Sun Q&A: MLB's chief baseball officer Joe Torre on the Orioles-Red Sox feud

Major League Baseball's chief baseball officer Joe Torre is, essentially, the game's lord of discipline and comes from the old school when the kind of thing that is going on between the Orioles and Boston Red Sox was much more prevalent and considered part of the game. That mindset has changed and Torre joined baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on a conference call Wednesday with managers Buck Showalter and John Farrell, as well as general managers Dan Duquette and Dave Dombrowski to quell the 12-day-old feud. Torre also talked by phone today with Sun columnist Peter Schmuck.

Obviously, you want to see this Boston-Baltimore feud end and I've heard there was discussion about the subject with the two teams today?


There's enough smoke on either side to know there are strong feelings and, of course, what has contributed to that is that they've played so many times in a short period of time. That doesn't give it time to sort of calm down. I understand the passion. I respect that passion. Basically, the commissioner and I were on a phone call with both managers and both general managers to express our feelings and let them know, "All right, that's it."

I'm not going to keep score on who owes what to whom. I'm sure when you root for a certain team, you're going to have one feeling and on the other side you have different feelings. We just felt there was enough going on on both sides to warrant a phone call before we do something we don't want to do and certainly that would be to address it in a certain way that is not just a phone call. The commissioner was very emphatic that he's had enough of it. I expressed my feelings as a former manager and impartial observer that these two clubs figure to be in a pennant race and I hate to have retaliation and revenge really take precedent over trying to win a ballgame.

You know, that's basically what the crux of it was. It was a matter of 'enough is enough. Let's play baseball.' And I didn't want to issue warnings before the game because I want them playing baseball. I don't want them to be on eggshells. Let's hope that the phone call sort of gave them a little different perspective on what we expect to see and what the fans should be seeing. So, we'll see what happens.

Boston pitcher Matt Barnes got four games for throwing at Machado in Baltimore. Is there any disciplinary action in place for Chris Sale?

With the Sale situation, we're still looking at it obviously. Obviously, it's unacceptable when guys throw behind people, especially when it looks like it's intentional, which I felt it was. Again, the difference in Barnes' and [Sale's] was obviously location. Even though it was behind, it was not in the area of the head, which makes us all shiver. We're still talking about that and if it turns out to be a suspension, you'll be aware of that. But discipline is discipline. It could be money, too.

Manny Machado was suspended three years ago for the bat-throwing incident. Were you happy to see that he chose not to directly respond to any of the attempts to throw at or near him over the past 12 days?

Manny is a passionate player. I watched him in the WBC and he's scary and when I say that, it's a compliment to him, because he's a great, great player. He has great ability. He's young. He's developing. The thing that started this thing was the hard slide, which to me was very clean but hard and unfortunately somebody got hurt. I'm glad to see it wasn't serious. He's a player that plays hard. I don't want to have him being a constant target. We want him to get attention for his ability to play and, unfortunately, it added a dimension with what's been going on, but hopefully with today's phone call, we will be able to turn the page and start just playing baseball.

Joe, I know you played in an era when pitchers would drill you without remorse, but haven't times changed with the greater sensitivity about concussions and other injury risks?

Let me tell you about my first week in the big leagues as a 20-year-old. Every city I went to, they threw at my head. But hitting technique has changed since then because now there is more diving [over the plate] because that's the way hitters hit. They just wanted to see what your response would be. We don't want to see that anymore because the new technique of hitting makes it harder to get out of the way because you're already committed to looking away. But in those days, when somebody threw at you on purpose, you could pretty much detect it. From my experience, I think I can detect it about 90 percent of the time. There's so much more retaliation now even when it's not on purpose. And that's a concern for me because we certainly want to keep players on the field.

Concussions are certainly a problem, but we certainly look at balls thrown at the head area as being a lot more serious than some other areas because that could end a career. So we frown on that and I really should use a stronger word than that. It's unacceptable.

Manny Machado complained last night that when he acted out a few years ago he was punished severely and feels that there is a double standard when it comes to discipline imposed on him versus pitchers who have thrown at him. For instance, Barnes got a four-game suspension for throwing at Machado's head which – as a reliever – probably cost him two or three innings. Machado got five games for throwing a bat toward third base after a purpose pitch in 2014 and got five games, which equals 54 innings.

When incidents happen, you make a decision at the time that you think is a fair decision. There are certain protocols we use for relievers as opposed to starters. I understand that players and people are rooting for a team; they have their ideas about what should happen. I like to think we do what we think is the fair thing we do at the time we do it. When Manny was disciplined a few years ago, it was what we thought was appropriate. We have certain protocols. When pitchers throw the ball and there is a result, we have suspended pitchers for 10 games. They're all individuals and you make decisions as you go along. Hopefully, everything is behind us. You can't change what's happened in the past and what we've done here recently. Certainly, we don't want people to watch to see who's going to get hit. We want people to watch them play baseball. We've got two good teams and and two teams that figure to be in the running all year and I'd rather have all the players on the field.

Can we assume that your phone call was a velvet glove sort of thing? This has to stop and when it doesn't …?

I think it was more than a velvet glove. The commissioner was very emphatic with what he wanted and I added to what Rob had told them and just my experience in uniform and what I expect as basically a lifer in baseball. Hopefully, we can get back to what we want to see in this office at a baseball game.

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