Joe Torre apologizes to Jerry Manuel
MIAMI -- Joe Torre apologized publicly Tuesday to New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel, a day after Torre spoke at Yankee Stadium about his potential interest in a job Manuel has yet to vacate.
Torre went on to disavow any interest in the Mets' managerial job and suggested his career as a skipper is likely over after this season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I am closing the door on managing the Mets and probably everybody else," Torre told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Tony Jackson on Tuesday. "The only thing I'm trying to do is that I don't want to mislead anybody. My intention is that when I finish here as a manager a week from Sunday, I am anticipating that will be my last game as a manager.
"I don't want to say I'm definitely not going to do this again, but that's only other [teams] aside from the Mets. ... I spent 12 years forging a relationship with those fans in New York. I don't want to all of a sudden go across the river and have them get mad at me."
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Torre's original comments about the Mets' managerial position had not been well-received by Manuel, even if it is widely expected he will be replaced after the season.
Manuel suggested any discussion about interest in a managerial job that is currently filled implies disrespect and a lack of integrity.
"Joe gave me a great opportunity to go to the All-Star Game in '99," Manuel said on Tuesday, referring to the then-Yankees manager naming him to the American League coaching staff while Manuel managed the White Sox. "I don't know him on a personal basis. But when things like that come out or are said, you question integrity. That's what comes to my mind.
"Like I said, I don't know him on a personal level to say whether he's that or that. And I did not see, or I have not read, exactly what has been said. All I know is what I hear. And I don't go to look for it."
Torre, the outgoing Dodgers manager who was in the Bronx on Monday for the dedication of George Steinbrenner's monument, addressed his interest in managing the Mets during the brief visit to New York. Torre managed the Mets from 1977 to 1981.
"Oh, there is no question," Torre told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor after being asked if he would listen if owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon called him about the Mets' managerial job. "That is why I didn't shut the door. I saw Freddie [Wilpon] when they unveiled Commissioner [Bud] Selig's statue [in Milwaukee,] but we just said hello."
After being informed Tuesday that Manuel was upset, Torre offered an apology, although he had not relayed it directly to the Mets manager.
"I apologize," Torre said. "He is right that I shouldn't have said that, and I don't think I did. Somebody asked me if I would take a call from Fred Wilpon. I have known Fred Wilpon forever. I won't be managing the Mets, and I thought I made that clear yesterday. It was about taking a call as opposed to looking for a job. I went to New York to pay tribute to George [Steinbrenner]. If I was looking for a job, I probably wouldn't have gone to New York.''
Manuel said he learned of Torre's comments from Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz.
Lobbying for occupied managerial jobs seems to be tradition with the Mets. Three weeks ago, Class A Brooklyn manager Wally Backman was quoted in the New York Post with comments interpreted as suggesting he could do things better than Manuel.
When previous managers Art Howe and Willie Randolph were on the ropes but still employed, ex-Mets icon Gary Carter openly expressed interest in succeeding them.
Manuel, who is one victory shy of No. 200 as Mets manager and No. 700 overall as a skipper, likely will be replaced after the season. According to a source with knowledge of the Mets' plans, Manuel is definitely out if Omar Minaya is outright fired as general manager. There's a tiny chance Manuel could be retained if Minaya is reassigned and a new GM would want to keep the manager in place.
Similarly, the Mets' interest in Torre likely would have waited until any front-office turnover is complete so as to not saddle new personnel with a manager they did not select -- especially someone of Torre's stature.
"I've heard about the comments," Manuel said about Torre. "This is from hearsay. When people tell me, they may add a little something here, add a little something there. But I find it also curious when someone comments about a job that someone already has."
Still, Manuel added, he knows why Torre might have been interested in joining the Mets.
"He's an icon in New York," Manuel said. "That's to be expected. That's home. New York is the mecca of baseball. You can go many places, but after you have been in New York, I'm sure probably for him nothing satisfies you other than New York. ... There's a thousand people who would want this job. For him to say what he said only validates how special it is to have this opportunity."
As for talking about an occupied job, Manuel added: "That's not integrity. And that's what you hope to find in those different high-profile positions such as this."
Still, Manuel said he wasn't trying to single out Torre.
"I'm speaking about the fraternity," Manuel said. "Not especially Joe Torre. That's all I'm saying."
Said Torre: "I apologize to Jerry Manuel and all the other managers. I don't blame them. I know they don't want to get stepped on. I know in answering questions [Monday] and having a press conference, I know what my intention was. Unfortunately, I can't get on the other side of it and see how it's received. I would doubt very seriously if there would be anything that would entice me to manage again. This is pretty good duty out here, this franchise and this ballpark. I don't anticipate anything that would make sense for me to manage again.''
After the Mets' 5-2 loss at Florida on Tuesday, Manuel said: "I've always known him as a class person so I have no problem with that. I'm trying to win games."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.