Torre addresses Taiwanese audience

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre led an hour-long forum on his philosophies on leadership and success for about 50 Taiwanese baseball coaches and business leaders Saturday morning at Taipei's Tienmu Stadium.

Torre spoke for about 15 minutes, then fielded questions on everything and everyone from Alex Rodriguez to Manny Ramirez, Darryl Strawberry and George Steinbrenner.

Despite the short turnaround from Friday night's game, which ended about 10 p.m., to the early morning session, Torre was sharp and in his typically polished form.

"How do you become a good coach?" he asked, repeating a question from the audience. "Have good players.

"When I took the Yankees over in 1996, my record was awful. Way under .500. I have an older brother Frank who played baseball before I did, and he said 'You're with this team now, you're liable to get your lifetime record up over .500.' And I said 'There's no chance.' I was probably a hundred games under at the time.

"Then all of a sudden I became this brilliant manager because I had good teams that played well."

The crowd seemed to hang on Torre's every word and snapped pictures and home movies throughout. Torre complimented the Taiwanese team's performance in a 5-2 win over the Dodgers on Friday night, noting how fundamentally sound and disciplined the team had played.

When asked if he'd criticized any of his own players for their performance, Torre shook his head.

"No. Even though we made mistakes, I never saw any examples of a lack of preparation or effort," Torre said. "And I'm not going to get angry at any of my players for mistakes. Mistakes are human. It's lack of preparation or effort that is unacceptable.

"If I see that, I go directly to the player. I don't go to some media person and criticize a player for that unless I speak to the player first."

That sentiment speaks directly to Torre's philosophy on communication with players, he said.

"You can't get commitment unless you get trust first," Torre said. "And I'd always rather be wrong in trusting someone than in not trusting someone.

"That's my philosophy. I'm not saying that's how everyone does it, but that's what's worked for me."

Torre said once he has earned the trust of veteran players in the clubhouse, he often leans on them in making decisions.

As an example, he spoke of the Yankees' decision to sign Strawberry midway through the 1996 season.

"When Darryl Strawberry came to us midway through the season in 1996, we were in first place," Torre recounted. "George Steinbrenner, he loved home-run hitters and we didn't have any home run hitters on our team at that time.

"So when he wanted to add Strawberry, I went to Paul O'Neill, one of my veteran players. And I asked him about Darryl and he said that Darryl was always a great teammate for everybody. Well that was good enough for me. I didn't have to ask anybody else because I respected Paul O'Neill so much.

"Darryl came on after the All-Star break, he was a No. 1 citizen. He was never a problem. He was great for the young players.

"Darryl was a special guy. He reminded me of Willie McCovey. If he hadn't had the drug issues early on, who knows where his abilities would've taken him. He would've been a Hall of Famer for sure."

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.