returning to managing in 1999, he said.
Now Leyland will come back from a Christmas vacation in the Pittsburgh area to a team that looks greatly different from the one that gave him his first World Series. But he said he is looking forward to the challenge.
``Please don’t bury our ballclub just yet,″ Leyland said before heading to the tee at a charity golf tournament. ``I believe we will put a competitive team on the field in 1998.″
Still, he acknowledges the situation is going to be difficult.
``My first concern is I hope we’ve got nine guys,″ Leyland joked.
``If the cupboard was bare in the farm system, I’d really be concerned. You’re going to see the importance of a strong farm system,″ he said.
Leyland wouldn’t say how long he would give the Marlins to give him players that can get him back to a World Series.
``I’m not looking beyond next year,″ he said. ``Not that I’m looking to get out after next year, I don’t want all that to start.″
After coming close three times with the Pirates, Leyland this year finally had the right combination of players to go all the way.
``I feel like I owe it to this organization after what they did for me, and did for my family,″ he said. ``I want to try to make it work because we saw the excitement in South Florida.″
Leyland said though, that he does need to rest after the drain of a long season, the emotional intensity of a World Series that went seven games, and the uncertainty of the team’s future.
``I’m tired,″ Leyland said. ``I need to go home and take my baby ice skating, take my wife to dinner.″
He already has been hitting the links, playing golf shortly after the World Series with President Clinton. ``We talked about foreign policy,″ Leyland said. ``Some of the places I was hitting it were foreign.″
Also Saturday. Leyland said the team hired Rich Dubee as its pitching coach. Dubee, a roving minor league pitching coach in the Marlins system, replaced Larry Rothschild, who was hired a day earlier as the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager.