Monday, June 22, 1998 | 8:14 a.m.
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers, mired in the standings and wracked by injuries, fired manager Bill Russell and general manager Fred Claire in a shakeup confirming tradition is out under new Fox ownership.
Team president Bob Graziano announced the firings of Russell, a 32-year veteran of the franchise, and Claire, a 30-year employee, late Sunday night in a conference call with reporters.
Russell will be replaced by Glenn Hoffman, manager of the Albuquerque Dukes, the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate, and Claire will be replaced by Tom Lasorda, a team vice president and the club's longtime manager.
Both Hoffman, the older brother of San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman, and Lasorda will serve on an interim basis, Graziano said.
"I felt a change needed to be made in order for the team to improve and get back on track," he said.
Last year, the Dodgers went 88-74 in Russell's first full season as manager and finished second in the NL West, failing to make the playoffs. They are 36-38 this year, 12 1/2 games behind first-place San Diego.
Graziano said he made the decision to fire Russell and Claire in consultation with former owner Peter O'Malley, who sold the team to Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Corp. in a deal completed in January.
"Peter and I have spent a lot of time meeting over the last few days talking about how to improve our team and get it back on track," Graziano said.
"I did let the people at Fox know about the decision I was making. They fully support it."
The firings are the latest major changes under the Fox ownership. The Dodgers recently traded fan favorites Hideo Nomo and Mike Piazza, who had spent his entire career with Los Angeles. Both are with the New York Mets.
The team has been troubled by injuries to staff ace Ramon Martinez, Bobby Bonilla, Todd Hollandsworth, Eric Young and Jose Vizcaino. Bonilla was part of the blockbuster seven-player trade with Florida involving Piazza.
"You can't just answer every injury. You lose your No. 1 starting pitcher and you can't go out and just find another starting pitcher," Claire said before being fired. "You can't go out and find a starting third baseman."
Martinez went on the disabled list Friday because of a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. A day later, Bonilla joined him on the DL because of an intestinal infection.
Los Angeles had already lost Hollandsworth to the 60-day DL, while Young has missed time twice because of a strained right quadricep muscle. Vizcaino is out with a sprained right ankle.
The Dodgers inserted Dennis Reyes into Martinez's spot in the rotation and had rookie Paul Konerko take over for Bonilla at third.
"Those two are doing the best they can, but they have yet to establish themselves," Russell said before being dismissed. "You don't replace a Bobby Bonilla, a left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. You don't replace a Ramon Martinez. They are your everyday starters."
Graziano said Lasorda will help the team search for Claire's permanent replacement.
"I didn't know anything about it," Lasorda, 70, who retired as manager in 1996 and was succeeded by Russell, told reporters during the conference call.
Graziano said Russell and Claire "always gave 100 percent to their jobs so they were disappointed that that effort wasn't enough."
"Fact of the matter is we haven't been getting our job done," Graziano said.
After the Piazza trade was engineered by Fox executive Chase Carey, Claire openly complained that he had no knowledge of the deal until it was done.
Graziano said he decided on Hoffman as interim manager after recommendations from several people, including Lasorda.
"I think Glenn was a natural," he said.
Hoffman, 39, led Albuquerque to a 62-79 record in his first season. He was forced to play 49 different players because of injuries and promotions. He oversaw the development of Konerko.
Hoffman played nine major league seasons as an infielder with Boston, the Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels.
Russell, 49, was an All-Star shortstop three times during his 18 seasons as a player for the Dodgers. He was the team's infield and bench coach from 1987-91 before managing Albuquerque from 1992-93.
Claire, 62, was in his 12th as general manager. He took over after the late Al Campanis was fired in 1987 for controversial remarks about blacks lacking "the necessities" to become managers or executives. Campanis died earlier Sunday at age 81.
Under Claire's tenure, the Dodgers produced five of the last six NL rookies of the year -- Eric Karros, Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Nomo and Hollandsworth.
Los Angeles won the World Series in 1988, Claire's second season as general manager. He joined the team in 1969 as director of publicity and was appointed vice president of public relations and promotions in 1975.