Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Torre Story

Deftly deflecting the speculation as to his future by cryptically stating that his decision was to be made in September and not divulging it, Dodgers manager Joe Torre knew in the spring, in the summer and now what his intentions were and are; it's more likely that the defusing of the bomb that would've exploded had he made his announcement one way or the other gave him wiggle-room to wait and see what happened with the Dodgers and other situations----situations that have everything Torre wants.

What does Torre want, you ask?

Joe Torre, the Frank Sinatra of baseball with a dose of the Godfather thrown in, wants to (in no particular order): win; get paid; be in a large enough market to accord him the attention he loves; manage in a high-profile/high-reward/low risk environment to prevent embarrassment; be in a place his wife would find palatable to let him keep managing.

There won't be a shortage of such venues this winter. Even at age 70, Torre is healthy enough, mentally acute and still has the aura of Joe Torre to carry him through. I can see him agreeing to a 2-year contract with someone to continue managing. Jack McKeon (a highly underrated manager and baseball man----a Hall of Fame candidate) won a World Series with the Marlins at 72 and managed until he was 74; why couldn't Torre keep going? And McKeon's team was far younger and needed more guidance than the teams Torre would have to deal with.

Let's take a look:

New York Yankees:

Made 'ya look!!

It'd be funny, but it's not going to happen. Ever. It's probably going to be ten years before he's welcomed back in any capacity as a visitor or honored for his part in the championship teams. I do believe it's possible that current Yankees manager Joe Girardi would leave for the Cubs----more possible than is realized; but Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners don't want to deal with the lunacy that would accompany a Torre reunion, and Torre doesn't need the aggravation.

Atlanta Braves:

It's a known secret that Fredi Gonzalez is the next manager of the Braves to replace Bobby Cox, but if there was a snag of some sort or a change of heart, why not Torre returning to one of his former playing/managerial haunts? The clubhouse is ready-made to win; he's beloved in Atlanta; and the veterans would police the clubhouse; plus the team is loaded to contend for a few years.

Gonzalez is getting the job, so forget it.

Florida Marlins:

Owner Jeffrey Loria thinks outside the box and was ready to hire Bobby Valentine, so why not Torre? The team is talented enough to win and after the financial documents that were exposed a few weeks ago regarding Marlins profits and their sweetheart stadium deal----Miami Herald Story----they may have no choice but to spend some cash on players.

They're not that far away from being a legitimate title contender, the Florida weather and talent might be agreeable for Torre; and as mentioned before, they won with McKeon at a similar age.

New York Mets:

Another former Torre-led club, the Mets need credibility in the manager's office to attract free agents and deal with the clubhouse; they could pay him, they have a lot of talent both young and veteran and, contrary to popular belief, have the goods to contend next year.

This seemed possible a few weeks ago, but the Wilpons are going to move on from Omar Minaya as GM and Jerry Manuel might as well start clearing his office now of the Gandhi/Jesus/whatever books and philosophies he espouses.

It does make sense----Torre back on the New York stage, finishing his managerial career where it began and sticking it to the Yankees right in front of them by turning the Mets around----but the names being mentioned for the job have been Wally Backman, Bobby Valentine and Bob Melvin. Don't discount the possibility of Torre returning, but it's unlikely at this point.

Torre's wife would want nothing to do with heading across the country to jump back into the New York cauldron, the known dysfunction with the Mets and the turf battle with the Yankees.

St. Louis Cardinals:


You read that right.

This hit me like a bolt of Force Lightning from mine own hand.

Actually it was more of a She-Fan comment that brought this to mind.

When I wrote about Tony La Russa, the Cardinals and the Colby Rasmus mess, Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan wrote regarding La Russa (if he left the Cardinals) and Torre's possible retirement:

I don't know if La Russa is going anywhere, but I'd rule out the Dodgers. My hunch is that Torre will be back there next year, McCourts or no McCourts.

Would it be so insane for the Cardinals to look around and come to a conclusion that they've had enough of La Russa and his annual vacillating between managing and not; his demanding nature; his one way doghouse; and using his Hall of Fame resume to get what he wants by manipulating the media and fans to turn against the "evil" front office and still losing in the playoffs or fading down the stretch?

I say this with the greatest admiration for La Russa----he's a brilliant managerial mind, but this mess with Rasmus exemplifies his flaws.

So, hypothetically, let's say the Cardinals look at their circumstances and want to replace La Russa. They're a veteran, top-heavy team whose core player contracts are locked in for the next year or two, would they risk the ire of Albert Pujols by getting rid of La Russa and hiring a no-name/no-experience manager? The media would go off the deep end; the players would question the decision; the fans would be enraged: "How could you let Tony leave?!?"....unless they hired someone with a resume equal to or surpassing that of La Russa.

Someone like Joe Torre.

Torre managed the Cardinals from 1990 through 1995 and had limited talent with which he did about as well as could be expected. This was before Torre became Joe Torre and was considered a respectable, veteran, journeyman manager who would handle the team in all aspects and wouldn't embarrass the club. It was only through timing and luck that Torre wound up managing the Yankees and his legend evolved into what it is now.

