Joe Torre: Laz Diaz must share blame

MILWAUKEE -- Joe Torre said Friday that umpire Laz Diaz "has to take his share of the blame'' for an incident Monday in Anaheim, California, that resulted in the ejections of New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and pitcher Shawn Kelley.

In his capacity as an MLB vice president, Torre, the former Yankees manager, said he was at the game in which Girardi was ejected for arguing a called strike to Brett Gardner in the eighth inning. The Yankees eventually lost 4-1, when Kelley and two other pitchers walked in three runs.

Afterward, Girardi said Diaz had "instigated'' the incident and charged the veteran umpire with treating him and Kelley dismissively, wagging his finger "Dikembe Mutombo-style'' at him and waving Kelley off the field with the words "keep going'' as he was removed from the game.

Torre said he did not believe Diaz "had it in'' for the Yankees, as some have suspected, dating back to a 2012 incident involving then-Yankees catcher Russell Martin, who was incensed when Diaz did not allow him to throw the ball back to the pitcher, saying, "You haven't earned the right to throw the ball back.''

"Laz is a good guy. But sometimes he does things that, you know, without thinking they're going to be perceived the way they're perceived,'' Torre said. "That's his playfulness, but it's not right.''

Torre said the Martin issue "was addressed,'' and intimated he would suggest Girardi and Diaz have a conversation before the next time Diaz's crew works a Yankees game.

"I've had a number of instances over the last couple of years where I've had managers and umpires talk,'' Torre said. "And I ask them, I don't make them do it. I'll say, 'What about doing this once the smoke clears?'''

Torre said he had yet to speak to Girardi about the incident but planned to before Friday night's game between the Yankees and Brewers at Miller Park.

But he dismissed any suggestion that what happened in Anaheim would carry over to future meetings between the Yankees and Diaz, nor that the umpire would allow any ill feelings to affect his judgment the next time he works a Yankees game.

"We track a lot of stuff if anyone even raises that point, and there's really nothing that points to that,'' Torre said. "But I am totally confident that doesn't happen, because with all the technology now, it's just too obvious to point out and see it happening.

"It's sorta like pine tar. Even though you're not looking for it, sometimes you still find it.''

Asked if he had spoken to Diaz or planned to, Girardi said, "I'm not going to talk about what I'm going to do or not do. We'll keep all that under wraps. I did enough talking that day. My voice still isn't all the way back.''

When informed that Torre agreed the umpire should share part of the blame, Girardi said, "It's all over with. I'm fine with it.''

Torre did not say what discipline, if any, would be applied to Girardi or Diaz for the incident, but said he believed both parties were at fault.

"I thought Joe was pretty animated but Laz has to take on a certain amount of responsibility, too,'' Torre said. "He certainly has to take his share of the blame. He's a little too friendly at times, but not with any malice intended. But he certainly, I think, contributed to what took place that night.''

Torre was in town to be honored by the Brewers with a plaque in their Honor Roll, having played the first five seasons of his career for the Milwaukee Braves before they relocated to Atlanta. That honor came on the same day the Yankees announced Torre would be given a plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park and would have his No. 6 retired at a pregame ceremony on Aug. 23.

Earlier this year, Torre was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, primarily for his work as a manager who led the Yankees to four world championships in five seasons, and will be inducted on July 27.

"It's been quite a year, and it's not even the middle of May,'' Torre, 73, said. "It's been wild. It would always be special when you get honored by a particular team, but when it's the Yankees, you realize what their history is.''

Relations between the Yankees and Torre were strained after the 2007 season, when contract negotiations for him to continue managing the team broke down at a contentious meeting in Tampa, Fla., where the club made what Torre considered an "insulting'' one-year, $5 million offer.

The relationship was strained further two years later when Torre wrote a dishy book, "The Yankee Years,'' co-authored by Tom Verducci.

But Torre said relations began to thaw when he was invited to a memorial service at Yankee Stadium for George M. Steinbrenner in 2010.

"I had never hesitated about going back over there; it was just a case where I needed to exhale a little bit,'' Torre said. "It was both our faults when we split after the '07 season; I don't think either one of us knew how to say goodbye.''