Foresight proved 20-20 with Torre
OZYMANDIAS: THE MEMOIR
I’ve been reluctant to offer much conversation on the Joe Torre-Tom Verducci book because I’ve not read the thing (get your act together, Doubleday publicity!) and of all the things the world needs, it’s not another uninformed commentary on that bloody book. Nonetheless, I feel like I can’t let the Greatest Story of Our Time pass without a few words, at least until I get hold of the holy pages. Given what I’ve heard so far of the “controversial” passages, I feel validated.
Longtime readers know I jumped off the Torre bandwagon a few years before he actually left town. I was a convinced fan of Torre’s after the buttoned down and seemingly know-nothing Buck Showalter epoch. However, as I wrote here many times, I became convinced that Torre had outlived his usefulness. He was not a builder and he wasn’t a strategist. His main skill was creating a professional atmosphere, something that the organization had proved incapable of doing over a period of nearly two decades.
However, Torre’s ability to do that ebbed, and now the new book suggests that this ability was largely mythological. Torre seems to blame Brian Cashman for foisting too many irregular-size players on him, but this gets into circular, chicken-and-egg territory: were Cashman’s players unable to blend, or did Torre fail to blend them? For every end-of-the-line gamble Cashman took, like Kevin Brown, where no manager would have been able to save the situation, there have been others who left New York and went on to productive work. Perhaps more importantly, in 2008, Joe Girardi minted more Major League relievers than Torre did in his entire 12-year stay.
Torre’s failing judgment climaxed with Alex Rodriguez. When Torre batted A-Rod eighth in the fourth game of the 2006 ALDS, he publicly demonstrated that his usefulness was at its end. That was actually the second such gesture that year, and the first of his self-immolating collaborations with Verducci, when he conspired in the swift-boating of his own third baseman in the pages of Sports Illustrated. If you will recall, A-Rod had slumped that August, the boos were again raining down and Torre was at a loss. At that point, Torre enabled the Verducci story, which then waited like a time bomb for Rodriguez to emerge from his slump and enter the playoffs. It went off just in time to kneecap A-Rod at the most important moment of the season.
With this helpful stab in the back, Rodriguez was “motivated” right back into his slump.
Not satisfied, Torre then jerked the future Hall of Famer up and down the lineup throughout the short series. Where a player hits over the course of four games isn’t all that important, but the psychological impact of those moves is. Rather than leave Rodriguez alone, and minimize the stress on his player, Torre did everything he could to make him the story.
If Torre wasn’t an Xs and O’s manager, if he couldn’t get young players into the lineup, and he was unable to communicate with the players the GM was giving him, no matter how difficult, then what did he bring to the table besides an increasingly illusory and irrelevant gravitas? Again, not having read the book as of yet, I cannot draw any firm conclusions, but from A-Rod to his bitterness about not getting Bernie Williams back in 2007 (another example of hideously poor judgment, one he apparently tries to excuse by character-assassinating Carlos Beltran, the player who would have displaced the beloved Bernie) this tome seems to be one of the greatest examples one can think of a man doing all he can to destroy his own reputation, the myth of his own greatness. Instead of proving his indispensability to the Yankees, Torre has made a persuasive case for why they had to let him go.
As usual, Steven, that’s a great analysis. I’m looking forward to what you have to say after you read the book. Torre always did seem to have “his boys” and any players out of that group seemed to suffer (well, suffer as much as a professional baseball player playing for the Yankees can suffer). As much as Arod is too sensitive, egotistical, etc., I do take the side of “his camp” right now. I’d hate to be a Dodger who said something in that locker room last year.
Last night I finally felt like I could start reading Bobby Murcer’s book, “Yankee For Life”… Anyway, Torre failed brutally at incorporating the new and better players the Yanks started adding for the 2002 season. Whether he was playing mind games with ARod or burning through Quantrill and Gordon likes he was on a crystal meth bender, Torre failed with the better parts he was given. It was his job to jell them into a team, and what’s clear from what has already come out, he was in many senses an obstacle to really forming a new and better nucleus and winning as much as they should have. btw, the story about ARod wondering why Jeter didn’t have the MLB package on his TV seems to say more about Jeter than ARod.Also, Stephen, we have to get Dunn in here. I was thinking about how the seemingly extraneous Johnny Mize and Darryl Strawberry acquisitions helped set in motion dynasty. Let’s get this Dunn.