As a former Cardinals superstar player and manager, he'd be immediately accepted by all; his wife would agree to it having been there in the early years of their marriage; and if he's still going to want to manage, the Mid-West is far easier on the stomach than the West or East coasts.

Also, even though La Russa and Torre are friendly, don't discount the ego aspect. Torre would love to be able to replace La Russa and win with a group that faltered under La Russa. It would be an interesting case study as to what's more important: strategic acumen (La Russa's better than Torre); or cachet and crisis-handling skills (Torre's strength).

Torre has been far more calculating in the players he's taken on publicly than La Russa. Torre's enemies were always the likes of David Wells, Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez----players who a clever manipulator like Torre could simply point to their historic behaviors and shake his head as if to say, "look at who you're talking about". La Russa's fights have been with bigger names like Jose Canseco, Ruben Sierra (about whom you could also shake your head); but he also took on Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, neither of whom ever did anything but play hard for La Russa. These were personality issues and now La Russa's in the midst of another one with Rasmus.

The most important thing to me would be that Torre would be agreeable to Pujols.

It's not crazy.

Chicago Cubs:

This has been speculated and it would be fun for Torre to be going up against La Russa and Dusty Baker in the NL Central (presuming both are back with the respective teams); the Cubs job is big-time, recognizable, fuel for the ego and they have a lot of talent to turn things around fast. Plus they'd pay him.

It's also a losing situation as Lou Piniella learned (much of that was through Piniella's own mishaps on and off the field in handling players) and the organization is a dead zone for any and all managers. Much like Piniella, the accolades for the manager who finally wins the pennant would be endless, but Torre knows that it's a very tough situation to walk into and win.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Despite the McCourt divorce and the drama, the Dodgers have enough young talent to compete even if they slash payroll. Let's say they trade Jonathan Broxton for a Colby Rasmus (it's a viable deal); perhaps they could then deal Matt Kemp to an offense-hungry/pitching-rich team like the Athletics and bolster their starting rotation. Casey Blake is a movable piece as well. The Dodgers could compete with a lower payroll.

It would be easier for Torre to simply stay with the Dodgers, but they may want to move on with a manager whose salary isn't going to be in the $5 million range.

In the end, I too believe that Torre is going to manage next season and it'll be in a place where he can win immediately. Imagining Torre riding off into the sunset after an 81-81 season and rampant controversy while he still has the energy and desire to compete and manage is about as realistic as Torre returning to the Yankees.

Joe Torre would not know what to do with himself if he wasn't managing. He's going to manage somewhere, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Florida----somewhere. Watch.

  • Inexcusable:

The Mets had a team-planned visit to Walter Reed medical center to see injured veterans and Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez saw fit not to attend. Their excuses varied from Beltran saying he had other things to do; Castillo saying he couldn't deal with the injuries sustained by the patients; and Perez not saying anything.

You can read news and opinion about this anywhere----NY Times Story.

What I'll say is this: it was tantamount to spitting in the face of owner Fred Wilpon to ignore a "you're invited and better show up" request from the club to take part. Wilpon and his son Jeff were said to be livid at the no-shows and they have a right to be. There was no excuse for this. None. I don't want to hear that Beltran had other things to do; that Castillo couldn't deal with it; and Perez? Good grief. This has nothing to do with any gripes the players have against the organization; it has to do with selfishness that is part of the culture that has put the Mets in their current predicament to begin with.

The man signing their checks is very active in the care of injured veterans.

They should've been there; if they chose to stand there and not participate, they should've attended. Period. End of story.

Beltran, Castillo and Perez should be ashamed----if they have any shame left.

You tell me if you think they do.

  • Viewer Mail 9.9.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Tony La Russa:

There's been talk of getting TLR back to the White Sox, where he should've never left to begin with... so I hear.

The Cardinals (and Rasmus especially) have broken my heart too many times this year. I hope the Reds go all the way.

If nothing else, it'd be a good story to tell.

Max Stevens also writes RE La Russa:

Great posting today on the Cards and La Russa. Have you ruled out the possibility that he might end up back with the White Sox?

Jerry Reinsdorf has often lamented letting Hawk Harrelson fire La Russa; the two are still good friends, but where's Ozzie Guillen going? He's signed through 2012, warrants Manager of the Year consideration for resurrecting the White Sox from the dead as he did; is popular and one of the best strategic managers in baseball. If Kenny Williams hasn't gotten rid of Guillen yet, he's not going to. No way I see La Russa back with the White Sox.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz a week ago. You can download it to I-Tunes via Sal's site; visit him on Facebook and get it directly here.

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Yes, I am going to give you the book sites for the entire season.


She-Fan said...

Mark my words. The Dodgers will be sold and the new owners will keep Torre (and he'll want to stay).

Jeff said...

I am a fan of Torre in the 'Lou. I don't know why. The Cards weren't good with him at the helm in the early 90s. Then again, we didn't have Carp, Waino, Albert and Holliday then either.

What's your take on the Hoffman 600? I feel like hijacking a team to reach a "milestone" is a bit selfish and inappropriate, but that's just me.

Gabriel said...

Jeff: Ask Ichiro.

I agree with Jane, he'll remain with the Dodgers. And this year's NL Manager of the year WILL be Dusty Baker, and AL's will be Ron Washington.