Dodgers hire Grady Little as manager

DALLAS -- Grady Little's decision to leave Pedro Martinez on the Yankee Stadium mound cost him his last managing job.

And it helped him get this one.

"His explanation of everything gave me great confidence in who he is," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Tuesday after hiring the former Red Sox field boss in Los Angeles. "It's not easy being in that spot. But his way of handling it was very admirable."

The Dodgers gave Little, 55, a two-year deal with an option for a third. He beat out Jim Fregosi, John McLaren, Manny Acta and Joel Skinner for the chance to succeed Jim Tracy, who parted ways with the Dodgers on Oct. 3 -- the day after the club completed its second-worst season since moving west from Brooklyn in 1958.

With spring training two months away, the Dodgers are behind every other team in trying to get ready for Opening Day.

"I feel like we have a long time," Little said after being introduced by Colletti and special adviser Tommy Lasorda. "The last job I took on, we had two weeks before Opening Day."

Ah, yes, the last job.

That would be Little's ill-fated run with the Red Sox from 2002-03. He compiled a 188-136 record there -- the best winning percentage (.580) of any manager in the last 35 years.

But he was second-guessed for failing to lift his tiring ace in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series. The Yankees tied it off Martinez and then earned the World Series berth on Aaron Boone's homer in the 11th inning.

Little's contract was not renewed. But Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was glad that didn't prevent Little from getting another job.

"I think that's terrific for Grady and wish him great good luck," Lucchino told Boston reporters while other Red Sox executives extolled Little's virtues. "He's not exactly a Hollywood, L.A. type of guy, but he has a kind of versatility that will hold him in good stead."

Little laughed.

"Heck, is that the same guy that thought I was going to fit in in New England?" he said in his Texas drawl. "I'll probably fit in as well as the ballclub does while I'm running it."

Little said he didn't dwell on the Yankee Stadium collapse or the harsh commentary in Boston, where Web sites sprung up with names like "Surviving Grady."

"That's New England and it's Boston," Little said. "All they want to do is win, and that's all we were trying to do."

Some -- but not all -- of the venom dissipated when the Red Sox won it all the next year. But more than two years after Game 7 -- when he was asked just two questions, both about leaving Martinez in -- the same questions are being asked.

"That was in the past the day after the season was over, as far as I'm concerned," Little said when asked about it again on Tuesday. "We know where that organization was when we got there, we knew where it was when we left. ... I had confidence in what I did for the ballclub in Boston, but at the same time you never know what's in your future. The opportunity is here now."

The Chicago Cubs hired Little in January 2004 to be a scouting consultant and assistant to general manager Jim Hendry. Little spent last season as the organization's roving catching instructor.

The Dodgers began their managerial search after Tracy left, but Paul DePodesta was fired as the team's GM on Oct. 29, just as his search for a manager was winding up.

Colletti was introduced as DePodesta's successor on Nov. 16 and interviewed Fregosi three days later. Colletti met with Little, McLaren, Acta and Skinner last week.

"It's with a lot of due diligence that we came to this decision," Colletti said.

The Dodgers were 71-91 last season -- one year after going 93-69 to win their first NL West championship since 1995.