Concurrent with the playoffs and World Series, there's another October tradition to monitor: the managerial search.
Now that Joe Torre is staying put and the Florida Marlins did their firing and hiring in the same day, there are just four teams in search of new dugout bosses: the Nationals, Giants, Cubs and Rangers.
Interestingly, three of those teams fired minority candidates -- Frank Robinson (Washington), Felipe Alou (San Francisco) and Dusty Baker (Chicago) -- making it likely that Major League Baseball will be keeping close tabs on the interviewing process.
Lou Piniella, rumored to be on the runway in New York when Torre dangled for 72 hours, now finds himself in a holding pattern, yet looms over all four openings. He's on record as talking to at least two of the four teams. But given Piniella's demands and age, he could be on the sidelines when all four posts are filled.
A look at the openings and the candidates, then:
Piniella removed himself from consideration, pointing out that the Nationals, per order of new owner Ted Lerner and president Stan Kasten, intend to rebuild the organization from the bottom up. Having suffered through three frustrating seasons with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Piniella doesn't have the patience to attack another overhaul.
"I'm about winning,'' Piniella said earlier this week.
The Nationals, for now, are not, which means they're more likely to select someone who can work well with young players. One possibility is Tony Pena, who spent this season as the Yankees' first base coach.
Pena managed the Kansas City Royals for three-plus seasons and was the 2003 American League Manager of the Year, having kept the inexperienced Royals in the AL Central race into September.
Joey Cora, who had been mentioned as a possible replacement for Joe Girardi in Florida and was the White Sox's third base coach this past season, is said to be in line for an interview. So are Cecil Cooper, the Astros' bench coach, and Terry Pendleton, the Braves' hitting coach. Pendleton lacks previous managerial experience at any level, but don't discount the fact that Kasten is a big backer, having gotten to know him well in Atlanta.
"I think we need to go in a new direction,'' owner Peter Magowan said last week. Magowan was talking specifically about player personnel issues, and perhaps bracing Giants fans for the departure of Barry Bonds.
But his words apply to the team's managerial option, too.
Following Baker and Alou, that could mean a number of things. It could mean a younger candidate. Or it could mean someone with a decidedly lower profile. That would seem to indicate someone other than Piniella, although Piniella confirmed that he's already spoken to general manager Brian Sabean, whom he knows from their time together with the Yankees.
Piniella also has to ask if the Giants, too, are ready to win. Finishing third in the NL West, San Francisco could be the weakest of the five clubs heading into next season. Then again, how many times is Piniella going to walk into a playoff-ready team? With few exceptions -- the Red Sox, following the 2003 season, spring to mind -- managerial changes are made because of poor seasons.
There's considerable sentiment for longtime coach Ron Wotus, who has been part of the Giants' system for 15 years -- six as a successful minor league manager and the last nine as a member of the major league coaching staff, including the last eight as the bench coach.
Sabean seemed to be talking about Wotus when he spoke of his ideal candidates last week, seeking "someone who has managed in the minor leagues and matriculated to the major leagues as a bench coach or is doing something in a contributing way to a major league staff."
To the degree that it helps, Wotus has also been personally endorsed by Alou, who last week was not invited back for the 2007 season.
The one question remaining is whether Wotus is a big enough name. If the Giants walk away from Bonds, can they also afford to name a relative unknown as their manager?
Girardi makes so much sense here, it's almost scary. Girardi grew up in Peoria, Ill., attended Northwestern and played for the Cubs.
In his first try at managing in the big leagues, he also kept the low-budget Marlins in the playoff race until the final two weeks and somehow won 78 games.
Of course, Girardi also earned himself a reputation as stubborn and at times unwilling to communicate with management. If he can convince general manager Jim Hendry and interim president John McDonough that those are nonissues, the job would seem to be his to lose.
Strangely, Piniella's name has not surfaced much here. Piniella makes some sense for the Cubs, given that, as a team with a national following and a strong TV presence, the team would want a manager of his star quality. Also, in the thoroughly mediocre NL Central, the Cubs could contend again in a hurry -- if they're willing to spend money.
Two minor league managers -- Mike Quade and Pat Listach -- will also get interviews. Quade has managed the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate the last four seasons and Listach managed last season at Double-A West Tennessee.
All signs point to Don Wakamatsu, who has spent the last four years as Buck Showalter's bench coach.
Wakamatsu has the respect of the players and communicates well. Owner Tom Hicks explained that Showalter had lost the players in his final season, leading to his dismissal. That won't be an issue with Wakamatsu, who has four years of minor league managerial experience and knows the Rangers' system well. Moreover, he has a strong relationship with general manager Jon Daniels.
Like Wotus, Wakamatsu's biggest strike is his lack of star power. But after Showalter, perhaps that's not a bad thing.
Another current coach, hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo, has withdrawn himself from consideration. Trey Hillman, who once served as the Rangers' farm director and has managed in Japan the last four years, is also said to be under consideration, as is Oakland third base coach Ron Washington.
Sean McAdam of The Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.