Don’t start apologizing to Torre

A low blow

Over at the Worldwide Leader, Jeff Pearlman has penned a Page 2 apology to Joe Torre. Here’s the entire column in a nutshell:

A know-it-all bozo on’s Page 2 opines that the Yankees should save their season by firing Joe Torre, then watches in amazement as New York’s manager guides a severely flawed team back into the pennant race.

To get this out of the way (not that I have any reason to think he’s reading my work): I would like to apologize to Joe Torre for a completely wrongheaded column that never should have been written. It was dumb. Beyond dumb.

As you can imagine, Pearlman goes on to shower Torre in accolades for guiding the Yankees through the thick and thin en route to a pennant race right now. As Yankee-mania heats up and the Red Sox start to feel the pressure of a four-game lead that was once fourteen, we’ll be seeing a lot of this. We’ll see columnists extolling the virtues of Joe Torre and praising him for a job well done as he guides a team that struggled at the beginning of the season to the playoffs.

But really, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Last I checked, Joe Torre was still responsible for, according to these guys, six losses this year. Six losses, by the way, would give the Yanks a two-game lead in the East. By my count, Torre then is still on the hook for the Yanks’ having to play catch-up all summer. (Yes, I recognize the Yanks may have still gone 0-6 in those games, but Torre’s moves were fairly inexplicable at the time.)

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman was forced to trade away members of the Yankees at the trade deadline because the front office was concerned that Torre was using them as a crutch. Scott Proctor and to a greater extent Miguel Cairo were exiled from the Yankees because Torre kept insisting on deploying them in high leverage situations. That is not the sign of a manager with a full vote of confidence.

I also have to wonder how much of the credit Joe Torre really deserves for the Yankees’ offense. Take a look. Since the All Star Break, the Yanks are hitting .329/.396/.557. That’s a team OPS of .926. So yeah, good work at the plate, Mr. Torre.

Now, you can look at this and say I’m being too critical. You’re probably right. Torre’s can a better job of late of managing the bullpen now that Kyle Farnsworth, Brian Bruney and Scott Protor are either in Joe Torre’s doghouse or gone from the team, but I prefer to thank Mariano Rivera for that move.

To his credit, Torre has been very good at getting the most of his team. Bucking his past trends, he’s entrusted the centerfield job to Melky Cabrera. He’s balanced at bats between Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi. He’s stuck with Andy Phillips at first base. So, yes, Torre gets some credit.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The way the Yanks are playing, they don’t need a manager right now. And we don’t need to gloss over Torre’s faults to the detriment of the Yankees.

A low blow
  • steve

    hey, i hope Torre guides the team to a WS win and is showered in accolades from the heavens all winter on his way to a wonderful retirement.

    he won’t be back next year.

    that’s a guarantee.

  • TimH

    Ben K. Where did Farnsworth go? Would love to see him go but last time I checked he was still in Pinstripes.

  • Ben K.

    Good point. I meant gone from their roles. Let me correct.

  • Yankee Fan in Chicago

    Well sure, if your premise is that the Yanks are “deeply flawed” then yeah, you probably think Torre’s a genius to whom you need to apologize.

    Back on planet earth, the rest of us remember that this team had a devastating lineup coming into the season, and was predicted to score around 1,000 runs. The pitching seemed at least adequate to win in the neighborhood of 100 games given the offense.

    Pearlman seems to think the Yanks of April/May were the real Yanks and Torre is therefore responsible for the Yanks of June/July/August, where it seems to the rest of us that, from a combo of early season injuries and slow starts the Yanks underachieved and that the real Yanks finally emerged after 30 May. Torre gets credit from the rest of us merely for doing what he does best — not panicing and believing his vets would pull out of their slumps.

  • Rich

    I like Torre but if nomaas says Torre’s cost the Yankees 6 wins then it must be true, they’re very even-handed and oh so objective.

    And now the “Meanwhile, Brian Cashman was forced to trade away members of the Yankees at the trade deadline because the front office was concerned that Torre was using them as a crutch” meme.

    Who’s the RELIABLE source on that? The same unnamed sources who said the Yanks were trading Giambi for Chone Figgins? Or is it an echo chamber? Or maybe one of the unnamed scouts who said Abreu was washed up?

