Torre not interested in returning to dugout
MLB exec talks playoff expansion, replay at awards benefit
NEW YORK -- First Bobby Cox, then Joe Torre and Lou Piniella, now Tony La Russa.
That's three of the top five winningest managers in Major League Baseball history, plus No. 14 in Piniella, all departed from the dugout since Cox's retirement after the 2010 season. Torre, now MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, said emphatically on Tuesday that he is not interested in returning to the dugout and said it is time to freeze the top of that legendary list.
"Managing takes its toll," Torre said before being honored at the 17th annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit at the Marriott Marquis. "When I decided to not do it anymore, it was something I felt was in my best interest, and I felt if it's in my best interest, then it has to help the team. Because you need somebody who has an enormous amount of energy and has the patience and the fortitude to go forward. It takes a lot out of you.
"When you do it for a number of years, and all of a sudden the expectations are sky-high, you've got to realize that the guy who's doing it has a great deal of responsibility."
Torre ranks fifth all-time with 2,326 wins. Above him on the list are No. 1 Connie Mack with 3,731, John McGraw with 2,763, La Russa with 2,728 and Cox with 2,504. Torre was not expecting La Russa to join him so quickly, but he did notice a different manner in the man who just guided the National League Wild Card winner to a most improbable World Series title -- then retired the morning after a parade.
"I think people who were around him realized the looseness that he had going through the postseason," Torre said. "You could have written it off as, 'He was lucky to get in and now he's enjoying it.' But he certainly seemed to be a little different personally. He seemed to be more open, more levity on his part. I'm happy for him. We'd all love to go out like he went out."
Torre's last managing stint was in 2010 with the Dodgers. There are now managerial openings with the Cubs, Red Sox and, yes, those same Cardinals whom he last managed in 1995, the year before La Russa's reign there. Torre said he is not interested in any of them himself.
"Nobody's made a call to me to ask me to manage," he said. "When I talk to people about other things, they want to know if I'm still interested. I'm really not."
Then he quickly added: "Let's put it this way, 'I'm not.' I don't want that to be misconstrued. I like what I'm doing. The winning and losing part of it, I think Tony, there's an answer. He retired. At some point you say, 'That's enough.'"
When asked how he thought his first year with MLB went, Torre said with a grin: "Tired."
"There's a lot going on," he said. "I was happy because I've always wanted to do something significant, and baseball is certainly, in my role, what I'm doing is significant. There are some ideas I have. I still have to learn a little bit more about the bureaucracy that goes on.
"But as far as keeping the game at a high level, I think along the way, like I used to say about the Yankees, even though we won a championship, we have to get better to stay the same. You still have to look to improve the game by maybe doing certain things, even if it's a little tweak here and there, we have to keep the game interesting for people."
The Commissioner's Special Committee for On-Field Matters will consider the possibility of further use of instant replay, although it appears unlikely to be expanded in 2012. Asked about that subject, Torre said: "It's nice when you see something, the wrong call was made, and you think, 'I want to do this.' But you have to consider all the ramifications that go with that decision. Even with fair-and-foul, it's not cut-and-dried that everyone's going to be happy with it.
"I think we saw the greatest game I've witnessed, in Game 6 of the World Series. That game started out as a sloppy game. I think that's all part of what we do. If we make errors, it doesn't mean you go and hide somewhere. You hitch 'em up and you go out there and try to make it better."
As for the prospect of adding another Wild Card to each league for a postseason in the future, Torre said: "I like it. I like it for the reason that I didn't think it was enough of a penalty on being a Wild Card team. So now if there's an extra Wild Card team, at least you have given those two teams an extra level of playoffs to get through, whether it's a one-game or a three-game playoff."
Torre had no update on the ongoing Collective Bargaining talks, but when asked if MLB is closer to a deal than it was at the end of the World Series, he replied: "I hope so. I know one thing, it's not for lack of work. I know there has been bargaining all over the country, on a regular basis throughout the season. My feeling is we'll get something done, but making sure that when we get something done, it's going to be fair to one side."
Torre said he was "very flattered" to receive an award that honors one of the greatest players on the Yankees club he managed to four titles. The dinner held by the ALS Association's Greater New York chapter drew nearly 500 guests and raised $755,000 in the accelerated pace of research into Lou Gehrig's disease, which took the life of its namesake 70 years ago.
"When you get an award with Lou Gehrig's name on it, the fact that Lou Gehrig represented everything that you want a team to represent -- loyalty, dignity, determination, and still with the human heart," Torre said. "Lou Gehrig never tried to look for sympathy. He unfortunately passed away with the same dignity he played the game with. That certainly leaves an impression on people. When you're associated with him, with an award, it's a great honor."
Also honored were Mets third baseman David Wright, former HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, Basketball Hall of Fame member Bob Hurley Sr. and New York Rangers NHL legend Mike Richter. Christopher Pendergast, an ALS patient who founded Ride for Life to raise millions for ALS research, received multiple standing ovations as he was presented by former All-Star pitcher David Cone with the Jacob K. Javits Lifetime Achievement Award.
"Every day holds the opportunity for a miracle," said Pendergast, an advocate of ALS for more than 18 years while he has battled ALS himself. "So, we are very optimistic."