Sources: Brewers favor Valentine

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DALLAS -- Bobby Valentine appears to be the leading candidate for the Brewers managerial job, sources close to the team say.

Valentine, the former Mets and Rangers manager, is said by two sources familiar with the Brewers' situation to be the likely first choice of the Brewers and expected him to receive an offer, with White Sox coach Joey Cora the probable first fall-back candidate if a contract can't be reached with Valentine. Former Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin is believed to be the third choice, and Angels coach Ron Roenicke the fourth choice -- although, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said in a phone interview Saturday with Sports Illustrated that GM Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash were still making calls to gather information about the finalists through the weekend and that there was "no lead horse'' yet.

"All four candidates are under consideration. We have no lead horse, and we are working through the weekend on this,'' Attanasio said in a brief phone interview.

Attanasio indicated he expected a decision soon after the World Series, as three of the four finalists have jobs with other teams, suggesting a decision needed to be made for the sake of fairness.

A report from Wisconsin Radio Network a few days ago said there was already an "agreement in principle'' with Valentine, though that report also said the sides had not actually agreed on a contract. But Valentine, here working the World Series for ESPN, said he has not heard from the Brewers recently and has received no offer from them, which jibes with what Attanasio said.

Money could be an issue, though, as Valentine recently received a big bump in his ESPN contract after reports surfaced about interest on the part of teams, according to a broadcast source. He also is believed to now have an incentives clause in his contract designed to keep him at ESPN for three more years.

Valentine's last Mets' contract reportedly was for $7.95 million over three years, which would be a high price for the Brewers, a small-market team. But the Brewers do rely heavily on ticket sales as their local TV revenues are among the lowest in baseball and are coming off two straight losing seasons under Ken Macha, which could partly explain their interest in a big-name manager who's likely to come with a higher price tag than they have paid in the past. Macha's two-year contract was not renewed after the year.

Valentine, 60, is said to have been disappointed to have been passed over recently for the Mariners managing job. But he has turned down a few previous opportunities since returning from Japan, where he earned a reported $4 million as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines. While the Brewers wouldn't match that pay, a source close to the Brewers professed confidence something would get done, saying, "Bobby's going to want to get back in. They'll work it out.'' Valentine has told people he liked the Brewers' people very much.

Valentine looked like he was about to get the Marlins job in the summer before an interview with a Marlins executive caused the team to back off. The Marlins wound up offering Valentine the managing job this offseason, anyway, but this time he turned them down. In the summer, he turned down a chance to interview with the Orioles. The Brewers have wondered why someone as accomplished as Valentine hasn't landed anywhere yet, but they noted to themselves that whatever happened in that Florida interview "wasn't fatal,'' as the Marlins wound up offering him the job this offseason after pulling back in the summer.

Attanasio said Melvin originally presented a list of eight candidates. They winnowed the list to the four finalists, who all had meetings with them. Attanasio praised Melvin for compiling an excellent list, suggesting they could have been comfortable with six of the candidates.

Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum was not given an interview for the managing job but was instead signed to a two-year deal to return as hitting coach. Willie Randolph, another former Mets manager with a winning record, was not given an interview by the Brewers, either, and sources close to the team indicate it's because a new start was sought after the team's recent underperformance under Macha. Pitching coach Rick Peterson has a year to go on his contract, but it is believed an incoming manager could have input on that position, unlike in the case of the hitting coach.