    And I keep forgetting: Some people say Torre is the man who sets the roster (Cairo, Mientkiewicz, etc.) and Cashman is the puppet. Who is it, Cashman or Torre?

    He makes mistakes, just like every manager. But it seems if the Yankees lose it’s Torre’s fault and if they win it’s despite Torre.

    How many people were blaming Torre for pinch running for Giambi in the 7th earlier in the season? It turns out the team knew Giambi was having the plantar problem and wanted to use him as much as they could then get him off the bases. The fans didn’t know that and were killing Torre.

    It’s an irrational hatred. Like most things he has his good and bad points. I think, and have thought, he’s been the best guy for the job.

  • mg

    Ben, truer words have never been written. When we needed to win games by outmanaging the other team he wasn’t able to do it. When the end of the season comes I think we all need to wave Torre goodbye. We’ve won a lot but I think more despite him than because of him. He continues to use his best relievers in blow outs. He continues to have trouble judging when a starter should be pulled. It took months for him to even consider not using Damon as the lead off hitter. He’s not a very good manager but he has one helluva group of players. I’m just glad he’s not being given the kids next year.

  • The Scout

    This conversation will go on for a long time, well into the off-season or until Cashman decides to make a change. I was one who said I thought Torre had lost his touch, that the players weren’t responding to him. But they are playing much better. Is it due to Torre?

    Torre’s greatest stregth is also his biggest weakness: patience. He believes players will perform up to their career track record over the course of a season. He refuses to push the panic button. Sometimes he is correct, as with Matsui, Abreu, and Cano. Sometimes he sticks with a guy too long before deciding the poor performances are not just an aberration. See Kyle Farnsworth. If he were gifted with 20-20 hindsight, he’d know when patience made sense and when it represented pig-headedness and blind faith. But he’s human and makes misjudgments, just like the rest of us.

    The underlying question of whether the Yankees would be where they are today, whether they’d be better, or whether they’d be worse, cannot be answered. We can speculate about it. But to be fair, let’s give him some credit. By showing confidence in players who were down, slumping badly, he let them find their natural level. Has he cost the team six wins, as the other post claims? Perhaps. But how do you measure the number of games the Yankees have won because he kept on an even keel and let players such as Abreu and Cano get through their droughts?

    He also deserves some credit for recognizing the value of youth and energy — for letting Melky win the CF job, letting Hughes and Chamberlain play important roles. You can argue he had no choice, but to some degree he did. He could have responded to Giambi’s return by forcing Damon back into center. He did something like that last year. It didn’t work, and he realizes it now.

    I am NOT endorsing Torre for 2008. That’s a conversation for later, after the season. I just wanted to add a note of balance.

  • dan

    the fact that he has to be protected from hurting this team is a problem (overuse of bullpen which lead to proctor and bruney leaving, forced playing of young guys, over-reliance on bad players such as cairo)

  • Rich

    The “fact” he has to be protected from hurting this team? How is this a “fact”?

    The overuse of the bullpen leads to Proctor and Bruney leaving? I thought Bruney’s performance earned him a ticket off the roster. I forgot both pitchers were Cy Young candidates ruined by Torre. They’re mediocre pitchers. There’s no crime in that but that’s what they are.

    Over-reliance on Cairo? Who were you going to play at 1B when Cairo was playing there?

    Brian K. must be right when he writes “The way the Yanks are playing, they don’t need a manager right now”. Using that logic ANY LOSS IS TORRE’S FAULT according to you guys.

  • Frank

    Ben – Well said. It’s amazing to me that Torre has lasted as long as he has. This year should be his swan song – win or lose.

  • barry

    i love torre as a manager, but all good things must come to an end, right?

  • barry

    One thing more, theres way to much cairo bashing going on around here, he was great for our team, how can you hate a cheap player that did it all? Cut the guy a break its not like hes frickin A rod

  • Ben K.

    At $1 million, Miguel Cairo was neither great nor all that cheap. He was worst than replacement level making significantly more than replacement level salary. I know he “covered” first base, but that’s because Joe Torre had no faith in Andy Phillips.

  • Freddy

    To hell with ESPN & their writers. The only ones worth reading/listening to is Gammons and Kurkjian.

