SI.com spoke with Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci on Friday afternoon to discuss news of Joe Torre's retirement as Dodgers manager. Torre and Verducci collaborated on two books, Chasing the Dream and The Yankee Years.
SI: Is this a surprise?
Verducci: It's not a big surprise considering that Torre is 70 years old. I think when the Dodgers said that Mattingly was going to go to the Fall League to manage after this season that was a sign that both Torre and Mattingly were heading in that direction.
SI:Will Torre manage again?
TV: My guess would be that he will not manage again. I would think if he still had the willingness and the drive to manage he would come back to the Dodgers next year and I'm not sure sure that feeling is going to come back once he steps away from managing. I wouldn't rule it out totally if there's a team that wants to make a switch mid to late season next year who wants somebody with experience. I think he anticipated that this was going to be his last job managing when he took it. How many years that would be I don't think he really knew that.
I think if any club makes that call to him about managing I don't think it will go any further than just making sure that he is not ready to manage again. I thought during the season that he was either going to come back to the Dodgers next year or he was not going to manage. Clearly he's ready to hang up his managerial spikes. I don't see that changing. His name may be thrown out this winter with jobs that may come open but I don't see real validity to those. I think he's happy.
SI: How does he stack up among other managers?
TV: Well, he's definitely a Hall of Famer. I think he's one of the greatest managers of the free agent era. He put together really the only true dynasty of the free agent era. A couple of things stand out: No. 1 how well his teams always played in the second half, which is a testament to the way he ran his games and his clubhouse. Second is the remarkable postseason success. He won 14 of his first 15 postseason series with the Yankees. I don't know in the free agent era if we'll ever see that again. I think we have an understanding of what a crapshoot, as Oakland general manager Billy Beane calls it, the postseason is, but the Yankees every year made the odds work in their favor. Overall when you measure his baseball career you have to look at a guy who had more than 2,300 hits as a player and 2,300 wins as a manager. That's never been done in baseball history and may never be matched, certainly not for a very long time. It's a very unique career. We hear a lot about how great players don't turn out to be great managers in any sport and yet Torre defied that way of thinking.
SI: He'll always be thought of as a Yankees manager, but he did win two division titles with the Dodgers. How did he do in L.A.?
TV: The numbers speak for themselves. They hadn't won a postseason series in 20 years before Torre got there and they wound up going back-to-back years to the NLCS. That alone is a great accomplishment. The Dodgers ran into a better team each year there, I thought, with the Phillies. But he restored the playoff tradition and pride that had disappeared in the Dodgers organization and he did it immediately. He went to a place with a completely different personality and completely different tradition and won.
SI:Do you think it was easier for him to manage in Los Angeles than it was in New York?
TV: In some ways it was easier just because the volume of the attention, the criticism and the micromanaging was a little bit less in LA. In some ways it was more difficult because that was a team that didn't know how to win yet. They were learning how to win and I think Torre pushed them to that next level. They had some interesting personalities. There was some unsettledness in the front office in a completely different sense than there was in New York.
SI:What made him such a successful manager?
TV: The quality that defines him most is honesty. In the end that's where you gain the respect of your players and management. You don't hide anything and you're up front with people. Torre knows no other way but to be honest and that quality always came through. There's lots of other things -- obviously, when you manage 29 years you've done a lot of things right -- but that's the quality that helped most.
SI: Do you think he feels like he's done everything he wants to do as a manager?
TV: Absolutely. In 1996 he might not have been able to say that. For a player and manager for all those years who had never been to the World Series, the first year with the Yankees he gets there and wins it and that was after being fired three times earlier in his career. He was ready for a career in broadcasting [before he went to New York]. He was playing with house money at that point. Whenever anybody asked him about the Yankees he's always been very cognizant of the point that if not for George Steinbrenner these great things that came his way later in life wouldn't have been possible. The manager we think of that Joe Torre is today has got a lot to do with George Steinbrenner.
SI: What's next for Joe Torre?
TV: My sense is he's not out and out retiring. I think he has too much to offer the game to go play golf somewhere. What that capacity is I don't know -- special advisor, broadcaster. He's got so much to bring to the game and he can do so many things well. I doubt it will include managing. I think he's just moving onto another stage.
SI: Is it likely that he could go back to the Yankees in some capacity?
TV: I wouldn't say likely, no. I think at this point you'd have to look at the Dodgers first just because of the recent connection there and he has a great relationship with [Dodgers GM] Ned Colletti and the [team-owning] McCourts. I think he's got so much to offer the game I think a lot of options come into play for him. It just depends on how much he wants to do.
SI: Do you think the Yankees will retire his No. 6 one day, or hold a day in his honor?
TV: I would expect that to happen at some point.