Is Torre Gone?

It’s not like Joe Torre needs to manage in order to pay his mortgage. He is, rather unquestionably, financially set. And, having turned 70 years old in July, it appears the current season in which the Dodgers have been wildly inconsistent, but still fighting for a playoff berth, has aged him.

This is Torre’s third season in Southern California, and the club is a nice mix of talented young players such as center fielder Matt Kemp, right fielder Andre Ethier and first baseman James Loney, along with veterans like third baseman Casey Blake, shortstop Rafael Furcal and sometime volatile left fielder Manny Ramirez, who seems to be closing out his time with the Dodgers by hitting for average (without much power). He also has three stints on the disabled list.

Hovering around .500 will do that to a man, even one as accomplished as Torre, a Brooklyn, New York native, nine-time All-Star and lock for the Hall of Fame.

Torre has said he will make his decision on whether to return after the club has been eliminated from postseason contention, which may come sooner than later, given that the Dodgers are 67-64, in fourth place in the National League West and have four clubs in front of them in the wild-card chase.

Complicating matters is the trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt, which begins this week to determine who owns the club.

Torre, who had a career batting average of .297, with 252 homers and 1,185 runs batted in over 18 seasons, has been above the fray, much like he was when the New York Yankees, a team he guided to four World Series titles and six appearances, offered him a one-year deal with incentives following the 2007 season.

Torre, the NL Most Valuable Player in 1971 after driving in 137 runs with 230 hits and 24 homers, said he was insulted by the offer.

“My goal is the same every season, and that’s to win a World Series,” he said. “Anything less is disappointing.”

It helped that the late Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner was always willing to go after high-priced players, regardless of the cost. The same can not be said of the Dodgers, who only make small splashes in the free-agent pool.

Torre, who played for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets, has pushed the Dodgers to the NL Championship Series the last two years, only to have the club knocked out each time by the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that currently leads the wild-card race.

Torre turned around the culture in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. Like his 12 seasons at the Yankees’ helm, he’s all business, but not to the exclusion of being accessible to the media or his players.

Few managers are more revered than Torre, a two-time American League Manager of the Year, even when questioning an umpire’s call, he’s never screaming or blowing his stack.

In this way, he’s the opposite of one-time Manager Tommy Lasorda, winner of two World Series in 1981 and 1988, the latter being the last time the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS.

Given everything that’s going on around the Dodgers, the smart money says Torre’s leaving. We can only hope that he stays around a little longer, but this seems like a real long shot. If he does leaves, I’ll say it was fun while it lasted.

Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at richsports5@sbcglobal.net.

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