  • barry

    I only take mike and the mad dog seriously.

  • brxbmrs

    One quick point, Melky is in CF and “won” that job b\c at the time Cashman and Torre had no other options.

    Same for Cano, same for Wang.

    All those guys got their chances b\c the Yanks had a need no one else could fill early in the year. If the Yanks had the same need in July, those three guys would have been traded for some broken down hasbeen as quick as any of you could say “Ken Phelps” or “Denny Neagle”.

    Yanks fans suffered through watching Womack in CF (after Cano embarassed him off of 2nd) and getting over 300 AB’s to prove he was a total waste.

    Bottom line, the reason Cano, Wang and Melk are in pinstripes is b\c they proved themselves rather quickly – and its not like we didn’t almost trade Wang and Cano away in the first RJ deal.

    As for Melk, his brief cup of coffee in 05 was really bad – and thank God, b\c after he got sent down I’m sure every other GM thought he was a wash out.

    Lets give credit to the guys in the minors and the front office who drafted and developed these guys – not Dr. Torre for having the “patience” to play these guys. The plain truth is he had no other options.

    Quick Kudos to Cash for not trading Melk this off season for Mike Gonzalez – many fans were against the trade (as I was) but in years past Melk would have been the Pirates MVP this year and Gonzalez would be riding shot gun in Pavano’s Porsche.

  • Joseph P.

    I only take mike and the mad dog seriously.

    That’s a tongue-in-cheek comment, right? Right?

  • Count Zero

    I’m with you all the way Ben. Now we’re giving Torre credit for sticking with the kids?!? He did nothing but sit them in favor of veteran scrubs like Cairo until his hand was forced. So now he acknowledges that Melky is our starting CF and deserves a medal? That was obvious two months ago — at this point, a blind man could determine that Melky is a better CF than Damon at this stage in his career.

    Don’t even get me started on the bullpen mismanagement, misplaced small ball, and general bad tactics ever since Zim left…it’s pretty easy to look smart when your entire team hits like Albert Pujols for a month.

  • Chris

    Love the post and you are absolutly right. I have not been a fan of Torre for a long time and will never forgive him for 2004 when he lost that series for the team. He had a great run for the team, but it is time for him to step down. Maybe a little harsh, but I found this on another post and I liked what the guy had to say:

    He is the most overrated Manager in baseball history and the worst bullpen manager that I have ever seen. A major factor in the Yankees loss of dominance in the playoffs has been the bullpen; something that Torre shares the blame equally with Brian Cashman. Rivera hasn’t been Rivera for the past 5 years. A big reason for that was Torre’s inability to show restraint with him in May an June games through 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. How many times did we have to see Rivera in the 8th inning because Torre panicked over a three game losing streak? Think back to those years and remember that some of those teams had pretty darn good pens throughout the season. Sturtze, Gordon, and Proctor were very good at times, but Bullpen Joe tired them out so much in mid-season (while other pitchers couldn’t get in the game) that they were shells of themselves when October came around. Yes, even Mariano. As for those years that he won. Was it such mind-blowing strategy to bring in Nelson in the 7th and 8th against righties, or Stanton against lefties? Mendoza in the 6th? Couldn’t see that coming. Joe Torre’s legacy was built on one decision that he must get accolades for. A decision that led to all those rings and one that, I admit I disagreed with at the time. Making Mariano the team’s closer. A great call that shaped the Yankees dynasty. Torre better make sure that he spends a god 5 minutes of his Hall of Fame induction speech thanking Mariano for all those titles starting in 1996 when, for a half season, he was possibly the most dominant pitcher in baseball history. Turning Joe from a decent, journey-man manager into a Hall of Fame manager. Give Joe the credit for deciding to pitch Mariano out of the pen and giving him the ball in 96 (something Showalter failed to do in 95 therefore costing the Yankees the series against the Mariners). Give Torre credit for making Mariano the closer in 97 despite the temptation to have him start games, but I cannot give Joe credit for the rings; especially those in 98-00. The credit for those has to go to Mariano. It is just a shame that his dominance has been wasted over the past 6 years because the guys in front of him either never had it to begin with, or lost it in July when Joe put so must trust in them that their arms nearly fell off.