Thursday, January 11, 2007

During his final days as manager of the Washington Nationals last fall, Frank Robinson made clear his interest in maintaining a relationship with the organization, preferably in the form of a front-office position.

Three months later, Robinson has been told he won’t be offered a paying job of any kind. And though the club is offering him a chance to come to spring training and be honored with “Frank Robinson Day” at RFK Stadium in May, the 71-year-old Hall of Famer sounds as if he may prefer to sever his relationship with the franchise altogether.

“If people don’t make you feel like they want you around or that you are needed or reach out and show you respect, why are you going to be around them?” Robinson said yesterday from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s like they don’t want me around. That’s the way I feel.”

General manager Jim Bowden, under the instruction of team president Stan Kasten, called the ex-manager Monday and said the club wouldn’t be offering him any sort of paid position.

“It was a difficult decision for me personally, in consultation with the baseball staff, because all of us have so much respect for Frank,” Kasten said. “But on balance, given the changes we are making moving forward, I just concluded this was the best way to proceed.”

Though Robinson still was harboring some hope a significant offer would be forthcoming, he already had resigned himself to the likelihood it would not.

“It took 2½ months for anybody to even contact me, so that tells you something right there,” he said. “I don’t think there ever was going to be a job offer, to tell you the truth.”

Robinson, originally hired by Major League Baseball to manage the Montreal Expos in 2002, was given an opportunity to come to spring training and serve as a uniformed instructor at both the Nationals’ big league and minor league camps, with the club paying for his expenses.

Bowden and Kasten both said yesterday they believe there’s still a chance that could happen, but Robinson indicated he has no interest in accepting the offer.

“The thing about that is that’s not even a position,” Robinson said. “I want to be putting my time in just to be around the ballclub and get my expenses paid? No.”

When asked whether he would attend a proposed “Frank Robinson Day” May 20 against the Baltimore Orioles, Robinson declined to answer.

Robinson’s relationship with Bowden and Kasten while manager was rocky at times, and some of the ill will surfaced during the final week of the season. Knowing his fifth one-year contract since joining the franchise was about to expire, Robinson publicly made it known he wanted an answer regarding his future.

Bowden finally called Robinson into his office Sept. 28 — with four games remaining in the season — and told the manager he would not be asked back. Robinson all but revealed his fate during his media session that afternoon, but the club didn’t formally announce the decision until two days later, making for an awkward period.

There also was debate over the manner in which the Nationals would honor Robinson during his final game as manager, especially given time constraints. The team ultimately held a pregame ceremony, with Robinson addressing the RFK crowd during a 10-minute speech, and said a more thorough celebration would be held sometime during the 2007 season.

Now, Robinson must decide whether he wants to accept the Nationals’ invitation, a decision that could speak volumes about his desire to continue a relationship with the organization or part ways for good.

“We thought about this a lot for a long time over the last few months as we were doing other things in all levels of the organization,” Kasten said. “But — and I’m going to personally accept responsibility for this decision — when it’s over, it’s just what I think is best for all of us going forward.”

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