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Name of game: Making a list of Sox candidates

Ordinarily, this would be an exercise in extremely poor taste, to speculate about the next manager of the Red Sox when the incumbent, Grady Little, hasn't even been informed whether the team intends to ask him back.

But when Little himself makes it clear that (1) he doesn't expect to be asked back, and (2) he is deeply resentful of the way he has been treated in the last 10 days, there is enough probable cause to proceed with compiling a list of candidates to manage the Red Sox in 2004 -- and beyond.

The biggest names in the business -- Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Felipe Alou -- aren't available. Torre has another year left on his contract with the Yankees, and regardless of the outcome of the World Series, there is no way Boss Steinbrenner would allow Torre to manage in Boston, as attractive as that fantasy is. Ken Macha, in whom the Sox had great interest and who viewed Boston as his dream job, is locked into Oakland. Tony Pena almost certainly will be the American League Manager of the Year, and the Sox wanted to talk to him two years ago, but he's locked in with the Royals and can't be in the mix.

Theo Epstein had not yet officially joined the Sox when Little was hired in the spring of 2002, though you can be certain he and Larry Lucchino had plenty of conversations about that move before it was made. It is equally obvious that Epstein will not have a free hand in making this choice, not when both Lucchino and principal owner John W. Henry are as hands-on as they are.

But Epstein, while not the final authority on the next manager, still will be charged with culling the list of candidates from which the new man will be hired, and since he is the one who must work most closely with the new man, the next manager undoubtedly will reflect his philosophies. Since a decision has not been made on Little, Epstein has not spoken publicly about what he'll be looking for, so the list of candidates here merely reflects an outside point of view.

Henry, in an e-mail sent after Little's interview last week with the Globe, strongly rejected the idea that Little is being let go because of the Game 7 debacle. Henry's response indicates that Sox management had a variety of issues with Little predating Game 7, which raises the issue of whether the only way Little could have saved his job was by winning the World Series.

"It is absolutely ridiculous to assert that we would make any managerial, coaching or player decision based on one game -- no matter how important that game is or was," Henry said. "Give us a little more credit than that. Maybe a fan can do that, but a serious enterprise cannot and does not."

Epstein, on any number of occasions this past summer, lavished praise on Little, and repeatedly brushed aside questions about why, if the Sox were so happy with Little, they didn't exercise the option on his contract earlier. It's obvious now why they didn't; what is less clear is whether Epstein is on board with Little's dismissal or the decision to make a change reflects a split in management. There is another, far less attractive possibility: Epstein was being completely disingenuous in his support of the manager, saying one thing publicly, advocating the opposite privately.

But Epstein gets the benefit of the doubt here. No one in Epstein's position can be expected to be completely forthright in his public comments, but so far, the Sox GM has made openness and candor important tenets of the way he does his job, and he is too smart -- and, by all appearances, honorable -- to be weaving a tale of deceit in Little's case. The truth, after all, tends to come out eventually.

In any event, ranked in no particular order, here are some names that are likely to be discussed in the Sox managerial search:

* Glenn Hoffman. He's young, progressive, and has a Red Sox link, having been their shortstop in the 1980s, so he understands the pressures inherent in the job. He turned down a chance to interview for the job before Little was hired, because of the uncertainty of the Sox GM situation at the time. He'd already gone through that once in Los Angeles, when he had a brief term as Dodgers manager when Tom Lasorda was interim GM. Lasorda recommended him to Henry the last time. Hoffman, the Dodgers' third base coach, also has a relationship with Dave Wallace, who is likely to replace Tony Cloninger as pitching coach. Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who worked with Hoffman in the Dodger organization, is said to be a big fan. A name that bears watching.

* Jim Fregosi. Fregosi was originally drafted by the Red Sox, then let go in the expansion draft to the Angels. He has loads of experience, a strong presence, thick skin that could handle the pressures of Boston, and he would be well-suited to manage a veteran club. It remains to be seen how receptive he would be to the Jamesian influences, however. Plus, he hasn't won.

* Davey Lopes. He's tough, he's local (from Providence), he has experience, and he has a long connection with Lucchino, having been a coach for the Orioles when Lucchino was in Baltimore, then following Lucchino to San Diego. What makes him a tough sell is that when he was in Milwaukee, the Brewers were terrible, and he was fired.

* Bruce Bochy. The Padres manager is admired and respected by Epstein, and he took the Padres to the World Series under Lucchino in 1998. He is under contract in San Diego, which makes his availability unlikely, especially since Padres owner John Moores has no love for Lucchino and made him squirm before letting Epstein leave. Another problem is that in temperament, public persona, and approach to the game, he's much like Little, who once served as Bochy's bullpen coach.

* Jim Tracy. The Dodgers manager might not survive a change in ownership and front office. Another Alou disciple, Tracy has youth, communication skills, and experience in his favor, though he hasn't won anything in LA.

* Jerry Manuel. He's a longtime disciple of Alou, whom Henry tried hard to hire the last go-round. Manuel is smart, principled, articulate, and has a Felipe-like presence about him that instantly demands respect. He also showed gumption in calling out superstar Frank Thomas while manager of the White Sox. But the perception is that the White Sox were underachievers during his tenure and folded badly down the stretch, when the AL Central was there for the taking. In Chicago, he was called "Gandhi," which wasn't necessarily a term of endearment. But he has the tools to fit the more progressive approach the Sox would like to take.

