On the morning of the last game without Manny Ramirez and 48 hours in front of the slugger’s return from a 50-game drug suspension, Joe Torre held court with the media inside the Dodger dugout before today’s game against Colorado.
The topic, as to be expected, was Manny rejoining the team in San Diego Friday.
Nothing groundbreaking was covered, with Torre fielding questions he’s already answered multiple times this week.
What do you expect from Manny?
Do you plan to talk to Manny?
Will his return be a distraction?
Are you surprised Dodger fans are so willing to embrace a player suspended for cheating the game?
Do you understand how some fans will never completely embrace him again?
Torre answered each question thoughtfully, honestly and earnestly.
He never got frustrated, even though he answered many of the same exact questions last night, and the night before that and the day before that.
He never got flustered or angry, even though some of the queries were uncomfortable, and potentially controversial.
He simply provided thoughtful answers, as honestly as he could.
I stood there thinking the Dodgers couldn’t possibly have a better manager in place to handle the circus that’s about to hit San Diego this weekend, the one that will follow them to stops in New York and Milwaukee just before the All-Star break.
Torre’s seen all this before during his 12 hectic years with the New York Yankees. Maybe not the same precise controversy – although Jason Giambi’s brush with steroids unfolded under Torre’s watch – but when you’ve spent so much time dealing with the overbearing George Steinbrenner and soap opera that is Alex Rodriguez and the daily grind of managing in New York, everything else palls in comparison.
Even the return of Manny Ramirez from a 50-game suspension.
Bottom line for Joe, what’s going to happen is going to happen. There is no sense worrying about it or dwelling on it.
It would be a mistake not acknowledge what’s about to take place, but an even bigger error to bring more attention to it than will naturally happen.
Manny will come back, it will take some time for him to whip into baseball shape. But he’ll eventually get back into the swing of things and the team will be better off for it.
Manny will get an earful from opposing fans “He always has,” Torre said. “Only now they’ll have even more ammunition, so to speak.”
He’ll be wildly embraced by Dodger fans that will quickly, if not immediately, shove aside whatever wrong he did as if it never happened – just as hometown fans always do when their local heroes go astray.
Yes, a fraction of fans and media will never completely accept Manny again because they feel he cheated the game.
“I respect their feelings, I understand them,” said Torre, who agrees that steroids literally make players stronger, and therefore give the users an unfair advantage over the non users.
In other words, they cheated.
But he’s quick to point out he’s yet to meet the person who hasn’t done something they’ve regretted in life, and he wonders if one mistake should ruin a life, or career.
You don’t have to agree with everything Torre says about Manny, but you get the sense when listening to him he’d say the same exact thing if an opposing player got caught up in the same controversy.
He’s honest, practical.
That’s to be respected, and it makes him the best manager to handle what’s about to unfold over the next few weeks, if not remainder of the season.