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Joe Torre nervous for return amid pandemic but says 'baseball will survive'

Yankees manager Aaron Boone talks with former manager

Yankees manager Aaron Boone talks with former manager Joe Torre before Opening Day against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium on March 28, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Joe Torre has loved baseball all his life and cannot wait to watch it again. He sees several interesting wrinkles with regard to the proposed 2020 season, yet feels trepidation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I'm nervous and I'm nervous based on just the pandemic,” Torre said in a telephone interview. “Any baseball we can have is a bonus for us, but it’s a time we’ve never dealt with . . . . and we have no idea when it’s going to end. I look forward to this baseball season, but it’s with a ‘I hope everybody’s going to be okay’ [mindset].”

Torre managed four editions of the Yankees to World Series titles and believes that in the short term – if there is a season – the 2020 champion will get the recognition that comes with the accomplishment. In the long-term though, he believes that could change.

“People may look back on it and say somebody stole one,” Torre said. “But I don’t think anybody's going to judge it ‘til they look back on the season and possibly think it should have an asterisk. One thing about our game is that when you played 154 (games) or 162 (games), the best teams got to the postseason.”

But, in his capacity as a consultant to Major League Baseball, he has spoken with most managers and explained that he told them “you guys are all in first place when this thing starts up again so you really have a chance to win a 100-yard dash.”

“But it’s going to be a real postseason with tough games you have to win – if and when we get started,” he added.

Torre likened the impact of the pandemic to what baseball went through after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, because “you realize your priorities have to get rearranged.” The 79-year old Hall of Famer pointed, however, to how the impact is being felt unevenly across North America.

“Here, we’re all on the same page and everybody is wearing a mask and I hear stories about different cities where they're ignoring it and they don't think it's as bad as it is,” he said. “And it's frightening. . . . I see players have been opting out.”

Torre has seen baseball seasons disrupted before. He was the Cardinals’ union representative in the players’ strike of 1972, was the Mets’ manager when a labor dispute forced the split season in 1981 and was the St. Louis manager when the players’ strike ended the 1994 campaign and wiped out the entire postseason. He has seen it recover every time.

“Baseball will survive,” Torre said. “Baseball will find a way to be flexible enough to still be there for people. I just hope when we're able to play we're seeing the game the way it was meant to be played.”

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