A handful, a rather large one, of Yankee beat writers headed to Anaheim tonight to talk with Joe Torre about this weekend's series against his former team. Torre, always a gifted talker, didn't disappoint.
He said the strangest part of the weekend for him will rooting against players he spent a good portion of his managing career hoping would succeed.
"The odd thing for me is I’m going to be over there in that dugout pulling against people I’ve never pulled against before," Torre said. "That’s the weird part for me. But I’m sure the competitiveness comes out and I probably won't think about it as much as I am now. But I’m looking forward to seeing some people tomorrow."
That mainly is a reference to Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, all of whom called Torre a "father figure" earlier in the week.
"I’m glad it’s a pleasant feeling for them," Torre said. "And it was for me also. You very rarely stay someplace as long as I stayed there and to create relationships and to have them last as long…we stay in touch and the good part about it is you don’t have to stay in touch on a regular basis to know that it means something. But that makes me feel good because the feeling’s mutual."
Alex Rodriguez gave the cold shoulder to all Torre-related questions yesterday in Phoenix, an indication he didn't think much of their relationship, which saddened Torre.
"I didn’t think so at all, I really didn’t," Torre said, asked if he felt they had a poor relationship. "I’m sorry to hear that, to be honest with you, because I didn’t think I had a bad relationship with Alex at all."
Of course much of that can be traced to Torre batting A-Rod eighth in Game 4 of 2006 ALDS and Torre's 2009 book, "The Yankee Years." In the book Torre discussed Rodriguez's borderline obsession, some wouldn't even call it borderline, with Derek Jeter and some of A-Rod's teammates calling him A-Fraud.
"Anything that was in the book that came from me, that was all public knowledge," said Torre, who added he would attempt to say hello to A-Rod before tomorrow's game (all photogs, on your mark...). "There was nothing that came from me about Alex in the book that wasn’t out in some form before it was written in the book. What Tom [Verducci] did, he was on his own. That was fair play for me. I told Tommy, whatever he gets, he gets. Same thing with Johnny [Damon]; when he got Johnny to talk about his struggles he had going on, then I talked about it. I don’t feel that I violated anything with Alex. I’m sorry he feels that I did if he does feel that way."
The book, and this isn't new, also further soured Torre's relationship with Brian Cashman. The pair had been close but toward the end of Torre's tenure that began to change, and the last time they talked was early 2009.
"We spoke a couple of times before the book came out,” Torre said. “He took some stuff out of that book in a way that I didn’t think he should have.
“It was a good relationship. I always got along with him,” Torre continued. “We didn’t always agree, but I didn’t think that was a hardship for anybody. To me, that’s healthy more than anything else that you can be honest with each other. It was just unfortunate, I think.”
But Torre said there is no bitterness (not an overly tough sell nearly three years later), and that there wasn't even at the time of his departure (a much tougher sell).
“When I left there and I knew wasn’t going to be back at Yankee Stadium, I wasn’t angry at all,” Torre. “I just felt probably for both sides it was the best thing to do. I’m sorry that it was misunderstood in some circles that it was about the money. I was certainly offered a lot of money, I just didn’t like the fact that I needed an incentive to have to win. I think it could have finished off better but I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be tended to, to be honest with you. I’m not going to stay away from there, if that’s what you’re talking about.”
Which has been discussed – that Torre, even if the Yankees wanted to do something involving him (no, they currently don't), wouldn’t step back into the Stadium.
He insisted he's not going to be the next Yogi Berra who, stayed away well over a decade after getting fired early in the 1985 season.
“No, I can’t get away with that,” Torre laughed. “Yogi can get away with that stuff.”
Torre said everything has worked out for the best. The Yankees are happy with Joe Girardi and he’s happy in Los Angeles.
“I was very stressed out at the end there,” Torre said. “My wife said a lot of it was probably my doing, the way I perceived things. Once you get away from it, you say, ‘It’s been great.’ Last year, I’m watching the World Series and not one minute did I wish I was in the dugout. It was great, I did it a lot of times, but that was enough for me.”
Anything that was in the book that came from me, that was all public knowledge. There was nothing that came from me about Alex in the book that wasn’t out in some form before it was written in the book. What Tom did, he was on his own. That was fair play for me. I told Tommy, whatever he gets, he gets. Same thing with Johnny; when he got Johnny to talk about his struggles he had going on, then I talked about it. I don’t feel that I violated anything with Alex. I’m sorry he feels that I did if he does feel that way.