Torre offers coast-to-coast view in Q&A
Dodgers skipper discusses New York and his future in game
The first two months of the 2010 season have already been filled with tribulations for Joe Torre, who is in his 30th season as a big league manager. But then again, every season is different for Torre, who will turn 70 on July 18.Torre managed the Yankees into the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons, winning four World Series and six American League pennants, before leaving in 2007. In his two years with the Dodgers, they've gone to the National League Championship Series both times. He said he was happy for his former Yankees players when they won another title in 2009. In an extensive interview with MLB.com, Torre, a prostate cancer survivor for more than a decade, said he hopes to come back again next year and still has the fire to manage. But health always comes first. He was diagnosed with the disease in March 1999 only months after his Yankees won the World Series and set a record with 125 victories, the most by any team from beginning of the season to end of the playoffs in history. After surgery and therapy, he's never had a recurrence. But he watches himself closely.
MLB.com: What do you consider to be the most significant accomplishment of your career?Torre: My validation comes from getting to the World Series because I put so much emphasis on how important that was. When I was fired in Atlanta as the Braves manager (1984), my wife asked me how I thought I'd be remembered. I said at that time as someone who never realized his dream. She quickly said, "Why, are you dead?" That sort of slapped me back to reality. Maybe I overdid it, but I really thought that getting to and winning the World Series was the only way you could be judged on how successful your career was. MLB.com: Do you concern yourself with accolades like the Hall of Fame? Torre: No. It's not up there with winning the World Series. If it happens and God willing I'm still around, I'm sure it's going to be awesome. But I've never really concerned myself with getting into the Hall because I have no control over it. What I do in the game is what I do and if somebody deems that being enough to warrant me going in there, so be it. MLB.com: Let's echo that ancient question: How about your legacy? What do you want people to remember about you? Torre: That I tried all the time, that I treated the game with respect. As player, I tried to be the best I could be and when I managed I always wanted my club to be the best it could be. Does that mean we were going to win? Not necessarily. But I wanted the effort to be there. I think that's what I want to be judged on -- that I played the game hard, that I respected the game, and never took it for granted. MLB.com: How did you feel watching the Yankees win that fifth championship last fall with the guys from your era? Torre: I felt happy for all the players I managed for such a long time. I watched it. I didn't stay away from watching it. If I had an issue on the negative side, I wouldn't have watched it at all. But I know the feeling having been there. I was the manager of a ballclub where these guys played for me, coached for me, people I feel close to, needless to say it was just great. [Hideki] Matsui, [Robinson] Cano, who I've managed for so long, Alex [Rodriguez] I was happy to see him get the monkey off his back. And the four guys who I was with there the longest -- Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano [Rivera] and [Jorge] Posada. MLB.com: Any emptiness not being there and still part of it? Torre: No, not at all. You know why? It's all nice. I think everybody wants to be on the field when you win. We all want to be part of that celebration. But knowing everything that goes along with the seven games that you may have to play and the four you have to win, it's something I didn't miss. I did it for a long time and it eventually got to me. The pressure of the game is fine. I guess it's the stress of everything that went with it -- the expectations. We won four out of the first five World Series. We got in six World Series. Then all of a sudden the expectations became more than I could deal with. What do I mean by that? I had a tough time telling my players when we won a division title and got to the postseason that it wasn't good enough, that I was disappointed in them. I couldn't do that because I know how hard they worked. That's where the contradiction was. We know that expectations are always higher when you play for the Yankees, but I couldn't deliver the message if we didn't win the World Series that it was a disappointing year. MLB.com: With the Dodgers, is it a different story? Torre: Well, we haven't won all those championships. The Dodgers to me are the Yankees of the National League. Growing up in Brooklyn and having the Yankees and the Dodgers in New York, they were always the clubs playing for something in October. You either love or hate these two clubs. There's no in between with them. MLB.com: Those Yankees years had to be the best part of your career. Torre: I don't think there's any question about it. The quality of the people that I was able to manage in New York for those 12 years is what made my time there so significant. MLB.com: What's the difference working for George Steinbrenner and Frank McCourt? Torre: George was all over it all the time, at least in my era. That was his reputation. His demands are very high. Frank McCourt wants all the same things George wants, but George has just had a longer history doing it. He's