Torre decision gets crosstown approval
NLCS managers point to Yankees skipper's accomplishments
NEW YORK -- Tuesday's news of Joe Torre's return as the Yankees' manager for 2007 not only removed the threat of continued crosstown drama overshadowing the National League Championship Series locally, but it also came as welcome news to two managers who have notable ties to Torre and reacted with the same term:
"I think it's great," said Mets manager Willie Randolph, who was a longtime coach under Torre before moving over to the Queens club for the 2005 season. "Joe, I mean, he's done an outstanding job for the Yankees, and I didn't understand all the talk anyway. He deserves to be back. He's done tremendous things for the organization. That's outstanding. It shouldn't have been, in my mind, a thought anyway. That's just me, personally."
Despite the Mets' runaway NL East title and Division Series sweep of the Dodgers serving as prelude to Game 1 on Wednesday night, the overhanging threat of a possible managerial move in the Bronx had dominated the New York media and most Big Apple baseball conversations since the Yankees' disappointing elimination by the Tigers on Saturday night in the American League Division Series.
Even as Cardinals representatives were about to enter the interview room inside Shea Stadium at about 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Katy Feeney, the Major League Baseball representative who facilitates the question-and-answer sessions, had to inform inquiring reporters that the simultaneous Torre press conference was not going to be on a monitor there.
Midway through Tony La Russa's appearance in the interview room, the St. Louis skipper was relayed the news about Torre by MLB.com and was clearly pleased that his predecessor as Cardinals manager is coming back. La Russa has been through plenty of similar situations in a long and successful managerial career, although never under the specter of New York's fishbowl and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
"Well, you're talking about a no-brainer," La Russa said. "I'm a veteran manager, but he's a veteran manager with incredible credentials. This time of the month, the success they have had. They have had a couple tough series here recently. I think however he's involved with it, or whatever the Yankee brain trust [was thinking], that's a no-brainer. Those results don't just happen because they have got talent and he shows up and talks to the press. He's an outstanding manager and person."
Torre was dismissed by the Cardinals 101 games into the 1995 season, the last time he was removed from a managerial post. Mike Jorgensen finished that season as the Cards skipper on an interim basis. La Russa came from Oakland to take over St. Louis, beginning with the 1996 season, and managed those Cards to a first-place finish in the newly created NL Central. That same year, Torre began with the Yankees, guiding them to a world championship.
Randolph already was a Yankees coach at the time (starting in 1994) and remained on Torre's staff through 2004, taking the Mets' job that November. During his interview session on Tuesday, he talked at length about the managerial style he has developed and how others have influenced his in-game decision making.
"I've been fortunate to be around a lot of great managers and coaches and players, and I think that I've taken a little bit from everyone and that's who I am," Randolph said. "But I don't have to revert back to how does so-and-so do this or a situation where how would this guy handle that. Just wing it, that's all."
Randolph's Mets are perceived as a very different bunch than the Yankees he coached, evidently much more loose as a team than their AL neighbors.
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"A lot of what I do is one-on-one and very individual," Randolph said. "We started a trend last year and started to change the culture of this ballclub and the idea of how we play the game and the mindset, and it's kind of evolved to where we are right now. We made some changes, and we brought in some people that really helped to enhance what we're trying to do, but my leadership is something that I can't describe to you. I mean, it's just something that I do. I've always done it, something I've always had.
"What you see is what you get with me and, I don't know, just being myself. It's really just how you communicate and how you motivate and how you lead your people, and I can't explain how I do that, I just do it."
Randolph won two world championships as a player with the Yankees in 1977-78 and four as a coach (1996 and 1998-2000). La Russa managed Oakland to the 1989 world championship, the middle of three World Series appearances during that stretch, and also managed the Cardinals to the 2004 Fall Classic against Boston.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.