09/29/08 6:16 PM ET
Man of the people: Torre revered
Folks behind scenes affected by LA manager's genuine nature
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Don't judge a manager by the words of his superstar players. Judge him by the words of those who do the superstars' laundry.Usually, the people behind the scenes of a baseball team prefer to stay there. Ask them to talk about the bosses and they beat a hasty retreat for some random chore undone. Keep your head down and your name out of the media. For Joe Torre, though, they line up to give testimonials.
"The man cares. He takes interest in you, and it doesn't matter who or what you are," said Mitch Poole, the Dodgers' clubhouse manager in his 24th year with the club. "This past week is proof he knows what he's doing. He took a team that finished 14 games back and he made the playoffs. What does that tell you?"It tells you he can manage a ballclub. But the occasional dugout shots that capture his 68-year-old stoic gaze are no measure of the man. For one thing, he knows how to enjoy himself. He likes fine wine, fast horses and fearless pitchers. But he also likes to treat people the way he'd want to be treated if the roles were reversed. "I get an opportunity to see it first-hand every day," said Chris Romanello, Torre's personal assistant. "I've worked for Mr. Torre since 2003. The way he treats people, he's a great role model. I grew up a Mets fan, so I hated the Yankees, that's what you're supposed to do. He hired me anyway. People think he's all grumpy in the dugout, it's because they don't know the man. When he asked me if I would move to California, I didn't even think about it. I immediately said yes. Every day working for him is great."
Scott Akasaki is the Dodgers' traveling secretary."I've had the opportunity to eat a lot of postgame meals with Joe, and what I've taken away from those times with him will help me in life as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a grandfather," said Akasaki. "It's not just the baseball person. His life experiences are tremendous. Championships. Cancer. Family life. His foundation [Safe at Home].
"I always saw him on television during the postseason, he doesn't show any emotion. Then you get the chance to talk to him, and he's so down to earth. He's sophisticated and refined, yet easy to talk to. He's very polished, the way he talks to people is tremendous. He talks to all people with class and dignity, no matter who they are. He's genuine."Of course, Torre could be a saint and at this time of year it wouldn't matter in the baseball context if his team wasn't still alive, but for the 13th consecutive season, it is. That's one shy of Braves manager Bobby Cox's all-time record. Torre has more postseason victories (76) than any manager in Major League history. He has finished in first place 14 times as a skipper -- once each with Atlanta and Los Angeles and 12 times with New York -- the second-most all-time behind Cox (15). And the Yankees? They're done playing baseball for the year.
|"He's sophisticated and refined, yet easy to talk to. He's very polished, the way he talks to people is tremendous. He talks to all people with class and dignity, no matter who they are. He's genuine."|
|-- Scott Akasaki, Dodgers traveling secretary|
And even though Torre reaped the benefits of Colletti's acquisition of Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez, at the time, Ramirez was considered a crapshoot, having forced his exit from Boston. Torre dealt with the ego, sidestepped the dreadlocks deadlock and changed the rules to let Manny be the clubhouse deejay, keeping the peace and the joint jumping. All the way to Chicago.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.