Move had been expected by many

The Boston Red Sox, still smarting from a bitter seven-game loss to the rival Yankees in the ALCS, fired manager Grady Little on Monday.

The team formally announced the move at an afternoon press conference.

Mon., Oct. 27

I feel bad that Grady Little has been fired, because he did a great job in his two years as Red Sox manager (winning 93 games in 2002 and 95 this year). He deserves plenty of credit for leading the Red Sox to the ALCS.

What led to Little's demise was his decision to stick with Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees. But I would have done the same thing. Little decided to sink or swim with his best pitcher on the mound. He went with the unquestioned ace of his rotation. How can you argue with that? It's too easy to second-guess after the fact.

In a late-inning situation, every manager, pitching coach and pitcher will talk (in this case, after the seventh inning was over). They'll ask the pitcher, "Do you have anything left? Be honest with us. How are you feeling?" Boston pitching coach Dave Wallace was my pitching coach with the Dodgers, so I know he's a great communicator. When your best pitcher tells you he can go back out there, you take his word for it. They put their trust in their main man, and in this case he wasn't able to come through.

In hindsight, Little could have pulled Pedro a batter earlier (his last pitch of the game became a two-run single by Jorge Posada to tie the score 5-5). But if Boston fans had to go back and do it all over again, I think they'd be happy -- or at least take their chances -- with a three-run lead and Pedro on the mound, five outs from the World Series.

It's one thing if you leave your No. 3 starter or a setup reliever in the game in that situation. But this was Pedro. I can live with him not getting the job done. But unfortunately for Little, it cost him his job. I hope he lands on his feet somewhere.

Of the candidates for the position, veterans Charlie Manuel and Mike Hargrove would be good choices. But I'd like to see Angels pitching coach Bud Black get an opportunity. Black and I pitched in the same rotation with the Indians, and we're good friends. He did a phenomenal job with the staff of the World Series champions last year.

The Red Sox have a strong lineup that set all-time records for slugging percentage and total bases in 2003. They need help, though, with the starting rotation and the bullpen. Black would be a good fit for their needs.

"Grady Little was just what the doctor ordered when we came
here," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said in a statement. "He
took over a clubhouse not known for its harmony and brought unity
and an atmosphere of winning.

"We will now seek a new manager for the long term to take us in
a new direction."

Lucchino said team officials notified Little of the decision in a telephone conversation Monday morning.

"He took it very well," Lucchino said. "He was very gracious.
There was no anger or raised voices. On the contrary, he thanked us
for the opportunity he had been given to manage the Red Sox and to
manage in the big leagues."

Monday's Boston Herald, citing a Red Sox source, reported that two candidates to succeed Little could be former Indians manager Charlie Manuel and former Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy, a television analyst for NESN, a regional sports network partly owned by the Red Sox.

According to the report, others on the Red Sox list are Yankees third-base coach Willie Randolph, Yankees first-base coach Lee Mazzilli, Dodgers third-base coach Glenn Hoffman and former Phillies skipper Terry Francona, now the A's bench coach.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein declined to discuss Little's
possible successors.

"We're going to take as long as necessary to find the right manager," Epstein said.

Little's dismissal had been hinted at since the series ended. Although Boston's CBS affiliate, WBZ, reported Sunday that Little would be fired Monday, Epstein told ESPN on Sunday night that the report was not true.

Epstein said the team had begun its review of Little and hoped to make a decision on the manager's future "as soon as possible," but said that "no decision" had been made on whether to pick up Little's contract option for next season.

On Friday, a Red Sox official told the Herald that he would be "real surprised" if Little survived this offseason. Multiple team sources told the paper that all signs pointed to Little's option, which expires Friday, not being picked up.

"He's not (team president) Larry (Lucchino)'s guy -- if he were Larry's guy, (Lucchino) would have defended him by now," a source close to Little told the Boston Globe.

Earlier last week, Little said he was ready for the worst.

"I'm prepared for the likelihood," Little told the Globe. "I am not sure that I want to manage that team. That's how I felt when I drove out of town."

Little has been criticized for his decision to stick with tiring
ace Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of Game 7 against the Yankees. Martinez failed to hold a 5-2 lead, and New York won in the 11th inning on Aaron Boone's homer off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

The Red Sox have insisted that Little's future will not be determined by the one decision, but according to the Herald, the team was concerned about Little's lack of reliance on stats.

Many key Red Sox players, including Todd Walker and Manny Ramirez, publicly expressed support for Little's return.

In Little's two years as Red Sox manager, Boston was 93-69 and 95-67,
and the Sox qualified for the playoffs this season for the first time since
1999. Little became the Red Sox' 43rd manager on March 11, 2002,
after Joe Kerrigan was fired.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.