Wallach is ready to be a skipper
It was Christmas Eve of 1992. As the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I called our publicity department to tell the guys I had a trade that needed to be announced.
"Fred, it's Christmas Eve -- and if we announce a trade right now, the writers will not be very happy," one of the members of the department said.
I said I was sorry about the timing, but my philosophy was to make announcements as the developments dictated. The press release about the trade couldn't be delayed because of the holidays.
The announcement was made. The Dodgers had acquired third baseman Tim Wallach from the Montreal Expos in exchange for Minor League infielder Tim Barker.
I was excited about bringing Wallach to the Dodgers. Sure, he was 35 years old and already had played 13 seasons for the Montreal Expos. But I knew all about his character, his leadership and what he could bring to a team that featured several outstanding young players in Eric Karros, Mike Piazza and Raul Mondesi.
Wallach didn't disappoint me. He was the Dodgers' regular third baseman from 1993-95 and had productive seasons despite battling injuries.
More important, Wallach showed the younger Dodger players how to prepare for a season and how to face the challenges and demands of a 162-game schedule.
Tim Wallach won the respect of everyone in the Dodger organization.
I thought about Wallach when I saw the announcement that he will be joining the Dodgers this week after serving his second season as manager of the team's Triple-A club in Albuquerque.
He will be coming to the team with more attention than he cares to draw.
The last thing Wallach has ever sought is attention. But he finds himself being added to the staff at a time when manager Joe Torre has declared he will soon reveal his plans for the future.
The early speculation was that if Torre decided to leave his role as manager, his replacement would be his long-time associate and friend, hitting coach Don Mattingly. But recent stories from several outlets have placed Wallach's name squarely in the picture when it comes to discussions of who will be the Dodgers' next manager.
"At this point, Donnie is probably the leading candidate," general manager Ned Colletti told the Los Angeles Times in a story on Sunday.
Colletti, however, followed up by giving Wallach a strong voice of support.
"I think the world of Tim," said Colletti. "He's going to be a very good big league manager."
The Dodgers would seem to be operating from a position of strength should Torre decide to step down with both Mattingly and Wallach on the scene -- plus an opportunity to swing any interview process wide open.
The team is fortunate that both Mattingly and Wallach are proven professionals in every way. Both command respect from people in the game and have been on the big league stage long enough that they aren't going to be trapped in any discussions regarding the role of the next Dodger manager.
"Sure, I want to manage in the big leagues. I'd love for it to be the Dodgers someday," Wallach told the Los Angeles Times. "[But] it's really uncomfortable for me to talk about it because Joe and Donnie, they've treated me like I'm part of the staff.
"I'd love to see Joe stay because I think he's a great manager. I really, to be honest, have not thought about that."
When Wallach says he would like to see Torre stay on as the Dodgers' manager, and gives his own support to Mattingly, you can be sure these are not just words, but true feelings.
I know Wallach well enough to know that he is as honest as a person can be.
I also know that he is deserving of an opportunity to manage at the Major League level -- and that opening will come. He has managed four years in the Minors, the last two at Albuquerque. He previously served as the Dodgers' hitting coach for two seasons.
What sort of a manager has he been at Albuquerque these last two seasons?
I called a writer who has kept a close eye on Wallach while reporting for the Albuquerque Examiner website, veteran baseball observer, Chris Jackson.
"My view is that Tim commands respect from all of the players. You never see his players argue with him or debate with him. And he's dealing with guys in their 20s and 30s," says Jackson, who has covered baseball for two daily newspapers.
"Tim has shown tremendous patience this season while dealing with a number of issues. He has had 40 different pitchers on his staff with all of the player movement, including 22 different starters.
"He handled all of this, while keeping his team in contention for the playoffs until the very end."
Jackson said the only difficulty he had with Wallach was getting him to talk about his own stellar 17-season career, that included selection to five National League All-Star teams.
"The only way you can get Tim to talk about anything personal is to ask him about his sons [two played in the Dodger organization this season -- one being traded to the Chicago Cubs, and the other attending junior college after being drafted by the Dodgers]. He always loved to talk about his boys."
A great career. A great baseball man. A great family man. A future Major League manager.
Wallach says he is in no rush for the job of big league manager. When he arrives, he will be ready.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.