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.