Torre hired to manage Dodgers

  • Associated Press
  • Thursday, November 1, 2007 4:48pm
  • Sports

LOS ANGELES — Joe Torre grew up in Brooklyn rooting against the Dodgers. Now, a half-century after they moved west, he’s their manager.

Torre was hired by Los Angeles to succeed Grady Little on Thursday, taking the job two weeks after walking away from the New York Yankees.

The winningest manager in postseason history, Torre moved from one storied franchise to another, agreeing to a three-year, $13 million contract. He becomes the Dodgers’ eighth manager since they left his hometown, where he rooted for the rival New York Giants.

“As a kid growing up, you didn’t like them,” Torre said on WFAN radio in New York less than an hour before the hiring was announced. “As a player, to me the Dodgers were the Yankees of the National League because … you either loved them or you hated them.”

The 67-year-old Torre will be introduced at a news conference Monday at Dodger Stadium. Little resigned Tuesday after completing two seasons of a three-year deal.

Torre joins the Dodgers for their 50th anniversary season in Los Angeles, hoping to spur October success.

Favored to win the NL West this year, the Dodgers finished fourth. They have only one playoff victory since winning the 1988 World Series under Tom Lasorda.

“I’m so happy for him. I think his record speaks for itself,” said Lasorda, a special adviser to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. “I think what he accomplished with the Yankees, he should have been able to control his destiny.

“We’re happy that he’s here — very happy.”

Torre guided the Yankees to four World Series championships from 1996-2000, and they made the playoffs in all 12 years he managed them. New York lost to Cleveland last month, eliminated in the first round for the third straight year.

Following that defeat, the Yankees offered Torre a one-year contract with a pay cut. He earned $7.5 million last season — more than any other big-league manager by far.

Calling the performance incentives in the proposal “an insult,” Torre turned it down. He was hired by the Dodgers on the same day the Yankees introduced Joe Girardi as their manager.

The Dodgers had the NL’s best record in mid-July. During their late-season slide, problems surfaced between older and younger players on the team, prompting criticism of Little.

“I think he’s going to do a good job in the clubhouse because he’s got great leadership abilities,” Lasorda said of Torre. “He knows how to handle a ballclub.”

Since Lasorda left during the 1996 season after suffering a heart attack, the Dodgers are 1-9 in three playoff appearances. One of those was in 2006 — Little’s first year as manager — when the Dodgers won the NL wild-card with an 88-74 record but were swept by the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs.

Torre ranks eighth on baseball’s career list with 2,067 victories. He also managed the New York Mets, St. Louis and Atlanta but won only one division title in the NL, in 1982 with the Braves.

He passed former Dodgers managers Leo Durocher (2,009) and Walter Alston (2,040) last season on the career wins list. His teams have won 76 postseason games.

“Few managers in the history of the game have accomplished what Joe has delivered,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “Throughout his career he has demonstrated the ability to turn a vision for success into results on the field and we welcome his passion and leadership. We have tremendous fans and they deserve no less.”

Teams are generally directed to interview at least one minority candidate for open managerial jobs. The Dodgers were granted an exemption by commissioner Bud Selig, however, because of a strong track record on minority hirings.

Earlier this week, the Dodgers acknowledged they talked to Girardi about potentially replacing Little. Colletti said he did so because he was aware Little was leaning toward stepping down.

Don Mattingly, Torre’s bench coach this year, is set to join his mentor in Los Angeles as hitting coach. Mattingly lost out to Girardi for the Yankees’ managerial job.

Mattingly’s son, Preston, is a minor leaguer in the Dodgers’ organization.

Torre completed a $19.2 million, three-year contract with the Yankees this season. He made $7.5 million this year — the highest salary among major league managers — and the Yankees offered $5 million for next year with an additional $3 million in performance bonuses.

“Joe Torre is one of the most respected men in the game of baseball,” McCourt said. “As a player, a broadcaster, a manager and in his life off the field, Joe is a winner through and through.”

McCourt said on the season’s last day that Little would return as manager next season. In resigning Tuesday, Little insisted it had nothing to do with reports that the Dodgers were talking to Torre.

With his track record, Torre seems destined to follow Alston and Lasorda into the Hall of Fame.

“There’s definitely a locker waiting for him in Cooperstown, that’s for sure,” Lasorda said. “I’ve known him for close to 30 years and we’ve been good friends.”

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