- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lou Piniella’s decision not to pursue the Washington Nationals’ vacant managerial job has left the race to replace Frank Robinson wide open.

Piniella, who was believed to be general manager Jim Bowden’s top choice, told reporters in Oakland, Calif., Monday that he’s not interested in the job. That would appear to make Joe Girardi the front-runner, though several other clubs, particularly the Chicago Cubs, could say the same thing about the recently fired Florida Marlins manager.

Girardi, who grew up in Illinois, graduated from Northwestern and played for the Cubs, interviewed there Monday and is widely expected to be offered the job. (That is, unless Chicago general manager Jim Hendry decides to turn to Piniella now that there’s no chance of the latter replacing Joe Torre with the New York Yankees.)

The San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers also have interest in Girardi, complicating matters for Washington and perhaps prolonging the search.

Girardi may now top their list, but the Nationals continue to add names to the mix. According to sources, the organization has already met (or plans to meet) with former Giants and Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Atlanta Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton, Yankees first base coach Tony Pena, Houston Astros bench coach Cecil Cooper and Chicago White Sox third base coach Joey Cora.

Washington also may want to speak to candidates whose teams are still in the playoffs, such as New York Mets coaches Manny Acta and Jerry Manuel. Among those not being considered at the moment, according to sources, are former major league manager Davey Johnson and Nationals third base coach Tony Beasley.

Neither Bowden nor team president Stan Kasten has commented on the club’s managerial search since announcing Robinson’s firing 11 days ago.

From the start, the Nationals figured to have strong interest in hiring Piniella, who won a World Series in Cincinnati shortly before Bowden became the Reds’ GM and more recently led the Seattle Mariners to the playoffs four times in a seven-year stretch.

The 63-year-old did meet with Bowden and other Nationals officials last week but decided afterward the job wasn’t right for him.

“You know, they’ve got a team that’s going to be building for the future,” Piniella told reporters in Oakland for the American League Championship Series. “That’s a situation that’s really not for a guy like me. I think they’re going to go for a young manager and rightfully so.”

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