Drenched with champagne, Joe Torre stood in the L.A. Dodger's dugout last night almost teary-eyed answering questions from the media. He wasn't celebrating a world series yet, he wasn't merely celebrating his team clinching a playoff spot. Torre was celebrating the game of baseball—again.
Last winter after Torre's Yankees had been eliminated from the playoffs, all he heard was "Fire Joe, he needs to leave." Seemingly the fans, the front office, and of course George Steinbrenner (not the lovable owner seen in Seinfeld episodes) forgot all of the success Torre had as the Yanks Manager.
I don't care what the salaries were for those players on his team during those championships; Torre does things other managers can't do. He maintains team chemistry and never lets the players get too high or too low.
This year's Dodgers team exemplified how powerful of a figure Torre is and can be.
In late August the Dodgers began a 10 game road trip. The first four games were against a Philadelphia Phillies team they had just swept four games from in L.A. the weekend before. This series in Philadelphia was polar opposite for the boys in blue, they were swept by the Phillies and looked terrible in doing so.
Next came the pathetic Washington Nationals who were well on their way to losing 100 games. Well, three days in Washington proved to be three days to many as the Dodgers found themselves heading to Arizona with a seven game losing streak.
The Dodgers found themselves entering a crucial weekend against the D-backs who were 4 games ahead of the Dodgers. In the first game, the Dodgers looked pathetic; within the first few innings the game was over and the Dodgers now found themselves winless in 8 straight road games.
Did Joe Torre panic? No. Did he yell and scream at his team? No. Did he go to the media to call-out some of his players who were under-performing like Ozzie Guillen does? No chance.
Torre constantly told his young team that they needed to stop pressing and have fun. He told the team the would never win without having fun. This was the point where the Dodgers had their backs to the walls and if they wanted to go home to L.A. 2-8 or 1-9 on the road trip, they had to beat Cy Young nominees Brandon Webb and Dan Haren.
Boy did they ever! The Dodgers pounded Arizona and their great pitchers for the next two days and from that point on they found their true identity. Sometimes the old saying is true, you do learn more from losing than from winning. The Dodgers went on to win their next 8 games.
If the Dodgers still had Grady Little or Glenn Hoffman as their manager, they would be making tee times instead of filling out their playoff roster. In the past few seasons the Dodgers clubhouse has been known as "disturbing" and "divided." This year, there was never a peep, never a blame, and never a report of the clubhouse being separated.
Sure winning can make most clubhouses happy but having a manager like Joe Torre doesn't hurt either.
As the Dodger's run towards the playoffs, Torre's former team missed the playoffs.
When Torre was asked if he was happy that the Yankees team didn't make the playoffs, he responded "No, I would never root against them." Classy as always, Torre wouldn't take a shot at his old club, who treated him about as bad as any boss could treat an employee...especially considering how great of an employee Torre was.
The word classy cannot be used for the Yankees front office and owners. Hank Steinbrenner has made it very clear through the media that he thinks that the playoff system is flawed and that Torre's Dodgers do not belong.
I guess Steinbrenner didn't mind the system when the Yankees made the playoffs one year in the mid 90's with 87 wins—if the Yankees were in any other division that year they would not have earned a postseason berth.
What happened to that Yankees team that only had 87 regular season wins you ask? Well, a month later they won the World Series and the winning manager was none other than Mr. Joe Torre.
Last night, Joe Torre showed pride and happiness as the Dodgers clinched the NL West Division, two emotions he hasn't felt in over 8 years. Not because his team made the playoffs (his Yankees' teams did too) but because he was enjoying baseball and life again.
Kudos to you Mr. Torre, a real class act and a guy who could easily trash the Yankees organization as they have trashed him. Kudos to a great man and a great coach for getting his new young team to the playoffs without their starting shortstop, center fielder, and ace pitcher.
And how dare Yankee Stadium close its doors and turn off its lights for the final time without ever even mentioning Joe Torre before or after the game. True classlessness at its best.
The Yankees, as much as I am not a fan of, have some of the classiest and best players in Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. How ironic that when they came into the league the man who taught them was the same man now standing champagne soaked 3000 miles away in Dodger blue.
But don't worry NY, Torre would never rub his success in any of your faces like your whole organization did to him this past weekend; instead, he will continue to do what he does best... win graciously and praise the losers--even if they don't deserve it.
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