Postseason reputation precedes Torre
Dodgers follow lead of winningest playoff manager
LOS ANGELES -- As Joe Torre likes to joke, for someone who never reached the postseason in 18 years as a player, he's become pretty busy in October as a manager.
Torre's 80 postseason victories are more than any manager in history, and by taking the Dodgers into the playoffs in back-to-back years -- after a dozen while in charge of the Yankees -- he tied Bobby Cox's all-time mark of 14 consecutive postseason appearances. During that span, Torre's regular-season winning percentage was just short of .600.
Torre also managed Atlanta to the playoffs in 1982, the first of his four Manager of the Year Awards.
The 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons under Torre is the sixth-highest winning percentage among Dodgers managers in history. The 95 wins this year were the most for the Dodgers since Tommy Lasorda's 1985 club. Los Angeles has won back-to-back division titles for the first time since 1977-78.
What makes Torre, Torre? Mark Loretta, hero of the Game 2 miracle win over the Cardinals in the National League Division Series, has played for 10 Major League managers. Here's his answer:
"His reputation is something that younger managers I've played for couldn't have," Loretta said. "They don't have the experience he has. His demeanor, his presence, that's another thing that makes him different. He's very even-keel, upbeat, positive. He doesn't say a lot of things, but when he does, people really listen. It has impact.
"You know he's in charge, too. I've played for guys whose leadership skills left something to be desired. He doesn't panic. His mood doesn't impact the team like some managers do. Some guys get disappointed, their lips drag, they get mad at the team and get gruff. That rubs off on a team. You don't see that with Joe."
Now Torre is back in the NL Championship Series for the second straight year, again against the Phillies, who bounced the Dodgers in five games last year. A year ago, the Dodgers swept the Cubs. This time, they swept the Cardinals.
"We beat a team that may have been better than us, I don't know, but we played them tough," Torre said of Los Angeles' NLDS win over St. Louis. "The way they went about it against [Cardinals starters Chris] Carpenter and [Adam] Wainwright the first two games leads me to believe there's a certain calm this club has this year that they didn't have last year."
During this season, Torre passed Sparky Anderson into fifth place on the all-time managerial list with 2,246 wins. While with the Yankees, Torre won six American League pennants and four World Series championships, during which he set a record with 14 straight World Series wins. His .656 winning percentage in the Fall Classic is second only to Joe McCarthy's .697 for a manager in at least three World Series.
Torre has been a finalist the past two years for induction into the Hall of Fame as a player by the Veterans Committee, and no doubt will make it as a manager after he hangs it up. He has said many times, and as recently as Tuesday, that his final season will be 2010, the third and last year of his current contract.
"I have one year left on my contract and I don't anticipate it being more than that," Torre said. "I've said that before, by the way. My wife doesn't believe me. You know, it's fun. And I think if we're fortunate enough to win the World Series, it would make that next year so much sweeter. I never get tired of this stuff. Once you win it, you say, 'OK, I got it, you don't need to do it anymore.' But you do. You need to do it."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.