had time to establish who he is. To me, out in Los Angeles, when you're getting ready to start a season or postseason it's all about the pressure you put on yourself to be successful. If it's important to you, no matter where you are, you want very badly to win. You never want to just get through it. MLB.com: What are the biggest differences between managing in Los Angeles and New York? Torre: American League vs. National League. There's so much more going on in a National League game. There's so much more to think about. The two cities differ in a lot of ways. In New York, the passion of the fans and the city is just a little bit different. For what I do for a living at this point in my life, I think it's better for me being in. L.A. I experienced those high-pressure, high-profile years in New York and it was time for me to move on only because of the stress I put on myself. The pressure of the games you can control. When it comes to stress, there's not much you can do about it. MLB.com: People always say catchers make great managers. As a player, what did you bring to your job as a manager? Torre: I realized as a player that there was a reason, a function for every player on the team. That's the initial thing I brought along to managing. I was fortunate enough to be a regular for most of my playing career. I had a lot of empathy for the guy who sat on the bench or the pitcher who pitched once in awhile and was under pressure to do a job. They were as much an important part of the team as the guys who played every day. Once you understand the human element, you understand how important it is to make every player feel necessary. MLB.com: Was there a point as a player when you knew you would manage? Torre: Probably when I was in St. Louis (1969-74) because that's when I grew up. I was pretty irresponsible in my years with the Braves, sort of embarrassingly so. I had low self-esteem and maybe part of it was hiding that. I was traded to St. Louis, looked around and these guys had been to the World Series two straight years (1967-68). I realized I had to find out whether I could play or not. I had to do it with the realization that you can't point fingers, you have to be responsible for yourself. You had to be responsible for helping the ballclub win. After the first year they named me captain, which sort of shocked me. I didn't really feel I was up to the task, but at that point I felt that maybe somebody recognized some ability in me that I didn't recognize in myself. MLB.com: It's hard to imagine you doing anything irresponsible, even as a young player. Torre: It wasn't as if I was disrespectful in any way. But I don't think I brought as much to the table as I should have. I had a (first) marriage that was taking its toll. I really let a lot of my off-field stuff interfere with what I needed to do as a player. I think a big part of it was immaturity. There's no question about it. I didn't understand how much time you need to invest in this game both on and off the field. That's what I tell my players now: It's nice to have the fans cheer for you. It's nice to have writers write nice things about you and guys on radio and TV say nice things about you, but the guy who's in the locker next to you is the one you play the game for. To me, that was the most important thing I learned that during my years in St. Louis. MLB.com: Would you agree that your ability to deal with people is probably your strongest suit as a manager? Torre: Yeah, I do. I think that I have a sensitivity toward people and that is a strength. I know a lot of people look at these players and think they make a lot of money, but these kids are playing this game without a safety net. Back in the old days when we didn't make the money the expectations weren't as high. But now when they do something good, people say that's what they're supposed to be doing. To me, it's still about people. I'd like to think my strength is having a feel for those people. MLB.com: Also a major strength was keeping all the pressure from upper management out of the clubhouse. Torre: That was a conscious goal of mine in New York. I always wanted the players to understand that I was on their side. But, of course, they had to carry their end of the load. When I went to New York, I observed that a bulk of the distraction that was going on -- a comment by George, a story -- weren't happening on the field. I felt that the most important part of my job was to make sure the players had clear minds to play the game. That's why we're all paid. To play the game the best we can. The more I was able to deflect what was coming down, I thought the chances of getting consistent performance was better. MLB.com: You've wavered a little bit in the last year about this, but how long do you want to keep managing? You're current contract ends this year. Torre: I've wavered a lot. I called off talking about any future considerations because it was near the end of Spring Training. I felt the most important thing for me at that point was to concentrate on putting a team together and starting the season. I feel comfortable that the Dodgers would like to have me back. That's what I want. When you say I wavered, it's only because I never know how I'm going to physically feel. When I continue to feel as good as I do now, I'm happy I still have that fire that I want to still manage. I talked to my wife about it. She encourages to do what I still feel I have a fire to do. I hope I feel good enough next year to want to do it again.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.