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September 18, 2010

Joe Torre's Next Stop...Cooperstown (Finally)

Friday afternoon, Los Angeles Dodgers skipper Joe Torre announced that after this season, a disappointing one that saw his run of 14 consecutive postseason appearances come to an end, he was calling it quits.

His replacement..."Donnie Baseball".

Now, I'm not going to bang the story over the head. If you care at all about baseball, you've heard enough about it already. It was breaking news on ESPN and is at the top of (shameless plug coming in 3...2...1)
Yardbarker's "The Hot 40".

Sure, losing Torre from the baseball landscape is huge...the guy is an icon and, arguably, one of the most celebrated managers in recent history.

This guy won four World Series titles in New York and spent 12 years (the longest tenure for a Yankees skipper since Casey Stengel was at the helm) as the field general for baseball’s most successful franchise.

To understand how tough it is to remain employed by former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, consider this…Billy Martin (941) managed HALF the games Torre (1942) did for the Yankees.

And that was spread out over FIVE different stints in the Big Apple!

To say Torre’s place as a Yankee great wasn’t already reserved in Monument Park would be like saying Derek Jeter actually got hit by that pitch Wednesday night.

Even in Los Angeles, all Torre needed to do was collect a few paychecks and when it was all said and done…go back to New York and secure his spot as the greatest manager they’ve ever seen.

Without a doubt, Torre is bound to find himself in Cooperstown before long, but the question is this...why isn't he already there? For me, Torre’s managerial career was the icing on the cake of an already terrific career.

Yeah…I said it.

I think the Veteran’s Committee has gotten it wrong by not inducting Torre into their exclusive club.

His career .297 batting average, 2342 hits, MVP award and nine All-Star games (at three different positions, I might add) is impressive given his peers at the time. Take away their home runs and Torre stacks right up there with Orlando Cepeda (whom he was traded for prior to the 1969 season) and the Willies McCovey and Stargell.

And all three are in Cooperstown.

His numbers are better than Ron Santo and every year, for some reason, people bang THAT Hall of Fame drum. And if it wasn’t for one Johnny Bench and the Big Red Machine…it’s possible that people would be calling Torre the best catcher of the 1960s.

He certainly was the best hitting catcher…that’s for sure!

I’d even argue that the best hitting third baseman of the 1970s ain't “This Old Cub”…it’s Joe Torre! From 1961 to 1968 (before the move to third base), Torre hit .294…twice over .315. Post 1968…Torre hit .301 and during his MVP season of 1971, he torched National League pitching to the tune of a .363 batting average and 137 RBI.

The one bit of the puzzle that is lacking for Torre as a player, ironically, is the fact that he never suited up for a post season game. I mean, here’s a guy who has taken three different teams to the playoffs and he had nothing to show for it as a player.

The playoffs without Joe Torre is kinda like the playoffs without, well, Joe Torre. The guy was a postseason staple.

But getting back to the case at hand. As the only manager with both 2000 wins (2318 and counting) and 2000 hits (2342)…the guy deserves his place in Cooperstown.

Don Mattingly on the other hand?

With 2153 career base knocks and zero career managerial wins...he's got a harder case to make.

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