|Wednesday, April 18
Updated: April 20, 2:43 AM ET
Malone resigns under pressure
LOS ANGELES Kevin Malone resigned Thursday as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending a 2 1/2-year tenure in which his mouth and questionable baseball decisions kept embarrassing the team.
Malone quit five days after threatening a Padres fan who heckled Dodgers outfielder Gary Sheffield in San Diego.
"I absolutely refuse to allow myself to become a distraction," Malone said at a news conference, reading from a letter addressed to Dodgers chairman Bob Daly.
"He really believed he was a distraction, and we agreed with that," Daly later told reporters.
Smiling briefly before he began reading, Malone finished the letter, refused to take questions and drove away from Dodger Stadium.
"I regret only that those who have judged me harshly didn't get to know me better," Malone said. "I regret I couldn't convince them how much I care. I hope my actions today will give them some indication."
Assistant general manager Dave Wallace will oversee baseball operations while the team searches for a permanent GM.
Although he liked Malone and frequently defended him since his hiring in September 1998, Daly described the 43-year-old as "a distraction, a lightning rod."
"He does have a tendency to put his foot in his mouth," Daly said. "I'm disappointed that these things kept happening."
Malone had not been able to steer the Dodgers into playoff contention despite one of baseball's highest payrolls.
Daly grew tired of Malone's misadventures and believed the resignation was the way to put the focus back on winning. The Dodgers were 7-8 going into Thursday night's game at San Francisco.
"I found myself always in the middle of trying to explain certain things that I really didn't think I should have to explain," said Daly, who prefers not to be involved in the day-to-day operations. "That had to do with mostly off-the-field situations."
Daly repeatedly tried to counsel Malone, to no avail.
"When I got here ... Kevin sort of dug himself in a little bit of a hole. I thought I could help him get out of that hole," Daly said.
"I had a lot of conversations with Kevin, trying to help him. We would take three steps forward and then we'd slide back two steps. He would sometimes walk into a minefield."
The latest problem occurred Saturday when Jim Esterbrooks, a Padres season ticket-holder, said Malone began arguing with him during a game at Qualcomm Stadium.
Esterbrooks and others seated in a section behind home plate said Malone challenged him to a fight in defense of Sheffield, whom Esterbrooks was heckling.
"I was stunned when it happened," Esterbrooks said. "He (Malone) started calling me `Mouth.' He said, `What do you know, Mouth?"'
Malone told the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story Tuesday, that Esterbrooks was the aggressor.
"I can't comment on what he felt I was doing," Malone said. "He was loud, belligerent, obnoxious and rude. He knew who I was, and I didn't know that at the time."
Former manager Tom Lasorda suggested Malone should have ignored Esterbrooks.
"He (Malone) wanted to defend a player, but you can't get into fights with fans sitting in the stands no matter how bad it gets," said Lasorda, now a senior vice president with the Dodgers.
Malone cited his exuberance in his resignation.
"That passion has, I'm sure, annoyed some, been misunderstood by others, but respected by those who know me best," he said.
Daly said the San Diego exchange prompted a meeting with Malone and team president Bob Graziano, who hired Malone. However, he said what happened wasn't the sole reason Malone resigned.
"It was a culmination of things," said Daly, adding that Malone never mentioned the confrontation to team officials. "He probably didn't think it was a big incident at all."
But it was the latest in a string of episodes in which Malone's mouth caused him problems. Among them:
Malone was making $500,000 a year, and was in the third season of a four-year contract.
Wallace, 53, spent three years with the New York Mets in an executive position and as pitching coach. Before that, he spent 17 years with the Dodgers, the final three as pitching coach.
Wallace was brought back to the Dodgers in December to work at their minor-league complex in Vero Beach, Fla., and "has no desire to be general manager," Daly said.