Nationals willing to wait on new skipper

Nationals willing to wait on skipper

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been looking for a manager since Sept. 28 when they told Frank Robinson that he would not be retained for the 2007 season, and the search may last awhile. The team is willing to wait until December to name a replacement.

"[It's a] long, thorough, detailed process that might not conclude until the Winter Meetings," said a person familiar with Washington's search.

The Nationals have interviewed Astros bench coach Cecil Cooper, White Sox third-base coach Joey Cora, former Marlins skipper Joe Girardi, Lou Piniella, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton and Yankees first-base coch Tony Pena, and they are set to interview Mets third-base coach Manny Acta soon. Cooper and Cora have been told already they are no longer candidates, and Piniella is now the manager of the Cubs. Pena, who is currently in the Dominican Republic, said this week that he talked to Natonals general manager Jim Bowden once and that was by phone.

Pendleton, who has long ties to team president Stan Kasten, has been silent during the search.

It has been widely speculated that Girardi is a leading candidate to land the managerial job with the Nationals, but another baseball source said, "Nothing is safe to write at this point."

There was even a report out of New York that Davey Johnson was interested in being the Nationals' next manager, but he told on Friday night that he is a not a candidate and that the job most likely would go to a younger manager. Johnson is 63 years old. Piniella had those same feelings a couple of weeks ago.

Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who is at the World Series, said Saturday evening that he doesn't consider himself a candidate for the Nationals job. He hasn't heard from Bowden in two weeks.

Bowden was not available for comment. Bowden and other members of the "think tank," such as Kasten and assistant general managers Bob Boone and Mike Rizzo, have been mum on their managerial search.

Bowden has talked to the media once since Sept. 30, the day the Nationals officially announced that Robinson was let go, and that was via e-mail when the team retained pitching coach Randy St. Claire earlier this week.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.