IT'S SHAPING UP asa bloody postseason for big-name skippers. Three former NL managers of theyear--Frank Robinson (Nationals), Felipe Alou (Giants) and Dusty Baker(Cubs)--have already lost their jobs, and the favorite to win this year, theMarlins' Joe Girardi, will probably lose his, too. That should benefit one newname: Braves third base coach Fredi Gonzalez. The 42-year-old is this year'sGirardi: the hot candidate with no previous major league managing experience.(Girardi, whom Florida picked over Gonzalez last year, most likely won'tsurvive in Florida after clashing with management. Look for him to resurfacewith Washington or the Cubs.)
The Cuban-bornGonzalez, a former catcher who hit .192 in the minors, served 11 years with theMarlins as a minor league manager and big league coach before joining Atlantain 2003. He is also a candidate to replace Robinson (Nationals president StanKasten is familiar with him from his days with the Braves) or Baker (Cubs G.M.Jim Hendry worked with him in Florida).
In addition toGonzalez, Mets third base coach Manny Acta; Trey Hillman, who manages in Japan;and White Sox third base coach Joey Cora are up-and-comers. But for a team withan opening, cash and a promise to contend next season--the Giants, Cubs andpossibly Phillies--the best available candidate is a familiar one: LouPiniella, who is ready to jump back in the game after a year off.