Torre talks Manny, PEDs in New York
Dodgers skipper meets with media before golf tournament
BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. -- Manny Ramirez may have thought the discussion about performance-enhancing drugs ended this weekend in San Diego, but Joe Torre knows better. He's spent more than enough time in the big city to understand how certain things work.
Case in point: When one of the faces of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry comes to New York for the first time since his suspension for violating the MLB drug policy, people are going to talk about it.
"There's really nothing to prepare you for New York," Torre said. "When he had his press conference the other day, I said, 'Well, you're going to have to do this one more time in New York,' and he said, 'We do?' I said, 'Yeah, you know we do.'"
That conversation began in earnest on Monday morning, one day before the Manny Circus officially rolls into town, at Torre's Safe at Home Foundation 2009 Golf Classic at Trump National Golf Club. The Dodgers begin a three-game series with the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday, marking Ramirez's first appearance in New York since serving his 50-game suspension.
The golf tournament, which Torre started while managing the Yankees, is held annually to raise money in the fight against domestic child abuse. Stars including former Yankees Tino Martinez, Graig Nettles and Darryl Strawberry were among the celebrities in attendance. But a superstar who wasn't there was the one who stole the show.
Torre spoke with a group of reporters for more than 10 minutes about Ramirez, drugs and the future of baseball before heading out to the first tee. Torre served as the Yankees' manager from 1996-2007 and won four World Series titles during his era before joining the Dodgers in 2008.
Ramirez, meanwhile, was the Red Sox's most feared hitter from 2001-08 and Public Enemy No. 1 at Yankee Stadium throughout his career. He was a vital cog in some of the most memorable moments of baseball's greatest rivalry. Ramirez will play his first game in New York on Tuesday since being traded to Los Angeles at the Trade Deadline last season.
"He's uncomfortable," Torre said of Ramirez. "He's basically a shy person. He's just uncomfortable, but he's ready for it."
Torre began the morning talking about his love for New York, saying how he started missing it as he saw the skyline from the team plane as it landed around 3 a.m. ET. He also discussed the golf event and the cause, which he has championed since he founded the Safe at Home Foundation in 2002.
But the tone quickly shifted to Ramirez, a figure who has provided years of drama in New York for more than a decade. Torre explained that this situation in some ways has been similar to when former Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi was publicly confronting his own performance-enhancing drug use.
In an issue as complex and divided as performance-enhancing drug use in baseball, everybody has an opinion. Torre is no exception, and he offered his feelings about how history should treat alleged users, including Ramirez, former pitcher Roger Clemens and current Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez -- all players Torre managed during his career.
"Cheating aside, Barry Bonds is a Hall of Fame type player," Torre said. "Before anyone questioned him about anything, he won four MVPs. There are very few guys who won four MVPs who aren't in the Hall of Fame. Does that mean he should be in the Hall of Fame? I'm not saying that.
"Pete Rose -- and that had nothing to do with steroids -- he's not in the Hall of Fame, and he certainly had the credentials to be in the Hall of Fame. Clemens, Manny, Alex and all those people are in that upper group of guys that ability-wise, with steroids stuff aside, I think they're legitimate players."
The Dodgers come into New York with baseball's best record and a 7 1/2-game lead over the second-place Giants. They are on pace to cruise into the postseason and will likely be one of the favorites to win the World Series.
A reporter asked Torre if any future October success with Ramirez would somehow be tainted in light of his suspension. Torre used the question to implore baseball to continue making strides to clean up the game.
"What do you think about Andy Pettitte? And Alex?" Torre said when asked if a championship would be tainted. Pettitte admitted using human growth hormone to heal from an elbow injury quicker in 2002.
"I think baseball right now is tainted, and we need to get the trust back," he continued. "I don't think there's any question, even your guys who have never possibly taken anything, they'll hit a home run, and there's still going to be somebody in the stands saying, 'What do you think?'"
Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.