Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Management Lessons: The Joe Torre Legacy Grows


"The thing I'm most pleased about, probably, is coming here after leaving New York and inheriting a team with a lot of talent, then being able to add some special pieces and being able to have the success we've had in the last couple of years."

--Joe Torre, Los Angeles Dodger manager.


Strong Track Record

After taking the Yankees to the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons as their manager, he has led the Dodgers to the postseason in his two years in Los Angeles. In his two seasons in L.A., the Dodgers have won consecutive NL West titles for the first time since 1977-78The 14 consecutive playoff appearances equal the record set by Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox. Just as impressive is that only 2 of those 14 Torre clubs made it to the postseason as a wild-card team.


Calm Sense of Urgency and Immediacy

“They’re the familiar fingerprints of being very, very steady,” Frank McCourt, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner, said of Torre’s influence. “For us, this was a very up-and-down season, and Joe provides a certain leveling ingredient that prevents the team from getting too carried away in one direction or the other.”

“The one thing that separates Joe from everybody else is he knows how to defuse a bomb before it goes off,” said Doug Mientkiewicz, a backup Dodgers first baseman who played with the Yankees in 2007. “Whenever you see a team not playing well, or he sees something happen that he doesn’t like, he gets it right there before it gets out of hand.”

He added, “You know when he’s not happy.”


Consistency

"If the team is going in a certain direction that he doesn't like, he addresses it right away. He doesn't like to let things carry on," Randy Wolf said. "He doesn't get caught up in every moment, but at the same time, he realizes that you've got to keep the same attitude every day."

--Randy Wolf, starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Does A Manager Make a Difference?

"I definitely think a manager makes a difference," says Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, a special adviser to the Yankees who played for six different managers in 11 different postseasons. "Not nearly as much for the great players because the great players have a drive and are going to play for themselves, the spirit they respect, their family, their fans, the mirror they look in.

"All players attempt to do that. Some players don't have those ingredients in order. Some players' ingredients are different."

"Confidence, and knowing what to do in a crisis," Jackson, the Hall of Famer, says. "I know La Russa will be good with this. I know Mike Scioscia, Terry Francona, Joe Torre, Charlie Manuel and Jim Leyland are good with this. Jim Tracy. And Joe Girardi, he comes to the table with postseason history as a player.

"Watching those managers when things are difficult is much more interesting to me than when things are going well for them. Seeing a manager do something that's needed."

However, the manager's influence and leadership has its limits. The players have to perform.

"I think managers can make a difference in October because they've already established what they've done during the regular season," says Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa, who has played and coached under five different managers in six different postseasons. "In other words, they're not going to change what they do because it's the playoffs. They're going to be consistent with their players, they're going to treat their players the same whether it's a game in July or a game in October."

"If your guns don't do what they're supposed to do, it doesn't matter who's managing then," Bowa says. "Joe or Bobby Cox or Tony La Russa, you're going home. It's that simple. People don't realize that. They say, 'He's the manager, the guy should go further.'

"It doesn't work that way. He steers the ship, but it's the guys who go out there and make sure we get the runs for him to steer it and keep it in good waters. He can't make a guy go six innings if the guy doesn't have his stuff.

"That's how the playoffs are. If you don't get pitching, you're going to be in trouble. As great a lineup as the Yankees have, if they don't get pitching, they're going to be in trouble."


Management Experience

"He's just as relaxed whether we were winning 15-0 or losing 20-0. He keeps the same mentality," Hudson said. "When things weren't going well for us, he'd throw a speech in every now and then. But no matter what we were going through, he's seen it all already. So nothing that we do is new to him."

--Orlando Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers' secondbaseman.


"I think it's harder to manage a team that's [expected to be] successful," said Jason Giambi, who spent seven years under Torre in New York. "It's tough to keep a team good year after year after year. It's like with Pat Riley when he was winning with the Lakers. People say 'Oh, it's easy to win with the Lakers.' It's not true. Sometimes you have a great team, but if you can't get that team to play together, it doesn't matter."

"The thing Joe is underestimated about is he has a great baseball mind," said Giambi, now a pinch-hitter for the Rockies. "He works well with people and puts people in successful situations. The biggest thing I've noticed is when we were [in New York] there was this aura about him where people feel comfortable."

"What Joe does day in and day out is deal with issues as good anyone I've been around," said Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly, who was also on Torre's staff in New York. "He doesn't let anything go. I think in New York people might have felt he wasn't tough enough on them, but that wasn't the case. He was on every issue that happens. ...

"That's as important as anything I learned from him, you can't let issues go. You have to address them right away and keep moving."


Excerpts from the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer, October 6, 2009; CBSsports.com and Associated Press, October 5, 2009.

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