This is an article from the July 6, 2009 issue
MAJOR LEAGUE SKIPPER
Without their best hitter, Manny Ramirez, who is finishing up a 50-game PED suspension, Torre's Dodgers have built a big lead in the NL West
Dan Patrick: Do regular-season games ever stay with you?
Joe Torre: In my earlier days of managing, because I was trying to establish in my mind that I could do this. If I neglected to do something [during a game] or if something I did didn't work, I would say to myself, "Well, that's why we lost three in a row." As years go by, you adjust your thinking, because it's better for your health.
DP: So you have to have the mind-set of a closer—forget about what you just did and move on?
JT: You have to. I didn't realize until my years with the Yankees [after stints with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals] that my demeanor affects other people. I remember Derek Jeter saying, "I looked at the bench and saw Mr. Torre, and he was very calm." Once you realize that your personality affects the personality of the team, you have to keep the big picture in mind.
DP: Did you take Manny's suspension personally?
JT: I take everything pretty personal, but I think that's what helps you understand it a little bit more. We've been competitive our whole lives, as managers or coaches or players. I look back at the steroid era—to me, it's about competition. And it became this snowball going down the hill. It's not very big, and then all of a sudden you find yourself on the other side of it trying to keep it from running you over. If these players felt that other people were having an edge on them by doing something, then the thought process is, I need to keep up. And that's sad because we let it get out of hand, and we all have to take responsibility.
DP: Manny is getting into shape in the minors while he's suspended. Some find that controversial, and I think baseball might change the rule that allows that. Do you think suspended players should be allowed to play in the minors?
JT: It's a safety factor. Manny was of a mind, Just let me take batting practice. I encouraged him to play games. If he's going to miss 50 games, then he's going to have to do something. And to me, supervised something is better than having him do it on his own, because then you're risking injury. I have to agree with allowing them to get into baseball shape if they're going to be suspended for 50 games.
DP: How do you know when Manny is ready to play?
JT: [laughs] When July 3rd comes.
DP: Do you take more pride in wins this year? With the Yankees it seemed like you were supposed to win. Now you get a little more credit. Is that a fair assessment?
JT: The expectation after the first couple of years [in New York] is eventually what got to me. Especially after getting to the World Series in 2001 and 2003 and not winning it—and that was [considered] a disappointment. I had a lot of trouble delivering the message to the players that it was a disappointment, because I was with them as they fought their way to the postseason. If you win every year and get deep into the postseason, I guess it's human nature that expectations are high. It's a little fresher out here for me. But the 12 years in New York are something I would never change. It was a wonderful experience.
Count Football Night in America analyst Rodney Harrison among those who have had enough of the Brett Favre retirement saga. The former safety, who didn't hedge when he retired in June, told me that players around the NFL see the league's alltime leading passer as "selfish" for bringing so much attention to himself. Harrison added, "If you've been in the league 13, 14, 15 years, you know if you want to play. The circus shouldn't have to go on for three or four years."
Following the blockbuster trade that united Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James (page 44), I asked listeners for new nicknames for Shaq in Cleveland. The best:
10. The Big Second Fiddle
9. The King and I
8. Sheriff of Shaqahoga County
7. The Big Journeyman
6. Shaqer Heights
5. The Big Witness
4. LeBron & Shaq Plus 8
3. Shaq Frost
2. The Big Erie-stotle
Line of the week
Coach Mike D'Antoni spoke of how fleeting love is after his Knicks narrowly missed getting the player they wanted most at No. 8 in last week's NBA draft: "It's easy to fall in love and fall out of love. Now I hate [Stephen] Curry and I love Jordan Hill."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Landon Donovan on the U.S.'s near miss in South Africa.
2. Team president David Kahn explains the T-Wolves' draft.
THE FINE PRINT: The NHL is seriously considering putting a team in Las Vegas. That sound you hear is Jaromir Jagr packing to come back.