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Johnson Call Is Made: He’s Out

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers have already told Manager Davey Johnson he will not return next season, and a news conference to announce the long-expected move has been tentatively scheduled Friday at Dodger Stadium, The Times has learned.

Chairman Bob Daly and President Bob Graziano informed Johnson, under contract through 2001 at $1.5 million, that he would not be retained during a meeting last Friday at the stadium before the club’s final series against the San Diego Padres, sources outside the organization confirmed.

The news is better for General Manager Kevin Malone.

Malone has remained actively involved this week in charting the organization’s course, indicating he will return in the third year of his four-year contract.

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Daly and Graziano are scheduled to meet with Johnson again Friday after Johnson returns from a Baja California fishing trip in Cabo San Lucas.

It is unclear whether Johnson, scheduled to return to his off-season home in Winter Park, Fla., Friday night, will attend the news conference. Johnson did not return calls to his cell phone Tuesday.

Derrick Hall, senior vice president, commented on behalf of Daly and Graziano.

“Both Bobs spoke to Davey, Davey made it clear that he wanted to go fishing, and they wanted to respect his wishes,” Hall said. “They had wanted to set up [another] meeting for the early part of this week, but Davey had expressed his desire to go on vacation and to wait until after he returned to resolve the matter.

“We expect Davey to return Thursday or Friday, but nothing, at this point, has been made official or definitive. We will wait for Davey’s return to finalize the issue.”

Johnson seemed resigned to his impending dismissal while the Dodgers took two of three from the Padres at Qualcomm Stadium, winning 11 of their final 15 games.

He reminisced about his stormy two seasons with the club, even joking occasionally about his disastrous partnership with Malone.

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After being ejected in the second inning in Sunday’s 4-0, season-ending loss, Johnson said, “We have a good foundation here and I enjoyed being a Dodger. I’m going fishing.”

He added that “the die has been cast . . . when you have the payroll that we have here and you don’t win, someone is going to take the brunt of it.”

Daly decided to oust baseball’s winningest active manager after a season in which the Dodgers (86-76) finished second in the National League West and had nine more victories than last season.

But Daly hoped for more after increasing the payroll to $98 million in his first season in baseball, approving several major moves and making strong comments at the All-Star break that he said were intended to motivate the high-priced club and proven manager.

Johnson was fired less than two years after being hired although the club made significant improvement while overcoming glaring holes in the rotation, bullpen and everyday lineup.

The progress was enough to help Malone remain in his position.

Malone and Johnson clashed throughout their tenure at Chavez Ravine, sources said, stirring frustration in the executive offices and creating clubhouse concern and confusion as to how the club’s top baseball officials could be at such polar extremes.

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The general manager came under scrutiny in September after it had been revealed that he had spoken frequently with Fox baseball analyst Kevin Kennedy about the Dodger managerial situation against the mandates of Daly and Graziano.

Malone denied having inappropriate conversations with Kennedy, whom he did not offer the job, but the Dodgers were concerned because Malone had been counseled about being more guarded in his comments about the franchise.

However, Daly is otherwise satisfied with the direction of baseball operations under Malone and reluctant to remove him after only two seasons on the job.

Johnson was not as lucky.

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