Torre’s fu­ture is presently tense

Quotes about him and Mets’ man­ager job leave a bad taste for Dodgers, T.J. Simers writes.

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - T.J. SIMERS t.j.simers@latimes.com

I con­sider Joe Torre good friend.

I’d have fired the guy Tues­day.

New York news­pa­per quotes and ra­dio snip­pets made it sound as if Torre was there a day ear­lier so­lic­it­ing the job as Mets’ man­ager.

Isn’t he still the Dodgers man­ager? The Dodgers aren’t good enough for him? What does that say to Dodgers fans?

“If Frank McCourt­was more en­gaged as owner these days…” I told Torre, but he in­ter­rupted.

“En­gaged is prob­a­bly not a good word, given the divorce sit­u­a­tion,” he said, a funny moment be­fore it got se­ri­ous.

“Shouldn’t Frank McCourt fire you for go­ing af­ter an­other job while still em­ployed here?”

“That’s their pre­rog­a­tive,” Torre said, and by “their,” he must be­lieve both Frank and Jamie own the Dodgers. That will surely get him fired.

“To me, he hasn’t vi­o­lated his con­tract,” said Dodgers GM Ned Col­letti. “What he wants to do af­ter his con­tract ex­pires is his busi­ness. Would I like his fo­cus to be on our club for the last num­ber of games? Yes.”

When we met Tues­day af­ter­noon, Torre had no idea of the fall­out from his New York trip. He thought the em­pha­sis had been on hon­or­ing

Ge­orge Stein­bren­ner and re­unit­ing

with Yan­kees’ GM Brian Cash­man.

“I’m get­ting a lit­tle frus­trated now,” Torre said, and also a lit­tle an­gry. “I know what I’m do­ing and it’s be­ing mis­un­der­stood…. It was not my in­ten­tion to go to New York and be around the writ­ers to get me a job.”

Torre knows New York bet­ter than most. So shouldn’t he have an­tic­i­pated such me­dia cov­er­age?

“Head­line in the New York Daily News,” I told Torre: “ Mike Pel­fry says it would be ‘kind of cool to have Joe Torre’ as man­ager.”

“He shouldn’t be do­ing that,” Torre

a said.

“But you’re sup­posed to be the epit­ome of class,” I said. “The Mets still have a man­ager in Jerry Manuel and you are talk­ing about the man’s job with the me­dia in New York.”

Torre leaned for­ward, both el­bows on his desk, and thought for a moment. “I know me and I know what I’m do­ing. I was not so­lic­it­ing a job and I don’t care what peo­ple in New York think.”

“What about the Manuel com­ment?” I asked. Torre was un­aware un­til I told him that Manuel had fired back.

“You ques­tion the in­tegrity,” Manuel told Mets re­porters when asked about Torre’s re­marks.

Torre nod­ded. “I prob­a­bly should have said they have a man­ager, and I apol­o­gize. I mis­spoke. I should have been more con­sid­er­ate of that sit­u­a­tion. I feel badly. There’s no ex­cuse for that.

“But if I was so­lic­it­ing for the job, that is the last place I would have gone. Trust me.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” I coun­tered. “Most peo­ple here think it’s the first place you would go.” “The peo­ple here don’t care for Don

Mat­tingly ei­ther,” Torre replied, as tough a re­tort as he has ever of­fered in his three years here.

“It both­ers me be­cause I thought we’d get to the point in our so­ci­ety where we would wait to see if some­body can do the job be­fore crit­i­ciz­ing him,” Torre said. “It’s the same, I guess, as ‘Clue­less Joe,’ the head­line when I was hired by the Yan­kees. Time will tell how Don­nie’s go­ing to do, and that’s all I can say.”

Well, not re­ally. “Do you want to man­age the Mets?”

“I’m clos­ing the door on man­ag­ing the Mets,” Torre said, “and prob­a­bly ev­ery­body else.

“To me it doesn’t make any sense to go to the other team in New York af­ter spend­ing so much time with the Yan­kees. I built up a lot of good­will with those fans of the Yan­kees, and now all of a sud­den I’m go­ing to make them mad?”

One New York re­porter wrote Torre was on the prowl be­cause “the McCourts wore him out, made him cry un­cle and made him yearn for the silent treat­ment from” Stein­bren­ner. What about it? “That’s not true,” said Torre. “It’s a mess [the McCourt case], but it’s wrong to say it’s the rea­son I’m leav­ing. The McCourts have noth­ing to do with me leav­ing.”

“I’ve heard you were up­set be­cause Frank lied to you about mak­ing deals to im­prove this team,” I said.

“I’m not go­ing to re­fute this or that, but I’m not leav­ing be­cause of the McCourts,” he said.

“So I will never hear in my life­time — you telling some­one the McCourts were re­ally the rea­son you left?”

“You’ll never hear it in your life­time and I ex­pect you to live a long time,” Torre said. “I’m leav­ing be­cause I wasn’t help­ing these play­ers enough. And I want to spend more time with my fam­ily.”

“Isn’t all this furor your fault?” I asked. “You left the door open about man­ag­ing again.” “That’s tough,” Torre said. “I’ll be

An­druw Jones — that’s tough.” Why would he want to whiff on a ques­tion?

“I’m try­ing not to be a liar,” he said. “I prob­a­bly won’t man­age again. But what if I got a call and there was some­thing re­ally in­ter­est­ing? That’s it. I don’t want to be a liar.

“I’m not plan­ning on leav­ing [South­ern Cal­i­for­nia]. In fact, I looked at a house here this morn­ing.”

He said he will man­age the Dodgers’ fi­nal game of the sea­son. It will be a break in tra­di­tion, Torre or­di­nar­ily let­ting his play­ers man­age the fi­nal game.

“I’m man­ag­ing the last game be­cause it’s my last game,” Torre said. “I don’t like the sen­ti­men­tal­ity stuff. I’d just as soon walk away, but I’m man­ag­ing the last game.” As a good friend, I heard him out. And I changed my mind. I would not have fired Torre, be­cause that would’ve meant Mat­tingly tak­ing over right away.

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