There were hints late in the season that Davey Lopes' future with the Phillies was in doubt. In September, Lopes said he was undecided whether he'd return despite an open invitation from the team. Manager Charlie Manuel said Lopes and Ruben Amaro Jr. had differences they needed to discuss.
On Monday, those differences resulted in Lopes informing the team he will not return as first-base coach for the 2011 season. The two sides could not agree on a salary.
"I feel this is a different situation than most situations," Lopes said by phone. "I'm not saying the money they offered was not good. Everybody will say, 'It's a money thing. It's a money thing.' That played into it. But there's a certain time in your career where you're pigeon-holed and I don't feel as though I should be. It should be based on your value to the club. It has nothing to do with if I'm a first-base coach or third-base coach. What is my value to the club?"
Lopes declined to say how far apart the club and he were on a salary. He said he was not looking for pitching or hitting coach money.
Many would argue Lopes' value is immeasurable. Since taking over in 2007 and being handed the reins to the Phillies' running game, the team has successfully stolen bases on 84.3 percent of their attempts, by far the best mark in the majors during that span.
Lopes said, as far as he knows, he is the only first-base coach in the majors who has complete control of a team's running game. On most clubs, the manager makes those decisions. But with the Phillies, Lopes made the call when or when not to steal. Sometimes, Lopes said, Manuel would issue hit-and-runs, but that was his only involvement.
But in baseball, first-base coach is one of the lowest positions on the totem pole. Lopes said he felt he was different than other first-base coaches and wanted to be compensated thusly. The Phillies decided against it.
"But again, that's a matter of philosophy," Lopes said. "And that's fine. I just felt it was time to make a stand. Sometimes you have to do things you don't necessarily want to do. That's what I did. Will it cost me? Will someone offer me a deal? I don't know. If they do, great. If they don't, fine. I've been blessed for all these years."
Lopes said the Phillies gave him until Monday to make a decision. He called Amaro during the afternoon to say he was leaving.
"I found out about Davey's decision today and clearly we are disappointed that he will not be a Phillie next season," Amaro said in a statement. "We were hopeful that he would have remained with us as he did a fine job with our baserunners and our outfielders for the last four years. Going forward, we will immediately begin a search for his replacement."
Lopes said he will actively look for another job in baseball for the 2011 season. If he has to sit out a whole season, he said he will likely retire.
Much more from Lopes in Tuesday's Inquirer.