09/17/10 10:04 PM ET
Colleagues offer kudos for Torre, Mattingly
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Torre's credentials are well known to even neophyte fans. The longtime manager went into Friday night's games with 2,138 wins, more than all but four men -- Connie Mack, John McGraw, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox -- in the history of the game. Torre has taken the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series twice in three years, adding to his legacy.
"[Torre's] one of the great managers of all time," said San Diego skipper Bud Black. "I truly respect Joe and what he's done throughout his career. Managing against him ... you always knew you had to think right along with him. He knew his players as well as anybody."
Torre has had some great players in his career, and he's molded them with the gentle hand of a man who's been in their shoes. Torre had a tremendous playing career that saw him named to nine All-Star Games and to the 1971 National League Most Valuable Player trophy, but he's become as well, or perhaps even better, known for his five-team arc as a manager.
"You're not going to find too many guys that have the entire package that he has," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, like Torre a decorated catcher during his playing career. "As a player, he achieved at a very high level. He has a deep understanding of this game, in every facet. I think his intuitiveness of when to just back off and let a guy play or when to interject something is just a gift that he has. When you talk about his knowledge of the game and the way he communicates, his feel for players and evaluating, it just puts him on a short list of guys that have been doing it for that long. And doing it that well for so long."
His managing career truly began in another era, as Torre was a player-manager with the Mets in 1977. Torre never managed a winning season in his first New York tenure, leaving after five seasons and a 286-420 record. Things improved marginally in subsequent stops with Atlanta (257-229) and St. Louis (351-354), but his career took off when he joined the Yankees.
Torre experienced immediate success with New York, molding the Bronx Bombers into the game's most impressive recent dynasty. He won the World Series title four times in his first five years with the Yankees and made the playoffs 12 times in 12 years before bolting for Los Angeles. Still, despite his exit, Torre will always be remembered fondly in New York.
Brian Cashman, New York's general manager during Torre's tenure, made sure to make that point on Friday.
"Joe Torre the manager is already enshrined in history with us," Cashman said. "The memories of him with the Yankees will go on forever. Just because he didn't re-sign a new contract doesn't change the fact that he was as successful and great a manager as he was for us. He's going to be a Hall of Famer, and he'll go in with a Yankees cap. He's welcome here any time."
A similar sentiment could be found elsewhere in New York's clubhouse, from players that excelled under him to the manager that filled his shoes. Joe Girardi, Torre's successor, spoke extensively on Friday about Torre's place in the game.
"It'll be interesting to see how he feels in December and if he stays retired," Girardi said. "Joe's been doing it a long time, and I'm sure there are other things he wants to do with his life. ... I don't think I would have been surprised either way, because I know how much he loves managing, and I know how much he loves his family. He's been a great manager for a long time."
"It goes without saying how much [Torre's] meant to the game of baseball," added shortstop Derek Jeter. "Not only as a player but as a manager, here and other places as well. I'm happy he's decided to do it and I wish him the best."
"[Torre's] definitely going to go down as one of the game's better managers," said Johnny Damon, who played against Torre's teams while with the Red Sox and for Torre after signing with the Yankees. "He was always good with talking to the players and acting like a father figure. The guy's been around the game for a long time, so he understands. ... He understands how tough the game is. He's had a great career as a player and also as a manager, and I think Don Mattingly's going to be a perfect guy to replace him."
The response to Mattingly's promotion was no more muted. Mattingly, long held as one of the most beloved Yankees, spent his entire 14-season playing career with New York. He retired right before Torre arrived, but Mattingly served under the four-time champion in New York, as hitting coach from 2004-06 and as bench coach in 2007, and then again as hitting coach in Los Angeles, beginning with the 2008 All-Star break.
Mattingly, a six-time All-Star and the 1985 American League Most Valuable Player, has never been employed as a manager before. This is his first shot at the job, and his former teammates were happy to hear about it.
"It's a great opportunity for Donnie," said southpaw Andy Pettitte. "As strange as it was to see him in a Dodgers uniform, it will be even be stranger now to see him manage over that organization. I wish him all the best. I think I'll do a great job."
"When I came up, he was one of the guys who taught me about hitting," added Roberto Kelly, a former Yankees outfielder who is currently employed as San Francisco's first-base coach. "I used to follow him all the time and really looked up to him. He wasn't a rah-rah kind of guy, but he led by example. Guys respected him because of his work ethic."
Mattingly has worked as both a bench coach and a hitting coach, a depth of background that should serve him in taking over the reigns as manager. As far as Girardi's concerned, the advice he would offer Mattingly is simple and straightforward.
"Be yourself," the Yankees skipper said. "One of the things you maybe do when you first manage is sometimes you think about losses maybe too long. If you're prepared, you make decisions for a reason, [though] they're not always the right ones. As a coach, you're pretty limited to just dealing with players. As a player, you're pretty much limited to what you do on the field."
"[Mattingly's] obviously a great baseball man," said Cashman. "We had him here forever as a player. He was one of the most talented hitting people you will ever come across. He's got an awesome demeanor. He was a candidate for our managerial opening. I'm happy for Donnie. It's something that he wanted for a long time. He worked hard [and] put himself in a position to do that. For him, I'm glad that it's paying off for him. They made a great choice."
The huge elephant in the room -- from now until Spring Training -- will be whether Torre opts to take an assignment with another team or whether he'll simply ride into the sunset and enjoy his retirement. Either way, this much appears to be true: Torre's legacy is beyond reproach, and he managed to keep his word by securing a managerial future for Mattingly.
"Joe's had a tremendous career, both as a player and as a manager," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "He did a great job in L.A. for them, getting them to the postseason. I wish him the best. He certainly has accomplished a lot in baseball. He's heading to the Hall of Fame, we all know. I don't know what his future plans are, but I wish him the best."
"[Torre will] be missed," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. "He's been a great ambassador for the game, and he's certainly gotten to Hall of Fame status over the last several years of his career. That's a good thing. He's a wonderful man, and he's a good friend. If this is what he wants to do and it's time to do it, I certainly would support that 100 percent. He's a very good friend."
Perhaps the best perspective comes from La Russa, like Torre a champion several times over and one of the winningest managers who has ever suited up in the big leagues. According to La Russa, Torre has a resume all his own.
"I put him in the [category] of what [Dennis] Eckersley and, to a certain extent, [John] Smoltz [did]," La Russa said. "He had a truly great playing career, and what he's done as a manager is great as well. You talk about a very unique combination of talents."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.