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Curing Dodgers Blues will test Torre's greatness

Joe Torre with the Dodgers. This should be interesting. There was no more dysfunctional group in 2007 than the team in Hollywood, as veterans like Jeff Kent, David Wells and Luis Gonzalez verbally sparred with young players while manager Grady Little didn't do much in the midst of a Hatfield-McCoys feud erupting in his own clubhouse.

Keeping a team together in times of trouble has been a Torre forte. Just look at how this year's Yankees pulled out of a 21-29 hole even as veterans like Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi were pushed into secondary roles.

Still, this will be a big challenge for Torre to show his greatness. Is he the mediocre manager that won nothing with the Cardinals, Braves and Mets? And, like new Yankee loudmouth Hank Steinbrenner said, did he thrive in New York because he was handed a great team? Or was there really some method to the way Torre constructed his team and his staff that meshed so well for 12 straight playoff runs in the Bronx?

Even at 67 and after all those wins, Torre still has some things to work on. He trusts young position players far more than he trusts young pitchers and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti will have to forge the same kind of bond Torre had with Brian Cashman in New York.

It was Cashman who told Torre he had to believe in the likes of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy after Torre ran old standbys like Scott Proctor and Mike Myers into the ground by midseason.

And Torre is inheriting a team that figures to go into next year picked no higher than fourth in the National League West (behind Arizona, Colorado and San Diego) unless there are some major winter improvements. The Dodgers are heading into their 50th anniversary season in LA so the bet here is they're going to push for a quick move up the division ladder.

Obviously, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera are out there for the taking. The Dodgers don't need a catcher or a closer. As for a third baseman, I'm betting A-Rod ends up either in LA with Torre or in Anaheim with Angels owner Arte Moreno.

It's good for the game for the Dodgers to be relevant again. For all the pasta talk we hear from Tommy Lasorda in his new role as the ambassador of the Dodgers -- or is it the human mascot? -- this is a franchise that has won exactly one playoff game since Orel Hershiser recorded the last out of the 1988 World Series to beat Oakland.

One playoff win in 20 years for one of the game's most revered franchises. I'm thinking Torre can do better than that.


Farrell saying no

It looks like former Bisons pitcher and Cleveland farm director John Farrell is going to stay put as Boston's pitching coach and not interview with the Pirates for their vacant managerial job.

Ex-Buffalo manager and current Tribe third-base coach Joel Skinner reportedly interviewed Friday with Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. White Sox bench coach Joey Cora is expected to meet with Huntington next week in Florida; the annual GM meetings begin Monday in Orlando. Bisons manager Torey Lovullo could still be in the mix as well.

Triple-A Indianapolis manager Trent Jewett has interviewed and so has John Russell, who managed the last two years in Scranton and Ottawa and is in line next season to manage the Phillies' new Triple-A affiliate in Allentown, Pa.


Papi spoke up

It was common knowledge as October wound down that there were some heated words in the Red Sox clubhouse after they lost Game Four of the ALCS in Cleveland to fall behind, three games to one.

Other than generic we-had-to-get-together answers, no one would fess up what was said. Pitcher Josh Beckett finally did Thursday when the Boston Herald reached him by phone at his South Texas ranch. He said David Ortiz had the floor and everyone else listened.

Here's how Beckett recounted Big Papi's rant: "We play for the Boston Red Sox and you don't play for the Boston Red Sox unless you're a bad bleep. If you're not a bad bleep, you're not here. It doesn't happen."

When Ortiz climbed on a table in the clubhouse after the World Series clincher in Denver and said essentially the same thing, the room roared its approval. That's because the players had heard this outburst once before.

Said Beckett: "My perspective was that we all needed to go out and do our jobs. That's basically what David had this meeting about. Be selfish. Not selfish that I'm not going to get a runner over if I'm up to bunt but go up there and expect yourself to do it. That's what David was thinking."


More Sox stuff

Beckett also told the Herald it was "overkill" for people to speculate he was going to pitch Game Four in Cleveland on three days rest. He said manager Terry Francona told him the only way that would happen was if Game Four had been rained out.

Jon Lester became just the third pitcher in history to win the deciding game of a World Series in his first career postseason start. The others were both Yankees -- Whitey Ford in 1950 and Tiny Bonham in 1941.

Catcher Jason Varitek surprised his neighbors in suburban Newton when they came to his house on Halloween night. His 7-year-old daughter passed out candy bars while daddy sat on a lounge chair in the driveway giving away autographs.

The Boston captain, who said he did it because the neighbors had respected his privacy during the October run, made sure things were orderly by arranging to have two police cruisers on the street handling crowd control.


Around the horn

Former Bisons manager Brian Graham wasn't out of work long. The deposed Pirates farm director has been hired by the Orioles as a special assignment coach for the minor leagues. Graham was Baltimore's offensive and defensive coordinator in 2000 under Mike Hargrove, as the pair left Cleveland following the Indians' 1999 playoff collapse against Boston.

The Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., could have a huge bearing on the 2008 AL Central race. Because of the scarcity of hotel rooms in the area, the Twins are playing 24 of 30 games from Aug. 21-Sept. 21 on the road. Included is a 14-day death march through Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Toronto.

Veteran scout Bob Miske of Eggertsville, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer and one of the true nice guys in the game, got a contract renewal from the Mariners for 2008. It will be his 43rd season (30 with the Dodgers, seven with the Yankees and six with Seattle).

Charge an 'E' to this corner. New Blue Jays scouting supervisor Marc Tramuta, the former St. Bonaventure player and Dodgers draftee, is a Fredonia High graduate. We had his high school wrong last week.


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