Thursday, June 24, 2010
Torre: Facing Yankees will be 'odd'
By Tony Jackson
ANAHEIM -- It's not that Joe Torre and his staff aren't excited about playing the New York Yankees on Friday at Dodger Stadium. It's just that they have more pressing matters to consider, such as a team that just ended a season-worst, six-game losing streak.
"I think we have plenty of problems of our own right now," said Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly, who also was part of Torre's staff in New York and spent his 14-year playing career with the Yankees. "We're just trying to win games. But it will be fun to see some of those guys and have a chance to catch up with them. I think it'll be a little bit weird to be across the field from them."
The rare interleague series will be especially weird for Joe Torre, who has never managed against the Yankees in a meaningful game. He was hired by the Yankees before the 2006 season, and his three previous managerial stints were with National League clubs before interleague play was instituted in 1997.
"The odd thing for me is that I will be over in that dugout pulling against people I have never pulled against before," said Torre, who managed a handful of the current Yankees players. "That will be the weird part. But I'm looking forward to seeing some people."
One Yankee who apparently isn't looking forward to seeing Torre is third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Asked about Torre earlier this week in Phoenix, where the Yankees were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks, Rodriguez offered praise for Mattingly and former Yankees third-base coach Larry Bowa, who also is now with the Dodgers. But Rodriguez made a point of not commenting on Torre.
That could stem from a 2009 book Torre wrote with Tom Verducci about Torre's Yankees years. In it, Rodriguez came across as high-maintenance, though Torre told reporters that there were no revelations about Rodriguez in the book that hadn't already been made public.
"I know Alex, and I like Alex," Bowa said. "Maybe he has his reasons. But I don't know why he did that."
Torre signed with the Dodgers after the 2007 season, saying the pay cut and performance incentives the Yankees were offering him for the next season were an "insult." But Bowa said this series isn't about exacting revenge.
"Joe is a proud man, but Joe doesn't hold grudges," Bowa said. "I think that is what makes him a great manager."
Torre says he still has a deep affection for the core of Yankees veterans -- shortstop Derek Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera and catcher Jorge Posada -- who were with him for almost all of his Yankees tenure and played a key role in helping the club win the World Series in four of Torre's first five seasons.
"They are like kids for me in a lot of ways, watching them accomplish what they accomplished last year after being together for such a long period of time," Torre said. "You don't normally keep even a small core of people together for that long a period, especially on a ballclub like the Yankees that has the habit of mixing and matching and stuff. For them to be just about as significant in the late 2000s as they were in the late 1990s is not easy to do, especially with the demands that are asked of them there."
Bowa said reuniting with those players will be the best part of the weekend for Torre.
"I think one of the big things is that he had such a great relationship with some of those players," Bowa said. "But I don't think Joe will get any special satisfaction out of beating the Yankees. I think we just have to win some baseball games no matter who we're playing.
Said Mattingly: "It's going to be a little different, but when you get right down to it, it's still baseball. You just have to prepare. You have to have an understanding of what they do, and you have to create a game plan for how to attack those guys. That's my job. And right after that, we have San Francisco, so we just have to keep going."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.