Well one thing for sure someone is a marketing genious! The book is likley to sell many more copies now given all the press! I liked Joe and regardless of his strengths and weaknesses he was successful in NY. Kind of disapointed in him for casting his garbage in the wind. Surprised he would do it while still managing. By May no one will remember or care about Joe’s comments save perhaps his own players. May make a “Dodgers Years” book harder to write:-) But all this said, pitching and an all or nothing offense hurt the team the past few years not the managing or coaching. Well maybe Joe did sit back a bit and waited for the big inning that never came in the playoffs. The yankees were not built to win short series against teams with pitching and run building capabilities. The Yankees just did not match up well.
The post championship Yanks walked more and made more “productive outs” than the championship Yanks did. “All or nothing?” Try again. What’s appearing is a portrait of an overpaid manager who refused to manage new players, and whose “gut” destroyed the bullpen every year.
Thanks for your insight. As a Red Sox fan in the Boston area there has been a lot of press about the book. I am looking forward to reading it – I want to see for myself who really said what and if Torre is the “devil” that people are making him out to be.
buzah, can’t argue you comments on walks or productive outs as I lack the statistical sources or the time to research them. Not that into stats as it kind of takes the fun out of it for me. A wise stat professor once told me, a good statistician can make stats say what ever they want them too 🙂 But I am amazed by folks that have the desire to research and remember all those stats. I watch most Yankee games (sure my wife would say too many) and my comments are more of an overall observation. It seems to me over the past few years that the team was better built for the regular season then the playoff. Lots of stars for sure, but maybe not the best combination of players. Again one can argue this all day, and really isn’t that most of the fun! The teams recently remind me a lot of the 80’s teams. Lots of stars, won a lot of games, but no crowns. You can win a lot of games against 3, 4 and 5 starters on teams with very bad pitching. You can come back against weak middle relief. But when you get to the playoff the teams there generally have 3-4 good starters, good middle relief and a big guy or two at the end. It just seems to me like you want a team that pitches well, fields well and can build runs and get clutch hits against good pitching. I would say that is not the team the Yankees fielded recently. Oddly the Red Sox seem to have learned better from the Yankees? success in the late 90?s then we did. We?ll see what happens this year. Ought to be fun! Thanks for commenting, reminds me of younger days when old friends and I would arguer all day long!!! Oh to have that time again!!!
This is the most insightful response to Torre’s book that I’ve read. Terrific writing. Thanks.
It is amazing the man can chastise David Wells for his “tell-all” book, and then lets his co-author try and take all “blame” for the quotes that are in HIS book! What did he tell Wells when David tried to pawn off the blame on his co-author? He told David it’s his name on the book, so he’s the one that has to take the heat. Verducci is claiming it is written in a 3rd person manner, but Torre is well versed in the NY media and should realize that any inflammatory comments are going to be credited to the person whose name is on the book. Besides, “Joe was speechless, stuck between…” is Verducci’s words, but he wasn’t at the meeting, so obviously it was Torre telling him this. Sad really, even though I thought he was an average manager at best, I always respected the man, but from what I see from this book’s excerpts, and considering he had the power to not publish stuff like that, I’ve lost a lot of respect for the man.
Agree that the teams for 2002 to ’07 were not really that great which makes for the case that Joe Torre is a non-factor. That makes him just a part of the supporting cast from 1996 to 2001 but will get credit as being this saint-like figure with magical powers that will get him elected to the Hall of Fame. Yikes!
Besides, it makes really mad that he wants all the credit for the good years and on early exits from the playoffs he used the “playoffs are crap shots” which makes him really full of crap.
From 1996-2000, the span of the last 4 titles, the Yanks averaged 97 wins a year. From then till now they have average 97 wins a year, as the teams around them have gotten better. In 2001, Torre left the infield in, 2002 and 2005 he sat on his hands against the Angels and acted spooked by Scioscia, in 2003 he left Weaver in when Mo was ready, in 2004 he didn’t call bunts against Schilling, in 2006 he batted ARod 8th, in 2007 he left the team on the field as a biblical swarm descended on them. He should have won a lot more with the teams he was given, but he’d burn out the pen every year by overusing some and neglecting others, and he’d screw up in the playoffs ever year. Just like clockwork. He should have been let go at least 3 years before he was.
