Via a MLB.com report from last month -
The final qualifying rounds for the 2013 World Baseball Classic will be staged this week in Panama and Taiwan, and the 16-team tournament is set to be played for the third time in March.
Japan prevailed in 2006 and 2009. Team USA didn’t make it out of the second round in ’06 and lost in the semifinals to Japan at Dodger Stadium in ’09.
That may all change this coming spring, when Joe Torre takes charge of the U.S. squad. The man who is now Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations is approaching this tournament with a dual mindset.
“We’re going to take good care of the players and if all the plans go right we’ll send them back in good shape and ready to start the season,” Torre told MLB.com in an exclusive interview on Wednesday during the first day of the quarterly Owners Meetings. “That’s the biggest concern to me, is taking care of players. You want to win, but it’s so important to each of the teams that when you take their players you make sure you pay attention to them.”
The first two U.S. teams were managed by Buck Martinez and Davey Johnson. Torre is an almost certain Hall of Famer, and as manager of the Yankees from 1996-2007, his clubs won the World Series four times, the American League pennant six times and went to the playoffs every year.
After two more years of taking the Dodgers as far the National League Championship Series in 2008-09, that run ended in 2010 when the Dodgers missed the playoffs and he retired. More than two seasons away from managing his last game, Torre said it’s not a task you so easily forget.
“Once you get into the environment it all comes back to you,” he said. “It really does. When you start thinking of team the blood starts flowing a little bit.”
Torre is putting together next year’s edition of Team USA with Joe Garagiola Jr., MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations and the club’s general manager. The pair has already been scouring lists and rosters for the right mix.
“He’s probably more efficient at doing it because he crosses all the T’s and dots the I’s with names and lists and options,” Torre said about the veteran former GM, whose 2001 D-backs defeated Torre’s Yankees in a memorable seven-game World Series. “He’s a great asset for us.”
Can Clueless Joe prevent the Japanese from getting a three-peat in the WBC? Then again, does anyone care?