Friday, October 18, 2002

Mets deny Piniella report

The Associated Press

        BOSTON — The New York Mets denied a report Thursday night that they have received permission from the Seattle Mariners to speak to manager Lou Piniella.

        “These reports are incorrect. We've been hearing them all night,” Mets spokesman Jay Horowitz said. “We do not have permission to talk to Piniella.”

        ESPN Radio in New York reported that the Mets agreed to compensation terms with Seattle, which was required for any team to interview Piniella. The radio station also indicated that Piniella could be announced as the Mets' manager Friday.

        The New York Daily News quoted Piniella as being “disappointed” with the Mariners' handling of the negotiations, and that he wants to “get on with my life”

        The newspaper also said Friday that commissioner Bud Selig is growing concerned about the negotiations. Teams will not be permitted to announce managerial announcements during the World Series, which starts Saturday.

        “Obviously I wish they could have started this process earlier,” Selig said. “I'm concerned about anything that would be a distraction to the World Series, as this could be. And I plan to talk to all the parties to hopefully bring a resolution to it.”

        While it remained unclear where Piniella would manage next, Boston dropped out of the equation Thursday. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said the team has not asked for permission to talk to Piniella and doesn't plan to do so.

        Seattle has agreed to release Piniella from the final year of his contract, provided teams interested in interviewing him give the Mariners “appropriate and reasonable compensation.” So far, the Mets and Tampa Bay Devil Rays have expressed interest, but neither team could agree with the Mariners on a price.

        “The Devil Rays have had several discussions today with the Seattle Mariners concerning compensation for Lou Piniella,” Tampa Bay GM Chuck LaMar said. “At this point, we have not agreed to terms.”

        Piniella's agent, Alan Nero, did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

        Newsday, citing an anonymous baseball source, reported that the Mariners no longer were asking for two of the Mets' top prospects — shortstop Jose Reyes and pitcher Aaron Heilman — but that talks had stalled anyway.

        The Mariners had previously said that a third team had expressed interest in interviewing Piniella, leading to speculation that the Red Sox would try to fire Grady Little and fire Piniella. But Lucchino denied it.

        “We don't have any current plans to pursue that,” he told reporters during a conference call to discuss Boston's stalled search for a general manager. “It's a little frustrating ... but our priorities aren't necessarily other people's priorities. The fact that we're burning up a phone line doesn't mean that anybody else has to interrupt a vacation to get back to us.”

        Already, the Red Sox have been turned down by two men for the general manager job: Montreal GM Omar Minaya, who said he wanted to continue working to improve the Expos, and former New York Yankees general manager Gene Michael, who said Thursday he was withdrawing his name from consideration.

        “I am under contract to the New York Yankees, with whom I have spent more than 30 exciting and rewarding years,” Michael said in a statement. “I feel a tremendous loyalty to both the Yankees and to George Steinbrenner.”

        The Red Sox have also reportedly expressed interest in Sandy Alderson, an executive vice president in the commissioner's office, and Billy Beane, the Oakland general manager.

        Other than Minaya, the only name under consideration that the Red Sox have confirmed is Mike Port, who took over as interim GM when Lucchino fired Dan Duquette a day after the purchase of the Red Sox was completed.

        “He remains a candidate on the 'A' List,” Lucchino said.

        Despite having baseball's second-highest payroll at $110.2 million, Boston finished second in the AL East at 93-69, 10 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees and 6 games behind Anaheim for the AL wild card.

        “We expect that the process is likely to take a few weeks, at the very least,” Lucchino said. “Nothing is imminent. We don't think we're missing a beat in terms of the day-to-day operations of the club. ... the people that are holding down the fort are doing a very capable job.”


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