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02/11/08 10:00 AM ET

Which Joe will make the biggest impact?

Torre, Girardi face new challenges with new managerial jobs

They fit their new roles, uniquely.

Joe Torre, with a face chiseled by a lifetime of experiences, looks like the consummate character actor. When he walks into a dugout, even when his entrances came in the Bronx, you expect to hear someone shout, "Action!"

Hollywood Joe comes off as perfect casting.

Joe Girardi leads with a chiseled chin. He is The Bowery and the Bronx, square-jawed and square-shouldered. And he'll look you squarely in the eyes when talking to you -- unless he's looking right through you.

Broadway Joe, if Mr. Namath will lend out the moniker, has met his destiny.

These two Big City Joes, one following the other in New York, the other following his desire for a confirming career coda to Los Angeles, will star in one of the 2008 season's most passionate plays.

They are not the only new ringleaders in The Show. Trey Hillman is taking over in Kansas City, John Russell in Pittsburgh and Dusty Baker, equally as compelling, in Cincinnati. And getting their first clean slates after jumping into the ring during the 2007 season will be Cecil Cooper in Houston, Dave Trembley in Baltimore and John McLaren in Seattle.

But Torre and Girardi are the ones in the biggest cities, on the hottest seats, under the brightest glare. Were this truly a Hollywood -- or Broadway -- production, the script would already have their teams meeting in the 2008 World Series.

There is high drama on both coasts. If the Dodgers and Yankees match the altitude, there will be a lot of happy, vindicated people.

Torre, who could charm a movie producer out of his studio-front parking spot, is exactly the kind of personable guy a people's town like Los Angeles demands. He was a perfect choice for general manager Ned Colletti, with owner Frank McCourt's enthusiastic blessing, after the Dodgers had ended their season with a stretch dive.

They needed the highest profile ever hired into this job. The Dodgers have made Hall of Fame managers (Walt Alston, Tommy Lasorda), but they never before hired one who had cut his Cooperstown teeth elsewhere. They had to counter the Angels, who had taken their geographic designation and, with three division titles the last four seasons, some of their thunder.

But they also needed Torre's high-concept approach to managing. In September, both the Dodgers' title hopes and their unity had come undone, and it was tough to tell which came first. Whether or not the Yankees ever had any major in-house squabbles during Torre's dozen seasons wasn't as important as the fact that word of any infighting never left the clubhouse.

That diplomatic touch called out to Colletti after Torre, saying, "No, thank you" to an incentives-laden renewal offer, closed the Yankees door behind him on Oct. 18.

So, by becoming available, Torre cost Grady Little his job for the second time in four years. The first was in 2003, when the Yankees turned on Little's decision to leave Pedro Martinez on the mound by rallying over the Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

Nothing less than returning the Dodgers to their former exalted status is expected of the Brooklyn-born, former All-Star catcher.

"We didn't hire Joe Torre to finish .500," said Colletti, whose club finished two games above that last season.

Since 1989, the Dodgers have won two National League West titles and made two other playoffs as a Wild Card, but they have gone 1-12 in postseason games. In the preceding 15 years, they captured five NL pennants and two World Series, both under Lasorda.

Lasorda, still a high-ranking advisor to the club, welcomed Torre by saying, "I'm so happy that he's coming to manage our team. I think he's got the credentials. He's just the type of manager our team needs."

Torre himself said, "There is a commitment to bringing the Dodgers' name and franchise back to the stable organization and wanting to win every year."

"Every" would include Year One. To help with Torre's baptism, the Dodgers have further spiked their young core with centerpiece center fielder Andruw Jones and highly touted Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. A comeback by Jason Schmidt, last winter's big free-agent signee who missed most of the season with a bad shoulder, would also be a big plus.

The irony is that Torre thus inherits a team that did more to improve itself during the offseason than did the supposedly no-limits Yankees, who essentially remained unchanged for Girardi.

So in that regard, the inevitable comparisons with Torre will be of the oranges-to-oranges variety. That rolls out a daunting welcome mat for Girardi, considering the Yankees went 12-for-12 in postseason appearances under Torre.

But nothing about Girardi suggests that he is the least bit susceptible to pressure. His entire demeanor says, "Bring it on." A challenge, incidentally, that the Big Apple will not decline.

Start with Girardi's choice of a uniform number. He didn't take No. 27 because he was such a big fan of Graeme Lloyd -- the lefty who wore that number during Girardi's playing days in the Bronx -- or to motivate Darrell Rasner, who wore it last season.

No. 27 will be the Yankees' next World Series title. Girardi will wear his goal on his back. It might as well be a bull's-eye.

Hank Steinbrenner, the Yankees' senior vice president who has become the public voice of the franchise, has lofty expectations of his new manager.

Steinbrenner characterized Girardi as "hopefully a good cross between Billy Martin and Joe Torre, like right in the middle there somewhere."

Already in the middle is Brian Cashman. Though others in the organization leaned toward hiring the more popular Don Mattingly, the Yankees' GM lobbied for Girardi and his tougher skin.

"I wanted someone that understood the complexity of the Yankee organization," Cashman said. "We're a very complex situation, whether you're dealing with the media, the New York fan base, the expectations. I know the person, and obviously, I'm betting on this person."

He's getting pretty good odds.

When Girardi got the job -- three days after Torre walked -- he and the Yankees tied the knot following a yearlong engagement. Dismissed by the Marlins though he was the reigning NL Manager of the Year, Girardi spent 2007 atop the most-wanted list of teams hunting for a new skipper. He rejected all overtures, staying in the YES Network booth and in the Yanks' on-deck circle.

It may be coincidental, or it may have been part of the grand design, but Girardi inherits the Yankees at a time when their fate rests with a trio of young pitchers -- Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain.

Broadway Joe II throws a very persuasive resume at the job -- he earned that Manager of the Year nod principally through mentoring a young Florida staff into the only one in Major League history to produce four rookies with 10-plus wins.

Engineering such a feat was a snap for someone with a degree from Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering.

It comes with a caveat, too: Those four rookies -- Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez -- won 45 games while working 592 innings in 2006; last season, they won 13 and logged 141 2/3 innings while coping with injuries amid suspicions that they might have been overworked the season before.

Though that theory may be unfounded, riding hot arms that he trusted too much was also a charge occasionally levied against Torre.

So Girardi already has something in common with his predecessor. Everything else is up to him.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.