Bench coach Bob Schaefer is usually entrusted with the duty of delivering the Dodgers’ lineup cards to the umpires before each game. Friday night at Dodger Stadium, Manager Joe Torre will make that walk himself.
The New York Yankees will be in town.
The three-game series marks the first time since his contentious split with the Yankees three years ago that Torre has faced the storied franchise that employed him for a dozen seasons.
“The odd thing for me is that I’m going to be pulling against people I’ve never pulled against,” Torre said.
People he says are like sons to him. And people who say he is like a second father to them.
People such as Derek Jeter, the shortstop of Torre’s four World Series championship teams.
“I grew up with him,” Jeter said. “I played for him when I was 21.”
Asked what kind of figure Torre was in his life, Mariano Rivera responded, “Was? It’s not, ‘Was.’ He is. To this day, he remains someone who is more than a manager to me. He is a friend.”
Rivera recalled how his Hall-of-Fame-worthy tenure as Yankees closer started with three blown saves in his first seven appearances.
“He called me in for a meeting and told me, ‘You’re my closer,’” Rivera said. “I knew at the time that if I continued to pitch like that, I would lose the job. But I appreciated that he took the time to talk to me like that.”
The bonds Torre developed with his players made it hard when the Yankees cut ties with him after the 2007 season.
That winter, the Yankees offered Torre a one-year contract that called for a pay cut. The difference in base salary from the previous season could have been made up in performance-based incentives, something Torre found insulting. He turned down the offer and was hired by the Dodgers.
Jorge Posada said he wondered if the Yankees’ failures in the postseason — their last World Series title under Torre was in 2000 — led to Torre’s being offered a contract he could refuse.
“You just hope that it wasn’t us that got him fired,” Posada said. “We’re happy that he’s found a home and that he’s doing very well in L.A.”
Torre leaves the impression that time has healed most wounds.
He reached the playoffs in his first two seasons with the Dodgers and did so without pressure from Yankees ownership, leading him to say he has rediscovered the joy of managing.
Watching the Yankees win the World Series last year, Torre said, “Not one minute did I wish I was in the dugout.”
But some relationships remain strained.
Torre said he hasn’t spoken to Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman since the February 2009 publication of “The Yankees Years,” which Torre co-wrote. Cashman was described in the book as not having backed Torre in his negotiations with the Yankees after the 2007 season.
Then there is Alex Rodriguez, whom Torre batted eighth in the final game in the postseason and was portrayed in an unfavorable light in Torre’s book.
“Next question,” was Rodriguez’s response this week when asked about Torre.
Torre said he was disappointed to hear that Rodriguez refused to talk about him. “I never had a problem with Alex,” Torre added. “I batted him eighth, so everyone thought he should have hated me....My conscience is certainly clear. At that time, Alex was struggling.
“I only know the relationship I had with Alex.... I took a lot of time in doing what I did. Anything that was in that book that came from me was certainly out in the press before he read it in that book. It was out in public.”
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