Candidates include Francona

Updated: October 29, 2003, 2:10 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- The 44th manager of the Boston Red Sox must embrace his players as well as the statistics the front office feeds him.

The search for that person could take a while.

Plenty of names had surfaced by Tuesday as possible successors to Grady Little, and team officials planned a detailed analysis of the candidates' presence in the clubhouse and tactics on the field.

"Our next manager will hopefully embody the same characteristics Grady had in the clubhouse," general manager Theo Epstein said Monday. "It's a subtle distinction in terms of areas of emphasis."

The list of potential candidates is long: Terry Francona, Glenn Hoffman, Bud Black, Joel Skinner, Willie Randolph, Bobby Valentine and many others.

And the search could go beyond "the obvious candidates," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said.

The team announced Monday it would not exercise its option to bring Little back for a third season after he led the Red Sox to records of 93-69 and 95-67. This year, they reached the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

His players strongly supported him, and Epstein praised his skills in keeping them happy, fostering togetherness and handling problems. But management had concerns that he was not properly using data on pitcher-hitter matchups and other subjects.

John Henry, Boston's principal owner, made a fortune using a formula to forecast movement in the commodities market, and was concerned that Little made some decisions based on his feel for a game situation rather than the numbers.

The most damaging one was his decision to stick with Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the AL championship series against the New York Yankees.

Although opponents had a much higher batting average against Martinez after his pitch count surpassed 100, Little left his ace in. The Yankees tied the game with three runs in the inning and won 6-5 in the 11th.

Epstein and Lucchino emphasized that the decision to let Little go was based on far more than that.

But Martinez took the blame.

"I was the one responsible for staying in the box in the game against the Yankees -- not Grady," Martinez was quoted as saying in the Dominican newspaper Hoy on Tuesday. "Grady shouldn't be blamed for anything. He did a great job for Boston in the last two seasons."

Now it will be someone else's job in a city with passionate fans of a team that last won the World Series in 1918.

Francona was the bench coach with Texas in 2002 and Oakland in 2003. From 1997-00, he led Philadelphia to four losing seasons in his first stint as a major league manager.

He interviewed Tuesday for the managerial opening in Baltimore, an indication that Oakland would grant Boston permission to talk with him if requested. In March 2002, the Athletics denied the Red Sox permission to interview bench coach Ken Macha for the vacancy Little filled.

Cleveland hitting coach and former Baltimore first baseman Eddie Murray is considered the favorite for the Orioles' job.

Francona, who also interviewed for the Chicago White Sox opening, and Hoffman, Los Angeles' third base coach and a former Boston infielder, are considered good at handling players and game strategy.

Black, Anaheim's pitching coach, and Randolph, the Yankees' third base coach, haven't managed in the majors. Skinner, Cleveland's third base coach, was the Indians' interim manager in 2002.

Valentine, the former manager of the New York Mets and Texas Rangers, is a strong tactician but has had problems dealing with the players and media.

"We have a lot of respect for various managers we've gotten to know along the way, and Bobby Valentine is one we would include on that list," Lucchino said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press