Torre finishes up career without flourish
PHOENIX -- Joe Torre seems like a man who is content with his pending retirement from managing.With the decision final to leave the Dodgers at the end of the season, not even a turnaround in the team's playoff fortunes would have changed his mind, Torre said on Sunday in the dugout at Chase Field. "I still would have walked away," he said before the Dodgers blew a three-run lead and lost to the D-backs, 5-4. "I talked about it with my wife earlier in the year, and even in Spring Training I put talking about extending my contract on hold because I needed a more time to think about it. If I had committed to something, then I wouldn't have walked away from it. That's why I wanted to wait a little while to see if I still felt the same." The Dodgers still figured they might have had an impact on the National League West race. But they play three games at Colorado, beginning on Monday night, against a Rockies team that is all but out of it in both the division and Wild Card races after losing to the Giants on Sunday. The Dodgers then finish at home next weekend against the D-backs, who have their own business to tidy up first. Arizona plays the Giants three times at San Francisco, beginning on Tuesday. It's the Giants and Padres who head into the final week head-to-head for both the division title and a Wild Card spot -- with the Braves still very much in the hunt for the latter. It should all come down to the final weekend at AT&T Park when the Padres play the Giants three times. The Dodgers are very much on the outside looking in, after making the playoffs four times in six years. It's not the way Torre would have chosen to conclude his stellar career. This is the first time since 1993 -- when he was managing the Cardinals -- that a Torre team hasn't been in the thick of it as the races came down to the wire. From 1996-2007 his Yankee teams made the playoffs 12 consecutive times, winning four World Series and six American League pennants. Only two years ago, his first with the Dodgers, they defeated the D-backs to win the West by two games. Last year, the Dodgers prevailed by three games over the Rockies. This year, they go into the season's final week 13 games out. Strange territory for a Torre managed team? "You're asking a strange question, because as a player I never went to the postseason," Torre said with a laugh. "Now it's become a habit of mine to be in the postseason? Actually, it's been a hell of a run as a manager. I didn't miss much. "Next weekend will be somewhat emotional, but I think I've had enough of this stuff. It's not like I'm sorry I'm doing it. It's sad in a way, but it's a celebration in a way, too." Torre said he'd known for a while that he was set to walk away from the game on the field. It wasn't until general manager Ned Colletti approached him for a decision on Sept. 14, when the team was set to open a three-game series in San Francisco, that he made his intentions public. At that point, Torre figured he'd tell the players and coaches because the news was bound to leak out. On Sept. 17, the Dodgers released the information saying that Torre would retire, to be replaced by Don Mattingly, his hitting coach and hand-picked successor. It wasn't any one thing that caused him to step away, Torre said. Neither was it for Atlanta's Bobby Cox and the Cubs' Lou Piniella, who also decided to retire during the same year, leaving Major League Baseball without three of its all-time great managers. "Nothing really got old, it's just been a lot of games," said Torre, who will have managed 4,328 of them in 29 years when the season ends for the Dodgers on Sunday. "There was a lot to do. The thing I'm going to miss most is the coaches -- and the traveling secretary and the clubhouse guys. That's what I missed most about leaving the Yankees, leaving the people there you made friends with. Players come and go." Torre is 70 now, but it's not as if he's planning on leaving baseball. He wants to remain on Commissioner Bud Selig's special committee, which is studying such weighty issues as expanding both instant replay and the length of the playoffs. Torre is one of four active managers on that panel, along with Mike Scioscia of the Angels, Tony La Russa of the Cardinals and Jim Leyland of the Tigers. He's interested in hearing what's out there as far as other front office jobs are concerned -- and has spoken to Colletti about a possible position with the Dodgers. "We've been talking about this since Spring Training," Torre said. "I kind of kiddingly told Ned I wanted to be one of his assistants, but not a special assistant because that's too much work. They seem interested in keeping me around. I don't know what the job would be. I just said I'd take about a week to 10 days off with my wife and next month we could talk about it -- whatever that is. "I just want it to be something that I feel like I'm helping, instead of just hanging around. I'd like to be able to contribute." Contribute he will, but not as a manager. It's hard to never say never about anything, but those days really do appear to be over.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.