01/30/09 10:46 AM EST
Torre to appear on 'Larry King Live'
Dodgers skipper to give first long-form interview on new book
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
"Normally, you would think this is not Joe," King told MLB.com this week.
But it is Joe. It's Joe Torre, as many have never seen him before. And in that context, the Dodgers manager will join King on "Larry King Live" on Friday night on CNN. It will be Torre's first long-form interview since reports leaked regarding the content of his new book, "The Yankee Years," which is slated for a Tuesday release.
The book, which exposed teammates' criticisms of third baseman Alex Rodriguez and disclosed details of Torre's fractured relationship with general manager Brian Cashman, reveals a side of Torre that didn't publicly surface during his 12 years as manager of the Yankees. And naturally, baseball fans are eager to hear his explanation.
"I think you hit a certain point of life," King said, "where you're in your late 60s, you've got a comfortable job with the Dodgers, you moved to Los Angeles, life is very different. This is sort of like a laid-back time. He's always been a terrific guy. I've known him for years, and maybe this is just, 'Hey, this is my catharsis, let's let it out.'"
And it has come out, even before the book's release. Among the topics that have leaked from advance copies of "The Yankee Years," as well as excerpts on SI.com, are Rodriguez's isolation in the clubhouse, Torre's negative relationships with Cashman and team president Randy Levine, Torre's personal criticisms of former Yankees David Wells, Gary Sheffield and Kevin Brown, and his arguments with Cashman regarding a contract for Bernie Williams in 2007.
The book is not written from Torre's perspective, though he is the main contributor of quotations and anecdotes in the third-person text. The actual author, Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, includes additional reporting in the book, which details Torre's time with the Yankees from 1996 through his contentious departure after the 2007 season.
"It's a terrific book," King said. "It's an extraordinary book. Even though it's written in the third person, it obviously is the thoughts of Joe, or why would he have approved it? It's a fascinating look at the Yankees and those years."
But it's also a controversial look at all that. The inner circle of the current Yankees regime has never before been so publicly exposed -- and especially not in such a negative light. Already, the book has reportedly spurred the Yankees to consider including a "non-disparagement" clause in new player and managerial contracts, so as to avoid such bad publicity in the future.
Torre, meanwhile, has absorbed criticism for thrusting such information into the public domain. Yet it's not likely to damage his reputation much, considering that Torre's fan base has only grown over the past two years. After leaving the Yankees, Torre accepted the manager's post with the Dodgers, guiding them to the National League Championship Series in his first year at the helm.
"Torre's a big story, and actually, all the attention he's getting has spurred him on even more," said King, a self-admitted Dodgers fan and baseball junkie. "We expect a lot of people to be interested in this, and I'm very interested in it. I haven't spoken to Joe about it, and I'm sure looking forward to asking him a lot of questions about this book."
Most current Yankees, including Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, have said that they would like to read Torre's book before commenting on it -- but enough advance copies of "The Yankee Years" have leaked off bookshelves for the general public to begin drawing conclusions.
King prefers to wait until he can ask his own questions, and rightly so. Both King and Torre are Brooklyn natives and now Southern California residents, both survived major medical issues midway through their careers, and both received honorary degrees from Brooklyn College -- King was the presenter when Torre received his in 1999.
And on Friday night, King's program will give Torre his first true opportunity to explain himself.
"Even though I'm not a close friend of his, I feel a strong attachment to him," King said. "My hope is that when it comes out, fans will know him better. They'll know him better, and the Yankees better."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.