One of the things that made Joe Torre so loved in New York was the fact he was such a classy guy. So humble and down to earth, yet he had that demeanor that was stern and had that emotionless look on his face. Of course all the winning he did with the Yankees also helped everyone loved him too.
Back in late 1995 when he was announced as the new manager of the Yankees he was known for being a great catcher but a lousy manager. Having being fired in his previous stops with the Mets, Cardinals, and Braves, Torre came to the Bronx with a lot to prove. Boy did he prove everyone wrong. He restored pride in the pinstripes and brought four world championships while making the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons as manager. Last year when he was announced as the new manager of the Dodgers, he went to another organization where pride needed to be restored. Now, Torre was a legendary manager, with that also brought a bunch of expectations. Was it possible to exceed these expectations? Well considering Los Angeles didn't really have enough talent to go far, Torre had a surmountable task ahead of him. This year we were going to find out if it really was Torre who got the Yanks into the playoffs all these years or if it was the bank account that got him and endless list of All-Stars. Turns out maybe it was a little bit of both, but I think Torre should have been credited more.
Like in New York, Torre had his cast of veterans and youth. Last season Grady Little was criticized for losing his team down the stretch thus costing the Dodgers a chance at making the playoffs. This season under Torre the Dodgers went on an 8 game losing streak in late August yet still found in them to right the ship and charge into the postseason all the way to NLCS, a place they had no business being. Dodgers ownership saw potential with the team they had and added the pieces they lacked. They added Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, and Greg Maddux. All made significant contributions. Ramirez was in a league of his own batting almost .400 while wearing Dodger Blue. He carried the offense on his back all the way from his July trade up until Wednesday night when the Dodgers were eliminated by the Phillies. One of the things that people got on Torre for his case of over-managing. Yankee fans can recall many instances in which Torre's late inning decisions might've cost the Bombers a game but when Torre came out in Game 4 and took out Derek Lowe after 5 innings it made you wonder what was Joe thinking? Nonetheless it was Joe who got the Dodgers this far.
"He's a leader," Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said. "His performance was everything we wanted this franchise to be."
Sure Manny was a HUGE help, but without Torre pushing the right buttons and guiding the way the first 4 months of the season the Dodgers don't go out and make the trade for Manny and they don't catch the Arizona Diamondbacks. So did Torre exceed expectations this year, his first in L.A.? I think so. If you think he didn't, just look at the status of his former team, the Yankees. They didn't even make the playoffs, forget that the Bombers had a better record, that fact is very misleading. The only thing that matters in sports is winning, especially when you're talking about the Dodgers and Yankees. Torre showed he still was a genius even if he wasn't in the Bronx.
"I came here wondering if managing was still fun," Torre said. "And it was."
The question now becomes what do the Dodgers do with Manny and the rest of their free agents (Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Maddux, and Lowe)? It's going to be an interesting offseason in L.A.
"Hopefully the experience of this postseason helped everybody," Dodger first baseman James Loney said.
Torre came out after the series-eliminating loss on Wednesday night to thank the fans. Maybe he was watching the Yankees final game at Yankee Stadium and took a page out of Derek Jeter's book. The move doesn't surprise me because both men are classy and both men probably have the same mindset as they've spent so much time together over the years so it's just common sense to salute the fans. It's a good way to win over the fans, but in Torre's case, he had already done that...because he made the Dodgers matter again in Los Angeles. Something similar happened in New York back in 1996, he made the Yankees matter again. When it's all said and done Joe Torre will be the man setting the standards for managers everywhere. Oh wait, he already has.