SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Commissioner Bud Selig gave Major League Baseball a new face on Saturday by naming Joe Torre as the sport's executive vice president of baseball operations.Torre, who has adroitly represented individual clubs as a player, broadcaster and manager for more than 50 years, will now become the public face of the entire sport. It was one of the reasons that Selig selected him, the Commissioner said on Saturday during a media conference at Salt River Fields, the new Spring Training complex for the D-backs and Rockies, who later played the first game here. "For the past year I've talked to a lot of people, which I do on every issue," Selig said. "There's a myriad of factors that go into it and that was certainly one of them." Torre will oversee all aspects of on-field baseball operations, including the umpires, discipline and as a liaison to the general managers and field managers of the 30 clubs regarding on-field matters.
He'll also remain on Selig's 14-man special committee reviewing the improvement of every aspect of the sport. The 70-year-old Torre, who retired after three years of managing the Dodgers this past season, will continue to live in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. He said that at the outset, though, he'll spend a lion's share of his time at MLB's main offices in New York, where he managed the Yankees into the playoffs every season from 1996-2007, winning four World Series titles and six American League pennants in the process. His "Safe at Home" Foundation is also based in New York."Initially, I understand, I'm going to have to spend a great deal of time in New York," Torre said. "I've visited the offices several times so far. My home is Los Angeles at this time, but I know I have a job to do and I'm going to do it. So it's time in New York initially and we'll see where that takes us." Torre immediately replaces Jimmie Lee Solomon. Solomon is now in charge of MLB-run academies in the United States and Puerto Rico, Minor League operations and the annual Civil Rights Game. Solomon replaced Sandy Alderson as executive vice president of baseball operations in 2007 when Alderson left to become chief executive of the Padres. After a year working for MLB addressing issues in the Dominican Republic, Alderson was hired as general manager of the Mets following the 2010 season.
When Solomon moved into his current role this past summer, John McHale was put in charge of baseball operations on an interim basis with Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson overseeing the umpires, security and on-field baseball operations.McHale will return to his previous duties of executive vice president of administration and Robinson will again act as an advisor to Selig. The Commissioner said that Robinson will begin a major undefined project next week and the two will meet in Milwaukee in the coming days to discuss the matter. A further restructuring of baseball operations is still to be determined, Selig said, as is a replacement for the recently retired Bob Watson, who was the head of discipline. "Those are decisions to be made in the future," Selig said. "All we're announcing today is Joe. We still have a lot of work, a lot of discussion to follow and as I usually am, it will be very methodical." Selig, who has two years remaining on his current term as Commissioner, said he's been talking to Torre about taking this high level administrative position for many months. But the concept began to jell when Torre retired as manager of the Dodgers after the 2010 season, one which snapped his 14-year streak of taking the team he managed into the playoffs. Torre's Dodgers went to the playoffs twice in the three years he managed the team, losing the National League Championship Series to the Phillies in 2008 and '09. Last season, the Dodgers finished a disappointing 80-82 and in fourth place in the NL West 11 games behind the eventual World Series-winning Giants. Torre reiterated on Saturday that he's finished with managing and is looking forward to the new challenge, particularly with his appointment coming on the eve of collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement, which expires this coming Dec. 11. "When I retired from managing I said I still had the energy to work," Torre said. "Baseball has been a huge part of my life and I still wanted to do something significant. This fills the bill, there's no question about it. This is a great opportunity to talk about and deal with issues involving baseball, the game especially. I've been a fan my whole life. Of course, you're a fan when play the game and you manage it. It'll be my opinion, it'll be my decisions and that's exciting." This will be Torre's first executive role. He played 18 seasons in the Major Leagues and was a .297 lifetime hitter as a catcher, first baseman and third baseman. A nine-time NL All-Star, Torre led that league in hitting with a .363 average when he played for the Cardinals in 1971. He subsequently spent 29 years as a manager of five teams and was named AL Manager of the Year when he led the Yankees to World Series victories in 1996 and '98. There is perhaps no man in baseball with his credentials and certainly no one as adroit at dealing with the public and the media. "I'd like to thank Bud Selig for trusting me with this role," Torre said. "I will do what I like to believe I have always done: the best that I can."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.