In the final week of spring training, when
The Dodgers' young players took about five months to reach that point, but they made it just in time. The Dodgers are in the National League Championship Series, not only due to the emergence of
When Torre arrived in Los Angeles, Loney, Kemp and Ethier were basically still prospects. Martin, Broxton and Billingsley were promising young players. Today, they are budding stars on the hottest team in baseball. Ramirez has clearly been the catalyst, but the kids are the core, the biggest reason to believe this club will contend even if Ramirez leaves as a free agent in the off-season.
After 12 years in New York, dealing with the tabloids and the Steinbrenners, it was easy to assume that Torre came to Los Angeles because he wanted a softer media market and a lower-maintenance owner. But Los Angeles does not offer much of a break in either respect. What really distinguished the Dodgers was their group of young talent, which reminded Torre of the bumper crop he inherited in New York.
The Yankees hired Torre in 1995, the same year that
Torre is best when dealing with young players. Last year, the Dodgers had a fractured clubhouse, split along generational lines. In one corner were
Torre gave the veterans every opportunity to play early in the season, respecting their experience and past contributions. But he recognized that the team could not win big without a comprehensive youth movement. He gradually phased out
How Torre has handled this potentially inflammatory situation, without inciting trouble in the clubhouse, is further proof of his deft touch. It is reminiscent of his earliest days in New York, when he convinced
Torre likes to say that Ramirez has also been a positive influence on the Dodgers' young players, which is still a little hard to believe. But there is no question that they are more comfortable with Ramirez leading them than Kent. Since Ramirez arrived, the Dodgers have taken on his personality -- flamboyant, fun and completely unpredictable. Ramirez is 36, but he appeals to this new generation of Dodgers, in part because he acts every bit as young as they do.