Torre addresses A-Rod, book and Manny
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally, the manager's first news conference of spring training focuses on how the team is shaping up, what to expect in camp or any positional battles about to take place.
However, it hasn't necessarily been a normal past couple of weeks for Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre.
Between the recent revelations about New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Torre's well-publicized book and the ongoing saga of free agent Manny Ramirez, questions about the Dodgers' roster took a backseat in the manager's 50-minute meeting with the media Friday afternoon.
Torre spent most of his time answering questions about Rodriguez's use of performance-enhancing drugs in his usual calm, collected demeanor.
"I was very saddened by it," said Torre, who said he has not talked to Rodriguez since the third baseman's recent confirmation of steroid use. "I'm happy that Alex admitted it. Knowing him personally, I know how proud he is of what he's done and how hard he works. I haven't been around anyone who works harder. I know it's important to him to continue to add to his numbers, because he has a chance to do a lot of special things numbers-wise, but now they're going to be tainted, because people don't forget.
"Alex Rodriguez is in great shape, and I'm not that familiar with what things do for you, but I know how hard he works and how much devotion he has to the game; but I'm sad about everything that's gone on."
Torre was also very clear when asked about the other 103 names that tested positive for steroids in 2003. "Do we need more names to know we have a problem, or do we just want more people to point at?" he asked.
"[Baseball] is going to have to be tough at this time and endure. To me, the most important thing is we need to regain the trust [of the fans], and that's not something that's going to happen overnight. It never goes away. Every time you hit a homer, people are going to wonder why or wonder if."
Torre also stated he is "naive at times because [he wants] to trust people." He also said that from the time he took over the Yankees in 1996, "nothing looked out of sorts to [him]." Despite the number of players that he managed in the Bronx who have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs such as Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, he feels it doesn't diminish what the team accomplished, including four World Series titles.
General manager Ned Colletti and the entire coaching staff were available to the media on the eve of what Colletti termed "a long-anticipated, historic day for the Dodgers organization" with the opening of their new West Coast spring facility Saturday. But the focus was elsewhere, to the extent that Colletti and the coaches excused themselves from the room after it was clear the questioning was going to be dominated by things happening off of the field.
Torre then had to face more questions about his book and the viewpoint that he broke some form of clubhouse code.
"If you're asking if I violated anything, in my opinion, I didn't," Torre said. "I was very careful. Does that mean some people may be upset with it? I can't help that."
Although he was "initially disturbed" about some of the leaks that came out, he felt good about it "once I got to talk about it and explain it."
He didn't expect there to be any issues with his players or problems with their willingness to open up to him because of it. He's "not really going to talk about it, but if someone wants to ask a question about it, that's fine."
Of course, the big on-field story in Dodgertown West is not who is in camp, but who is not. Torre said he last spoke with Ramirez on Tuesday, and that "[Ramirez] is still in great spirits, and working out on a regular basis."
While stating he would be "very surprised" if Ramirez was not wearing a Dodgers uniform this season, Torre also said that Ramirez "has to do what's best for his family. I've told him that more than once."
As he prepared to begin his second year with the Dodgers, Torre intimated he would prefer having Ramirez to taking the money they would spend on him and spending it on a few other players.
"In our situation, Manny proved he was a good fit, and I think he'll continue to be that way," Torre said. "His presence made guys around him better, and took some of the pressure off the young kids."
Torre praised the left fielder's work ethic and didn't think missing some camp time was an issue at this point, but "if it goes on another couple of weeks, it could be. Not from conditioning, but just getting at-bats."
But if it doesn't happen, Torre said, "You just deal with what you have, and say these are the guys you're going to go to war with."
Jason Grey writes about Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.