07/07/2003 12:49 PM ET
Not much has changed for Torre
Yankees manager looks back on long, successful career
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- It's been 26 years since Joe Torre took his first managing job in the Majors, but according to him, the gig hasn't changed all that much.
Sure, the players earn tens of millions -- in some cases, hundreds of millions -- more than they did in 1977, but baseball is still baseball. For Torre, the numbers on a player's paycheck aren't as important as the number of years he's been in he Majors.
"We have the same rules for everybody," Torre said. "I don't believe that because a guy makes certain money, that he's allowed a separate set of rules. That doesn't mean that I won't give guys who have been around certain privileges, but that has nothing to do with what they make, it has to do with how long they've been around."
Torre, who played 18 seasons for the Braves, Cardinals and Mets, has often been described as a player's manager. When his managerial career started, he was both a player and a manager, assuming both roles for the first 18 days of his tenure. Those Mets teams weren't good, finishing under .500 in all five years with Torre at the helm.
As he adjusted to his new role, Torre tried the stern approach, setting a number of team rules that he watched carefully.
"When I was first managing, I had a lot of rules," he said. "Don't lay out by the pool, no golf, only drink at the bar at the hotel. My thinking was, if they want to go have a beer, why should they go someplace where they may not be safe? One year with the Mets, I walked down to the hotel bar and you'd think I made them be in there. I said, 'Guys, just think and act as if your mom is watching you.'"
Since then, he has taken a more laid-back approach. At least that's what he'd have you believe. Torre's philosophy is to treat all of his players the same -- with respect.
"I've always tried to treat people like people," Torre said. "Even though a guy may make $5 or $10 million, he's still probably only 27- or 28-years-old. I've been lucky not to take it for granted that because a guy makes so much money that he should know A, B, C or D. I look past that and deal with the person himself.
"I've always tried to treat people like people. Even though a guy may make $5 or $10 million, he's still probably only 27- or 28-years-old."
-- Joe Torre
"It's about being an adult and having responsibility," he added. "In order for them to be responsible on the field, you have to allow them to be responsible off of it. It's a big picture thing. Everything you do has to be geared to coming to the ballpark ready to play."
Although Torre believes that the game hasn't changed all that much in the past 30 years, he is the first to admit that the players have, mainly due to the escalating salaries.
"Years ago, when I started managing, you had a little more control to do things with players," Torre said. "Not as much control as when I played, because back then you could just send guys out. You could always bench them, maybe fine them, though that may have had a little more impact than it does now."
In Torre's playing days, a player would have to prove himself before cashing in with a big contract. Now, with multi-million deals being thrown at kids out of high school, it's a different world.
"We used to determine how good somebody was by how much money they made. That's no longer the case," Torre said. "Sometimes, I sense that players, because they make so much money, think they've made it. They get paid up front now, where years ago, you had to do it and then get paid. Players are more celebrity than they are just baseball players, and that's tougher for them, with the notoriety and the negative publicity."
The same could be said of managers, too. Despite being one of the most written-about men in New York, Torre makes a point not to read any articles written about him or his team, not wanting to get down on himself or to be lured into having a false sense of security if the reviews are good.
"You can't be afraid of the fallout. If you're going to get fired, you better do it by doing what you want to do," he said. "Make sure that what you do isn't motivated by something personal. You can't play a guy because you like him or bench a guy because you don't like him. You have to do what's best for the team. You have to be secure in yourself to be able to do that. The best thing I ever did here was not read the paper."
After he was fired by the Braves in 1984, Torre worked as a broadcaster for the next six years. When he returned to the bench with the Cardinals in 1990, he realized that he hadn't been fired from his first two jobs because of his managing style, they just weren't the right situation.
"When I was broadcasting, I watched different managers manage, which was good for me to do," he said. "I got a chance to observe the way other managers worked, which is something you don't get to do when you manage. You realize that they're doing a lot of the same things that you do. Tony La Russa, Sparky Anderson, these guys treated players like adults. To me, that's what it's all about."
In his eighth season with New York, Torre has four World Series rings to speak for his success. That's something he didn't have in his early days as a manager, and he firmly believes that the championships have helped him gain instant credibility with new players.
"It took me a long time to get to this point, which is a positive, because you really appreciate how tough it is to do it," Torre said. "I get that point across to my players. It's not easy what we do, so it's worth all the work that we put into it. One time isn't enough. We put in too much work to have it be one time only."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.