Joe Torre On Life With The Yankees

Joe Torre i i

Joe Torre, the former manager of the New York Yankees who now manages the Los Angeles Dodgers, says he never envisioned himself leaving the Yankees. But, he says, "those last few years in New York were very tough on me, and I was curious if I could have some fun again." Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Joe Torre

Joe Torre, the former manager of the New York Yankees who now manages the Los Angeles Dodgers, says he never envisioned himself leaving the Yankees. But, he says, "those last few years in New York were very tough on me, and I was curious if I could have some fun again."

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
The Yankee Years book cover

When Joe Torre took over as manager of the New York Yankees in 1996, the team hadn't won a World Series in 18 years. It won the series in his first year, and he notched three more wins and two losses in the series before he left to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007.

In a new book, The Yankee Years, Torre and Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci tell the story of how Torre managed one of the greatest teams ever — and then one of the greatest assemblages of great players ever.

During his time managing the Yankees, stories circulated about baseball players abusing steroids and human growth hormones. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the syringes Roger Clemens' trainer saved show traces of Clemens' DNA. Clemens, who played for the Yankees, has been accused of lying about performance-enhancing drugs.

But Torre says during his time managing the Yankees, he didn't witness abuse.

"The interesting part about the clubhouse is the sanctity of the clubhouse," Torre tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "I'm into trusting players and knowing what we have to accomplish — let's go out there and play a game of baseball. I never witnessed anything that looked like it was something wrong; however, I think we all have to share the blame here, because this thing was far more reaching than I ever thought it would be."

Torre says Clemens reminded him a lot of Bob Gibson with his intensity. But he thought the players could play longer than he (Torre) ever did because they could train with weights and nutrition was different.

"Then all of a sudden you realize how many people were all of sudden getting bigger," Torre says. "It became a little scary."

On Managing Alex Rodriguez

In his book, Torre focuses on two all-star players who played for him, but were vastly different: Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Torre adored Jeter, but he says although he loved Rodriguez, also known as A-Rod, it was tough to make him relax.

"He puts so much pressure on himself because he has enormous ability," Torre says. "He needs baseball in a way that I needed baseball years ago because I had very low self-esteem. And when I was fortunate enough to be able to play baseball at a high level, I realized that what I did on the baseball field helped my self-esteem. And when you need it that badly, you tend to get in your own way."

In his book, Torre says A-Rod was referred to as A-Fraud in the locker room.

"He was a little different than the other guys I had," Torre says. "And the A-Fraud stuff was done in front of him; none of that stuff was behind his back. It's been a tough grind for him because of the expectations he has for himself."

On Facing Criticism From The Yes Network

Beyond the players, Torre writes about quitting his gig with the Yes Network to do pre- and post-game interviews because he felt the reporters were deliberately trying to discredit him. He said one reporter in particular, Kim Jones, was asking really critical questions about why he played certain players.

"It was very out of character for her," Torre says. "I figured out after a time that because I was being paid by the Yankees, they felt it was — in my opinion — they were looking to discredit me in some way by asking me what they perceived as tough questions. It bothered me. Not that I couldn't answer the questions, it was just the reason they were doing it. It just bothered the heck out of me, and after that season, I said, 'Pay or no pay, I'm not doing it anymore.' I still talk to the Yes Network. ... I just thought it was unnecessary."

Torre says the questions weren't coming from Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman: "I think it was above him." He also says he had a bit of criticism from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who wanted to win every single game, but that wasn't an issue for him.

"But there was some people that for some reason wanted me to appear uncomfortable," he says, adding that he usually referred to Steinbrenner as "George" and "The Boss."

"Our relationship was good," Torre says. "He would yell at me and I would yell at him and it would never be in public. That's what I was always proud of. I think we had a mutual respect for each other that made this thing work."

Torre is powerfully identified with his last job, and he says he never envisioned himself leaving the Yankees and going anywhere else to manage. But he says making it to the World Series with the Dodgers was important to him.

"The Dodgers, they're one of those handful of organizations that you pay attention to. When they expressed interested, I hadda listen. And then I was just curious 'cause those last few years in New York were very tough on me, and I was curious if I could have some fun again. However, there was a lot of pressure on me because even though I had a lot of World Series rings at this juncture, I still had to earn my keep and see if I could do it somewhere else. And it was very satisfying for me. It took a lot of time before the players felt comfortable and developed their personalities, but it was a great deal of satisfaction for me to win there."

Related NPR Stories

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.