Dodgers Hire From Within

New Dodgers manager Jim Tracy
The Dodgers' new manager realizes many fans are probably wondering, "Jim who?"

Jim Tracy knows the same questions were asked about another unknown: Walter Alston, who was hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.

"I've been through that before," Tracy said Wednesday at a news conference called to introduce him as the team's new manager. "I look forward to establishing myself here in a way that, hopefully when my time is through here, people will speak of me in the same vein as Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda."

Tracy, the Dodgers' bench coach, signed a two-year contract to succeed Davey Johnson, who was fired Oct. 6 after two years. The Dodgers haven't made the playoffs since 1996, and haven't won a postseason game since winning the 1988 World Series.

"I'm very grateful I'm being given this opportunity," Tracy said. "I have no fear whatsoever taking on this situation. My focus will be on re-establishing the pride, re-establishing totally the tradition of this organization."

Tracy is the 24th manager in franchise history, but only the sixth since the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. He's the fourth since Lasorda retired midway through the 1996 season following a minor heart attack.

Alston managed the Dodgers for 23 years before retiring, and he was succeeded by Lasorda, the team's third-base coach, in 1977. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

Tracy, 44, joined the Dodgers two years ago as bench coach under Johnson. He held a similar position the previous four years under Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou.

"Selecting him, I was 100 percent in favor of it," said Lasorda, now a senior vice president for the Dodgers. "I'm telling you, I completely endorse him. I like his style; I like his philosophy."

Lasorda was ready when Tracy's status as an unknown with minimal big-league managerial experience was mentioned.

"That's what they said when Walter Alston got hired `Walter who?' He did the job for 23 years," Lasorda said. "I think Jim's going to do a good job."

Tracy was chosen late Tuesday over Dodgers batting coach Rick Down. Eleven candidates were interviewed, according to Dodgers chairman Bob Daly, including New York Yankees coaches Willie Randolph and Chris Chambliss, and former Los Angeles pitcher Orel Hershiser.

"His loyalty to Davey impressed me," Daly said. "What I liked about Jim is he didn't answer the questions the way he thought we wanted to hear them answered. He answered them honestly."

Daly said he never asked to interview higher-profile candidates such as Dust Baker of the Giants, Bobby Valentine of the Mets and Lou Piniella of the Mariners, who all wound up re-signing.

"I never believed any of them were available," Daly said. "I'm very happy we stayed inside. I think that will take us to the next level as fast as possible."

Tracy served as an interim manager in July, leading the Dodgers to a 3-1 record while Johnson was hospitalized briefly for an irregular heart rhythm.

Tracy compiled a 501-486 record as a minor league manager with the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and the Expos. As a player, he was picked in the fourth round of the June 1977 draft, and played parts of the 1980 and 1981 seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He also played for two years in Japan.

The Dodgers went 163-161 under Johnson 77-85 in 1999 and 86-76 this past season. Johnson had one year remaining on his contract, worth $1.5 million, when he was fired.

"I've known Jim for eight years; we worked together in Montreal," said Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone, a former assistant GM with the Expos. "He's a motivator, a communicator.

"We felt it was most important to promote within the organization. We've made a lot of progress in the last two years. We think Jim is the right man to lead us forward. Jim has the familiarity with the organization."

Tracy said he was excited about the core group of players the Dodgers have, and said he believes an ability to communicate is his best attribute.

"I believe I can get along with anyone," he said. "To get everyone on the same page ... I think that's the biggest thing to quell some of the things we've been through. That helps teams win. Camaraderie and unity helps teams win."

The strained relationship between Malone and Johnson was no secret.

"Knowing Davey and I had some disagreements, he stayed loyal," Malone said of Tracy. "He showed what he's all about. When I really thought about it and looked at it, I was impressed."

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