Twelve years ago, Joe Torre was hired by the New York Yankees to manage a team that was expected to be a contender, but not necessarily the next world champions. In his first year, Torre made all the right moves, and with some dramatic hitting in the World Series against the Atlanta Braves–Yankee fans will never forget Jim Leyritz's home run in game 4–the Bronx Bombers won another championship.
Today, Joe Torre and his team have the chance to win the National League West Division and head into the playoffs. If the Arizona Diamondbacks lose today, the Dodgers will automatically clinch. If the D'Backs win and the Dodgers win, Big Blue will also clinch a playoff berth. A dramatic collapse by the Dodgers seems very unlikely, especially with Joe Torre at the helm.
While the Dodgers may not win the whole thing, they are certainly a different team from last year under their new manager. Under Torre's cool yet determined approach, the Dodgers play as if they expect to win. Even from the first few games of this season, it was obvious a winning attitude had come to Los Angeles baseball. The Manny Ramirez trade and Manny's performance have undoubtedly boosted that confidence, but Torre and his coaching staff laid the foundation for a successful season.
Last night, for example, Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully marveled over the Dodgers' patience at the plate as they ran up pitching counts and then either walked or got a fat pitch to hit. This should be no surprise. Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly, who came to the team mid-season, is a firm believer in being selective.
The Yankees will not make the playoffs this year, and the Dodgers probably will. Back in New York, friends tell me, Yankee fans are already rooting for Big Blue to go all the way. Joe Torre is that respected back east, and for good reason. Yankee fans, some of the most knowledgeable fans in the country, know good baseball when they see it.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.