To many conflicting reports. I refuse to comment one way or another until I have read the book. I ordered it when this story first hit. I do know one thing though, ” What goes on in the locker room, stays in the locker room”.
Steve, You have to admit this is a heck of a way to get ready to sell a book, it.s all everyone is talking about. I am not and will not spend $$$$$ ti line Torre’s and Slime-Ball Verducci’s pocket. To Joe, who the Yankees, etc have made a hall of famer, it’s a funny way to say thank-you. Jo-Jo better pray that the Dodgers re-sign Manny as it sure wasn’t Joe who got them to the play-offs last year. As a manager I feel he was near the bottom rung of the ladder!!!! Cmon guys don”t pay $$$ to support Torre-Slime Verducci’s egos…
I was never a big Torre fan and thought I was in the minority. I got tired of his hit and run strategy with ARod at bat and his bullpen blunders. However, I will never forgive him for the time he pulled in the infield in in the 7th game of the World Series allowing Gonzo to get that bloop single ending the game. If Jeter was playing at regular depth, he would have caught the ball.
I, for one, am very grateful that Joe decided to “write” this book. Every history and life story will be one sided and self serving, but some day, when the great baseball writer Steven Goldman decides to write the authoritative tome on the late 20th century Yankees, the truth can only come from the people who were there. Of course he’ll have to balance the words of Torre and Verducci, with the future books of A-Rod and Cashman, maybe even the Steinbrenner official biography. But we must encourage everyone in the locker room to talk… otherwise how is history preserved?
It’s kind of sad that Torre decided to write his book – before this, people were saying how he was such a great Yankee, and how the organization had done him wrong, and that someday his number would be retired as one of the greats… and he went and blew all that up for what? $2 million dollars? It’s not like he needs the cash (though I guess I wouldn’t say no to that kind of money)
I find it interesting that, out of all of this talk, the only thing I’ve gotten out of it is that Torre was ludicrously overrated for his entire management tenure. This article hits that dead-on.
“”However, I will never forgive him for the time he pulled in the infield in in the 7th game of the World Series allowing Gonzo to get that bloop single ending the game. If Jeter was playing at regular depth, he would have caught the ball.””
– Having just watched the replay highlights on the new MLB network to re-open to wound, the game was already tied at that point, momentum was clearly on Arizona’s side and if you’ll notice the play or two before the bloop single, Jeter looks hurt – so even if he’s at regular depth, how can you be so sure they would have won? (the game would have went to the 10th) It just wasn’t meant to be. Back up to where Mo made the throwing error – if that play was made – the Yanks probably win. Go back a littel further and youll see a deep fly ball off the bat of Knobby (how is he doing these days?) land just foul off the big unit. IF that ball landed fair, maybe the Yanks go up another run. Instead, the legend of Tony Womack is born. They should have lost in NY, but were able to stage miracle come-backs. Game 6 was where it was done – just like the ’86 series with the Mets.
If you want to hate Joe, fine – but I would resist pulling in items that he didnt really factor into. Heck, if Jeremy Giambi slid into homeplate in the ALDS, the Yanks probably dont even see Arizona. Much like that crap shoot.
As for the book – who cares? He’s the guy whos at the helm for the longest playoff streak in recent memory. I for one wont forget that, book or not. I see this as his way of getting back at the ownership for the way he was let go…a little below Joe’s normal course but when your angry, you tend to make poor choices. All this and the book is probably boring as hell with 1 or 2 snippets leading to all this foaming at the mouth – Marketing 101. I’m afriad you’ve been had my friends.
All that really invalidates the Yankee dynasty? Not even close in my eyes. Remember: Billy Martin actually fought his players in the dugout and people still love him.
Heck, if Jeremy Giambi slid into homeplate in the ALDS, the Yanks probably dont even see Arizona.
Except that Giambi’s run would have only tied the game, not won it.