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T.J. SIMERS

It looks as if Joe Torre wants more

Manager is talking about staying with the Dodgers beyond next season.

November 08, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

Two days at Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup, and of all places providing a sports memory of a lifetime in addition to a hot tip that finally pays off.

I hear Joe Torre is talking about extending his contract as manager with the Dodgers and remaining beyond next season.

"Where did you get that?" Torre says, the first time all weekend he seems to care where I'm getting my inside information.

But it's true, Torre says, "we're talking about it."

We know this, he's not chatting with Jamie McCourt about it.

"We were talking about my coaches and I've been thinking about it," Torre says while mentioning General Manager Ned Colletti's name and plans to chat again once Torre returns from a charity function in New York.

"It's been fun. When I came here, I was curious about how it might go. But the last two years have been invigorating. You see progress and your ego tells you maybe you had something to do with it."

The Dodgers have won back-to-back division titles for the first time in 30 years, and given the McCourts' tug-of-war and a scorecard to keep straight all the names of the lawyers, removing Torre's status as lame-duck manager might go a long way in bringing some stability to the team.

"He's done a great job," Colletti says. "And our relationship continues to be a very strong one."

But what would that mean for Don Mattingly, who had interviews with Cleveland and Washington a few weeks ago about managerial openings and who has been mentioned as heir apparent to Torre?

"We'll discuss Don this winter as well," Colletti says. "We believe he wants to stay here and we'll see where that goes.

"When I hired Joe, I told him we wanted to develop continuity here and I would like to have his successor on his staff or at least within the organization. He suggested Don be given a chance and I've told him we'll do that."

Mattingly is in Indiana, and with nothing to do there, he was obviously available take a call. He says, 'it doesn't bother me at all Joe wants to work another year or whatever.

"I really like it there and that's key for me. They've shown me tremendous loyalty and I like the club. I can't say assurances have been given to me [about becoming Torre's successor], but I like the way talks are going. That's a place where I want to be."

Torre will be 70 next season, and until Saturday, he had repeatedly said next season would be his last.

"Heard it before," Don Zimmer says with a laugh. Zimmer is one of Torre's best friends, his bench coach for eight years with the Yankees and sitting beside him the last two days at the Breeders' Cup.

"In five years he'll still be managing," Zimmer says with a chuckle. "I remember back in '96 or '97 we're at this function and his wife talking about how this is it, and how long ago was that?"

Torre's tenure as Yankees manager ended with Torre hurt, enough wins in the bank, or so he thought, that the team would not place him in the position of being a lame duck.

But they did, and so rather than settle for one more year in New York, as if he needed to prove himself again, he came to the Dodgers. And proved he still knows how to guide a winner, so long as his team doesn't have to play in Philadelphia to get to the World Series.

But now uncertainty will be a Dodgers way of life, visitation rights to the McCourts' indoor swimming pool maybe resolved, but what next?

"Look what he went through with the Yankees," Zimmer says. "This is nothing."

--

AS FOR the big race here Saturday, this place is normally empty, but when it came time for the Breeders' Cup Classic, here's hoping someone took a picture. The place may never look the same, jam-packed, the electricity here rivaling almost any sports event anywhere.

"This is so cool," Torre kept saying over and over again, and from what I can tell, it's the only time all weekend he was right on the money.

He rented trainer Bobby Frankel's boxes at Santa Anita, which placed him next to Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, wife of Zenyatta trainer John Shirreffs, and owner Jerry Moss.

When the Classic was delayed because Quality Road acted like Milton Bradley, and then had to be scratched, it threw Ingordo-Shirreffs, who told Torre the plan had been for Zenyatta to track Quality Road at the start of the race.

It didn't seem to be a big deal for Torre, who lost his starting pitcher early much of the season, but tension mounted in the owner's box.

Torre did a great job of appearing concerned and showing support for Zenyatta -- even though his money was on Einstein.

But it was hard not to get caught up in the dramatic moment, Torre actually cheering for Zenyatta as she came down the stretch, losing his money -- so now we know why he wants to work another year for the Dodgers.

--

AS FOR the winner when it came to picking horses for the benefit of Safe at Home, Torre and TVG's Bob Baedeker did the best they could. I guess. Maybe the pressure was just too much for them.

At this point I see no reason to dwell on how Page 2 fared, humility, as you know, always the first consideration here.

The trio did win $10,500 for Safe at Home, and then got a surprise visit from a beaming Rick Baedeker, working on behalf of Breeders' Cup Charities and TVG, who wanted to add another $5,000 in the name of Zenyatta.

"What a show -- I haven't heard this place as loud since Northern Dancer ran here in the '60s," said Baedeker, calling Zenyatta's performance the best he has ever seen.

And how long has he been watching races? "Well, I was born in '49," he said. "So since '50."

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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