There were signs late in the season that Davey Lopes' future with the Phillies was in doubt. In September, Lopes said he was undecided on whether he'd return as first-base coach despite an open invitation from the team. Manager Charlie Manuel said Lopes and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had differences they needed to discuss.
On Monday, those differences resulted in Lopes, who had been offered a one-year contract, informing the team he would not return 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 Monday. "I'm not saying the money they offered was not good. Everybody will say, 'It's a money thing.' That played into it. But there's a certain time in your career where you're pigeonholed 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, 65, 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, but a raise from what he made in 2010.
"I wanted to get paid what I felt I was worth," Lopes said. "They felt one thing, I felt another thing. Believe me, I wasn't trying to break the bank."
Some statistics would suggest that Lopes' value to the Phillies was significant. Since he joined the ball club in 2007 and took over the Phillies' running game, the team stole bases on 84.3 percent of its attempts, by far the best mark in the majors during that span.
In 2007, the Phillies recorded the best single-season stolen-base percentage in the history of baseball, 87.9 percent (138 for 157). Of course, the team's speed and talent had a great deal to do with the success. But players have constantly praised Lopes' direction as a base-stealing guru.
"I might go as far to say he's the best in the history of baseball," Jayson Werth said in September. "Now, that isn't very well-researched, of course. But the way he transfers knowledge to players is amazing."
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 on when or when not to steal. Sometimes, Lopes said, Manuel would call for hit-and-runs, but that was his only involvement.
In baseball, first-base coach is one of the lowest positions on the coaching totem pole, which generally dictates pay scales. Lopes said he felt he was different than other first-base coaches and wanted to be compensated that way. 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. . . . 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.
"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 base runners 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, and many openings remain. A possible destination could be Los Angeles, where Lopes played 10 seasons with the Dodgers. The Dodgers' first-base coach in 2009 was Mariano Duncan, who could be a possible fit with the Phillies.
If Lopes has to sit out a whole season, he said he would likely retire.