Everybody, it seems, is satisfied that the Braves’ Joe Torre is just about the best there is at his particular trade, which is hitting and catching baseballs. It isn’t, of course, quite that simple. Torre is a major league catcher and, as such, he not only catches and hits, but also handles pitchers, throws out would-be base stealers, sets up hitters and is the man-in-charge of everything that takes place near home plate. In addition, he grabs pop fouls, tags out full-speed, bound-to-score runners, shakes off busted fingers and renders tangible leadership.
Then there’s offense. Torre hits for power and average, bunts and seldom strikes out. He does everything well, but run. There are people who’ll tell you they time Big Joe with a calendar when he runs from home to first. The Braves wouldn’t trade him, however, if he ran the bases backward. Torre, they feel, is numbero uno, tops, the best. Who’s to argue?
Everybody thinks so. Well, almost everybody. Torre apparently has his doubts, the way he keeps working to improve his talents. Torre lost weight over the winter and reported for the current season a trim, ready-to-go catcher. “I had to,” he said. “the loss of weight gives me more agility back there, and I want to prove to people I’m not that bad a catcher. I don’t want to be remembered as just a good-hitting catcher.” You can see the difference. Already this season, Torre must have thrown out a dozen batters by pouncing on bunts and topped pitches that rolled only a few feet in front of the plate.
At the plate, Torre is among league leaders with a .346 average. “Joe is always working to improve,” said Ken Silvestri, a Braves’ coach and former major league catcher himself.