Torre right to call it quits in Los Angeles
It was time for Joe Torre to go.
He's stepping down as the Los Angeles Dodgers' manager, turning the prestigious position over to Don Mattingly. I applaud Joe's decision not to hang around in LA for another season.
The Dodgers are in a state of flux, on and off the field.
The very public divorce between Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, has become a huge distraction. And if you believe media reports, it is making improving the Dodgers for 2011 financially difficult.
Torre, who turned 70 in July, has nothing left to prove.
Torre says he's stepping aside to determine his future plans, and I hope that doesn't include managing again.
With Torre's Friday announcement, three managerial icons, if not legends, are stepping down. Atlanta's Bobby Cox will retire at the end of the year, and the Chicago Cubs' Lou Piniella left a few weeks ago.
And now, Joe Torre.
Joe certainly will be missed, but aside from another multi-million-dollar paycheck, I cannot imagine what he could achieve to enhance his already incredible Hall of Fame credentials.
"This was not a decision I took lightly, but I believe it's the right one for myself and my family," said Torre. "I'm truly thrilled that Donnie will be the one leading the Dodgers."
And then Torre uttered the most accurate words: "It's time that the Dodgers had a new voice."
On the flip side, Mattingly, 49, who has never managed, is finally getting a chance to skipper a team. He was bypassed in favor of Joe Girardi when Torre left the Yankees after the 2007 season. Torre is in his 29th season as a Major League manager.
Don Mattingly has never managed in the Majors, while Torre, fifth-winningest manager in Major League history, is in his 29th season as a big league pilot. Mattingly, as planned, will manage in this fall's Arizona Fall League.
This will be the first postseason in 14 Octobers in which a Torre-managed team will not be playing. He took the Yankees to the playoffs 12 years in a row, beginning in 1996, and won the World Series four of his first five years there.
Bitter and feeling underappreciated, Torre left the Yankees after they failed to advance past the Division Series in 2007. He was unable to get them to the World Series in his final four seasons.
The Yankees offered Torre an incentive-laden contract for 2008, but having already accomplished so much, he regarded the offer as an insult.
I said then Torre made the correct decision.
There were years prior to that, though, when he might have left.
Torre had his battles with the late George Steinbrenner. I remember talking to Torre's wife, Ali, once when she thought it was time for him to walk away. Instead, she convinced her husband to fly to Tampa and meet face-to-face with Steinbrenner. It turned out to be a productive session. The relationship improved, but this was about the time when the Boss's health began to fail.
I believe what made Torre so successful and prolonged his tenure in New York was the fact he remained calm and astute in the most difficult media market in the U. S. He had a knack for getting the most from his players and became immensely popular in the Big Apple.
But when the relationship with ownership became strained, there was no way he could continue. He had lost his clout.
When he signed his three-year, $13 million contract with the Dodgers, he brought stability and credibility to an organization that had been in a state of disarray during the first four years of the McCourts' ownership.
Torre was able to meld a clubhouse divided between veterans and youngsters. And when Manny Ramirez arrived at the July 31, 2008, Trade Deadline, a new enthusiasm gripped Hollywood.
Torre was once again working his magic. The Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series before losing to the Phillies. They duplicated that in 2009, once again losing to Philadelphia.
When Ramirez was placed on waivers at the end of August -- he was claimed by the Chicago White Sox -- the season was over for the Dodgers.
And so, I believe, was Torre's tenure in Los Angeles.
It was time to go.
In Spring Training, there were discussions about Torre getting a contract extension, which I believe he wanted, but before Opening Day, the talks ceased.
Torre may have lost his clubhouse the second half of the season, but that happens when a team is playing so poorly, especially when a surprise team, the San Diego Padres, leads the division most of the year.
Many of the young players who had propelled the Dodgers to the playoffs in 2008 and 2009 failed to produce in 2010. Center fielder Matt Kemp, first baseman James Loney, closer Jonathan Broxton and catcher Russell Martin have not progressed as hoped.
Torre said it was his responsibility to get the most out of his players.
"It's my responsibility; no question, it's my responsibility," Torre said. "I deal with it philosophically. I wish I could have found something that made a difference. That's my job. It wouldn't be fair to sit back and say, 'This guy is not doing this, and it's not my fault.' It's my responsibility to help them through it."
The Dodgers were three games under .500 (72-75) and 11 games out of first place in the NL West entering Friday night's action.
Unless there's a tremendous retooling for 2011, which seems unlikely, given the ownership uncertainty, it's difficult to see the Dodgers much improved in 2011.
It would not be Torre's kind of situation.
"He's put up numbers on a managerial side that are incredible, tough for anyone to duplicate," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told me Friday night. "As far as managing, it's something that's going to take some getting used to, when you don't have Joe Torre in the dugout.
"If you're going to make a Mount Rushmore of managers, you got Bobby Cox on one end and Joe Torre on the other. Joe's been a mentor to all of us who've played the game and managed."
Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon said "Joe Torre treated me as a peer from the moment I got the Rays job in November of 2005. He sent me a really nice bottle of Pinot Noir. When we went to the playoffs in 2008, he sent me a fax. Not many managers do that."
But that was Joe Torre. His class and what he brought to baseball cannot be measured solely by wins and losses.
And that's why he knew when it was time to leave the Dodgers.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.