Relaxed Torre is loving it in L.A.

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CHICAGO --- Joe Torre is no longer bombarded by questions about his boss, no longer caught up in the New York tumult. One constant remains for him, though: October baseball.

So here he is again, managing in the playoffs and leading the Los Angeles Dodgers against a Chicago Cubs team looking to break its 100-year championship drought.

While his old Yankees sit this one out, Torre discovered he could again have fun in the dugout.

"The last couple years in New York were not very comfortable," he said Tuesday.

And this certainly wasn't his easiest season, going into Game 1 tonight.

The Dodgers (84-78) made it despite trailing Arizona by 41/2 games on Aug. 29. They had a losing record on Sept. 3.

But they rallied to win their first NL West title in four years thanks to an 18-5 spurt, with late pickup Manny Ramirez providing the big hits and Torre the steadying hand.

"As far as the satisfaction, you never really know when you go someplace new, especially when you've been in one place for 12 years, how you're going to be received," Torre said.

"I know I've had success, but that doesn't mean that the players should believe what you're telling them because you haven't proven anything yet as far as what you can do with this new ballclub," he said.

Relaxed out West, he's loving his L.A. life. Just look at him in that TV commercial -- on a surfboard, doing yoga, zooming around the freeways and pitching a screenplay.

Those days under George Steinbrenner seem like forever ago, when his job status made for daily tabloid fodder. By the end, some people made it sound as though he was a failure, rather than a guy who'd won four World Series titles.

"Joe's not the kind of guy who's going to say, 'I told you so,' " said third-base coach Larry Bowa, who spent two years on Torre's staff in New York. "I'm sure maybe deep down he's very happy that some of the negative stuff that you read about that he couldn't do, he came out here and did."

The Yankees never missed the playoffs in Torre's 12 years, but after three consecutive first-round exits, they offered him a one-year deal worth $5 million -- a $2.5 million cut. Insulted by pay incentives for postseason performance, he declined even though he still would have been the game's highest-paid manager.

"I thought it was just time for (me) to leave, and I have a feeling they felt the same way," Torre said.

Communication with Steinbrenner had eroded over those final three seasons, and the Yankees' offer seemed more like a nudge toward the door.

Two weeks after he left New York, Torre agreed to a three-year, $13 million contract with the Dodgers and joined Casey Stengel as the second person to manage both franchises.

In the process, Bowa believes Torre debunked several myths, including one that he didn't handle inexperienced players well. A good chunk of the Dodgers team is in its early to mid-20s.

"He was unbelievable with the young players," Bowa said.

Then, there was the theory that Torre should win every year given the Yankees' talent.

"They had a good team this year, and they didn't win," Bowa said.

And finally, there was the notion that Torre couldn't win in the National League.

"He adjusted to the league," Bowa said. "We did all kinds of stuff. We hit-and-ran. We squeezed. We double-switched. That myth that all he could do was manage in the American League was gone, too. I don't think he'll say, 'I told you so,' but deep down, he says, 'We did this.' "

PLAYOFF CAREER


A look at Joe Torre's postseason managerial career:

1982 Atlanta 0-3


1996 N.Y. Yankees* 11-4


1997 N.Y. Yankees 2-3


1998 N.Y. Yankees* 11-2


1999 N.Y. Yankees* 11-1


2000 N.Y. Yankees* 11-5


2001 N.Y. Yankees 10-7


2002 N.Y. Yankees 1-3


2003 N.Y. Yankees 9-8


2004 N.Y. Yankees 6-5


2005 N.Y. Yankees 2-3


2006 N.Y. Yankees 1-3


2007 N.Y. Yankees 1-3


TOTAL 76-50


* Won World Series


Source: www.baseball-reference.com

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