LOS ANGELES --- One final shred of dignity was peeled from the Dodger facade Friday night,
Because Torre is 70, he can pretend that he is no longer able to relate to young players, and the Dodgers can pretend he is in search of an easier lifestyle. But everything Torre said Friday pointed to him managing again, perhaps as soon as next season -- just not in Los Angeles. He insisted that he was not scared off by the divorce, repeatedly invoking the name of
Torre does not have time to wait through the trial, the inevitable appeal, and the equally inevitable sale. So he handed the team to his chosen heir, hitting coach
The Dodgers disintegrated this season, but it's too easy to blame all their problems on McCourt, who declined to pay premier free agents and allowed the farm system to wither. The Dodgers banked on a young, talented and affordable nucleus --- headlined by
When Torre came to Los Angeles, he was drawn by that generation, whom he compared to the crop of Yankee prospects he inherited in 1996. The week before his first game, he watched Kemp and Ethier shag flies during batting practice at Angel Stadium and said: "[This] is the fun part. It's watching young talent develop and grow. It's looking in the eyes of young players and sensing when they reach the point that they come to the ballpark knowing what to expect, what to do." They never reached that point, as evidenced by the litany of egregious mistakes they made this season. When Kemp failed to back up second on a stolen-base attempt, and bench coach
Torre's departure is an indictment of the Dodgers young talent, which now must be molded by Mattingly. Asked what gives him hope, Mattingly said: "'08 and '09. There are times you step backward to go forward." Stepping backward is a sensitive subject for Mattingly, whose only real experience as a manager came this season, when he made an ill-fated trip to the mound after a Torre ejection. Mattingly went to visit Broxton and arrange the defense, but after he left, Loney asked a follow-up question and Mattingly returned to the mound. In violating a little-known rule, Broxton had to be removed, and the Dodgers lost the lead and the game. Mattingly will brush up on such technicalities this winter when he manages the Dodgers affiliate in the Arizona Fall League.
Mattingly is a Torre disciple, reasoned and even-keeled, but he vows to spice his approach with other influences, among them
Mattingly's chances would improve a great deal without McCourt, but apparently he is going to hang onto the franchise by his fingernails. "I'm not selling," he said, and a city winced. Colletti said he will talk with Torre about staying in Los Angeles and taking another position in the organization, but with 10 potential managerial openings, he should have much better opportunities. "I don't anticipate managing again," Torre said, before issuing the predictable qualifier: "I'm certainly not going to not listen to something if it's intriguing or exciting." A few minutes later, he seemed to soften his stance even more. "This is just not managing the Dodgers again," he said. "Hopefully I'll have choices."
When Torre held his last goodbye press conference, in a ballroom at the Rye Town Hilton in Westchester County nearly three years ago, he was hurt by the way his bosses had treated him. This time around, he is not hurt, just aware. He is doing exactly what Steinbrenner taught him: Refusing to tolerate a loser.