* Eddie Murray. No shot. Guys who played with the Hall of Famer swear by him as a committed teammate, but Murray's problems with the media are legendary, and he and Lucchino had their issues when Murray played for the Orioles.

* Mike Hargrove. His biggest pluses are that he managed a winner in Cleveland and had a great relationship with Manny Ramirez, who has sought out Hargrove for counsel since coming to the Red Sox. He was not renewed by the Orioles after two seasons in which the club stumbled badly down the stretch. He has some name value, though he might strike some as just another recycled guy.

* Bud Black. The Angels pitching coach is a name put forth by de facto baseball commissioner Peter Gammons, and is admired for his intelligence, work ethic, and people skills. But he has zero managing experience, and Boston is no place for your first job.

* Terry Francona. Francona, who managed Nomar Garciaparra in the Arizona Fall League, is in play in Baltimore, and he has been a finalist for several jobs since being fired by the Phillies. But he didn't make the Sox cut before Little was hired, which makes you wonder why they'd have interest now.

* Cito Gaston. Two-time World Series winner in Toronto has never gotten another chance elsewhere, though he is said to be the leading candidate for the White Sox job. He is extremely low key, and the PR aspects of the job, which may be more important in Boston than other places, never have been a strong suit. Deserving of a look, though.

* Willie Randolph. Yankees third base coach and former captain gets plenty of interviews, never a callback. He is said to be in line to manage the Yankees when Torre's term ends, though that has never been promised to him. He hasn't managed before, but there's nothing wrong with raiding the Empire, is there?

* Bobby Valentine. He has a tremendous baseball mind, but it has been said that no one has more enemies in the game than Bobby V. His perceived genius for self-promotion, somehow finding a way to make it all about Bobby V., is the biggest fault his critics see. That certainly wouldn't play well in Boston.

* Bucky Dent. Twenty-five years later, Bucky Bleepin' Dent? Just kidding, though Dent has been rumored as another possible Torre successor.

* Jerry Narron, Mike Cubbage. Highly doubtful that a member of Little's staff will get an interview. The same probably holds true for Buddy Bailey, the manager of Pawtucket.

* Tom Kelly. He has two World Series rings on his resume (1987 and '91 with the Twins) and an unquestioned reputation as a tactician. He doesn't worry much about being loved in the clubhouse -- both Todd Walker and David Ortiz despise him to this day. Did not show interest in the job when contacted by the Sox two years ago, but could get the itch again.

* Jim Leyland. Leyland, who won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997, then had a bad experience in Colorado, says he's through with managing. But he always has loved Boston, and with his track record, it certainly would be worth placing a phone call.

Freed up

While Carl Pavano was pitching the game of his life in the World Series and would have been on call for Game 7, the pitcher who was often intertwined with Pavano in the Boston system, Dartmouth, Mass., product Brian Rose, became a six-year minor league free agent after spending last season in the Royals system. A couple of other six-year minor league free agents of note are Morgan Burkhart, the Frontier League legend who played for the Sox, and Worcester's Tanyon Sturtze, who was not placed on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster . . . For the second straight year, the Sox will be staging a Halloween celebration at Fenway, which was a big success last season. It will run from 3-7 p.m. Stop & Shop again will provide the candy, and Wally the Green Monster will be on hand, as well as Red Sox front office members dressed for the occasion (insert your favorite Grady ghost line here). In lieu of an admission charge, visitors will be asked to make a donation to the Red Sox Foundation or donate a blanket for those in need . . . A scouting report on Kelly Shoppach, the Sox' top catching prospect currently playing very well in the Arizona Fall League: "He's got a chance to be very good, but still needs to work on some things. He has a great release to second base, but needs to improve his conditioning to consistently impact the game defensively. He doesn't have a classic swing but he should hit enough to be an everyday catcher. He needs development time on both sides of his game and should spend at least four months at Triple A next year. Big league camp will be valuable for him, especially getting to spend time around Jason Varitek and catching major league pitching." . . . Hal McCoy, the Hall of Fame sportswriter from the Dayton Daily News, got this from Dave Collins, the former Reds coach: "I've been in baseball since 1972 and the two hardest workers I have ever encountered are Pete Rose and Juan Pierre," Collins said. "This kid has a talent people dream of having, an unbelievable work ethic." . . . Dave Stewart is serving as pitching coach for Team USA, which should be a nice first step back toward a job in the big leagues, where he belongs . . . Outside of Cleveland, his name didn't come up much in the Rookie of the Year debate, but the Sporting News named Indians outfielder Jody Gerut its Rookie of the Year, over more publicized candidates such as Hideki Matsui and Rocco Baldelli. Gerut, 26, didn't open the season with the Indians. He joined them in late April from Triple A Buffalo and hit .279 (134 for 480) with 33 doubles, 22 homers, and 75 RBIs. He's the first rookie to lead the Indians in homers and RBIs since Joe Charboneau in 1980 . . . Jim Duquette remains odds-on favorite to drop the interim title and become the permanent GM of the Mets . . . Dan Duquette has been rumored to become part of Frank McCourt's team in LA if McCourt's purchase of the Dodgers goes through . . . A perfect fit in Seattle as GM would be Brian Cashman, but unless he gets canned by Steinbrenner, that's not going to happen. He has a year left on his contract but will be an attractive free agent next year.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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