The other side of the Torre story

Ties are like kissing your sister
ALDS food for thought

On Tuesday, I voiced my support for Joe Torre. My reasoning, like many others, is that there simply isn’t anyone else better suited to manage this Yankees team. That remains my positio today, though as I read more I’m realizing that I’m succumbing to certain biases. Who knows? Another three days of mulling this issue might make me turn around. Bits of knowledge like this one, found at NoMaas (a site I’ve grown weary of this year), will do much to expedite a change in my thought process:

All managers, as a group are most effective in their early years on the job. I did a study of 103 managers who managed at least 600 major league games, a group basically including all twentieth-century managers who had significant careers and are now retired. The study documented something which is apparent if you just look at the records. A huge percentage of managers have their best seasons a) when they first get a chance to manage, and b) in their first years on the job.

Nonetheless, the most obvious fact about managers is that almost all managers become ineffective after two or three years in a position.

The most important question that a manager asks is “What needs to be changed around here?” Any manager, over time, loses the ability to see what needs to be changed.

There is the manager’s loyalty to his players. A new manager owes nobody anything. He can bench or release unproductive players without apology. An established manager can’t do that – not only because of his own reluctance to break faith with players who have given him their best efforts, but because of what it means to the rest of the team.

Another thing…the game of baseball changes, over time, much more extensively than most people realize. The way the game is played now is very different from the way it was played thirty years ago.

The older a manager is, the more likely he is to fight those changes. Older managers are trying to play the game the way it was played thirty years ago, usually without realizing it.

Of course, this not to say that managers always have their best seasons early on. Look at Bobby Cox. He managed the Braves, then was relegated to GM duties, and then returned as manager and went on the infamous division title streak. Many think that Cox is “losing it” today, but I don’t remember his job coming into question during his tenure, despite a lack of playoff success. Then again, I’m not a Braves fan, so I’m not always privy to what they’re saying about their manager.

The most eye-opening parts of that passage are the final four paragraphs. Joe is very loyal to his players, almost to a fault. In many instances, it worked out — Bobby Abreu is a good example of this. However, that’s not to say that Joe’s loyalty is the only way to get things back on track. Perhaps sitting Bobby for three or four games would have gotten him back on track faster. Who knows?

The point is, there are two sides to every story. Yes, many of us want Joe Torre back, and there is a valid argument for that. However, as I’m beginning to realize, there is a reason just as valid to can him. To me, this makes the decision that much more interesting.

Ties are like kissing your sister
ALDS food for thought
  • Barry C

    Joe’s main weakness over the past few seasons has been how he has handled the bullpen IMHO. From overusing both J.Nelson and Proctor, under and over using Mo Rivera, staying too long with his SP…I know hindsight is 20/20, but this is my major concern with him. He seems to stick to a set lineup through out the season for the most part, and I think he started doing that with his bullpen to a fault…

  • Count Zero

    This has been the crux of my argument all along, although I admit I didn’t research the stats. Sometimes you need to change leadership, simply for the sake of change. Just to infuse new spirit, as it were. This team is clearly in a rut and seems psychologically incapable of approaching the first round division matchup with the right frame of mind. If Torre returns, that will continue to be the case.

    Chaos can be good for an organization in small bursts. It’s true in business and in sports.

    Continuity has great value, but it also stifles innovation and creativity, and limits change. Chaos forces change, some good, some bad. More importantly, it allows an organization to shake off complacency; cast tried and true methods overboard and exchange them for new and better methods. Meanwhile, continuity is risk averse and becomes more and more risk averse the longer it lasts. Torre is a prime example of that…he is as risk averse a person as I have ever seen.

  • Travis G.

    Joseph, i read a very similar article in ‘Baseball behind the numbers.’ managers have their best seasons early on, and the younger they the better they tend to do (generally).

  • Mr. Faded Glory

    Torre should NOT manage a team full of young players, especially pitchers, as he always goes with intangible things like “experience” and “guts” over talent, and will absolutely destroy a young psyche as quickly as he will an arm.

  • Thomas

    I disagree with the notion of a new manager only wins in the first year or two. What about Bobby Cox or Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston, Casey Stengel, Sparky Anderson, Earl Weaver, Mike Hargrove, Dusty Baker and Tony LaRussa? They have all gone to the WS or won the WS after more than 3-4 years with the club. As a matter of fact LaRussa won last year in his 11 year as manager of the Cardinals, for his only WS Championship.

  • Thomas

    In response to Mr. Faded Glory,
    Didn’t Torre manager a team of young players, especially pitchers before!
    He didn’t destroy Mo Rivera and he had him when he as young.
    He didn’t destroy Andy Pettitte and he had him when he was young.
    He didn’t destroy Jeter and he made him his starting ss the first year he was manager and Jeter was young.
    He didn’t destroy Cano and he is young.
    He didn’t destroy Melky and he is young.
    He didn’t destroy Proctor, last I read he finished the year very well for the Dodgers. He also pitched newcomer, El Duque who didn’t have any experience in MLB.
    Vizcaino pitched 75 innings this year. Last year he pitched 65 for Arizona. He pitched 70 innings the year before that. When he was with the Brewers in 2002 he pitched 81.3 innings and had a 2.99 ERA. So Torre did not overuse him!
    I think that Torre gets too much blame and too much credit for what has happened over the years.

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph M

    Torre’s contract should not be renewed. Why is this even an issue at this point. Does anyone want to be sitting here a year from now wondering what went wrong this time. I don’t. The Yanks were favored in the 2003 World Series, were favored in 2006 in 2007 and blew a three games to zero lead in 04. The never say die club of the late 90’s has become thetoe tag team of the the 21 cntury.

    But the lament goes, who will we get to replace him? How about Bowa or Pena, but they have never won anything you say, check back to 1995 and tell me what Torre had ever won up to that point. Torre managed not one, not two but three different clubs and had one division title to show for it (and was promptly out of the playoffs in three games).

    How about Girardi, or La Russa, how can anyone think that the man who has been the highest paid manager in baseball for years deserves another shot at failing.

    Forget it, let’s move on.