Mediocre relievers hated Joe Torre almost as much as Torre hated them

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When it comes to pitching effectively, Brian Bruney and his control problems don’t warrant much sympathy from Yankee fans. But that’s not stopping Bruney from trying to play his cards anyway.

In a Mark Feinsand-penned profile, Bruney talks about pitching in Spring Training to earn a spot on the team. In the piece, he is judiciously critical of the former Yankee regime:

Bruney credits his offseason conditioning program – daily workouts, no alcohol, a strict diet and plenty of sleep – with improving his outlook, but he also believes the changes on the Yankees’ coaching staff – particularly Dave Eiland taking over as pitching coach for Ron Guidry – have helped him focus on the task at hand rather than worrying constantly about the consequences of a bad outing.

“I formed a relationship with Dave where he’s easy to talk to,” Bruney said. “In the past, I might not have had that relationship; I didn’t talk to Gator.”

Bruney also admitted to a level of fear in playing for Joe Torre, who was constantly criticized in recent years for overusing certain relievers.

“With Torre – and I’m not trying to bad-mouth anybody – sometimes you would go out there and try to be so good because you were scared of doing bad,” Bruney said. “You can’t pitch like that. (Joe) Girardi understands that you make mistakes – and I’m going to make them.”

Bruney’s comments aren’t out of line. We’re leaving that job up to Theo Epstein. But they do provide an interesting glimpse behind the closed doors of the Joe Torre regime.

We knew that Torre relied on certain relievers more than others. But did anything that Torre say or do cause other relievers to try too hard? That’s what Bruney claims. But then again, he might just be making excuses for his 37:39 BB:K ratio.

If Bruney can pitch well and pitch effectively, he’ll earn a spot on this team. He’s shown flashes of what he can do with his stuff. Maybe a changing of the guard will do him well or maybe he’s just laying the blame for his shortcomings on someone else. Time will tell.

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Yanks beat Yanks in intrasquad game
  • Guiseppe Franco

    Hey Bruney, just shut up and pitch.

    Torre certainly had his faults, but Bruney had a child-like immaturity and a bad attitude about him and could never find the strike zone to boot. It’s tough to blame Torre or Gator for that.

    The Yanks were desperate for ANYONE to go out there and get hitters out – which is why Joba got his opportunity to shine.

    Stop making excuses for your suckage last season and throw strikes.

  • steve (different one)

    Bruney is not the first reliever to criticize Torre’s bullpen management.

    Buddy Groom spoke out after he was released claiming that if you weren’t one of “Joe’s guys”, you weren’t used.

    now, you can take that for what it’s worth. i don’t think the fact that a mediocre journeyman like Groom failed with the Yankees is an indictment in itself of Torre, but his comments DO seem to jive with what a lot of us have observed over the past few years.

    it also seems obvious to me that Torre had something against Chris Britton for some unknown (and perhaps legitimate) reason last season, and it prevented the Yankees from possibly putting the best pitchers on the field.

    so yeah, if Bruney wants to succeed, he needs to learn to throw strikes. that’s on him. but his comments aren’t exactly shocking either.

  • Count Zero

    I have made it clear in the past that I’m not a Bruney fan — his inability to throw even a fastball for a strike when he needs to makes him a AAA pitcher to me.

    But I can see his point and sympathize– look at what happened to Edwar after one great outing, and then one bad outing. He collected dust for two weeks. Joe was definitely not one to look at the big picture with young relievers. If you failed him once, he wouldn’t use you again until he was forced to in a blowout.

    Prove me wrong Brian — I dare you. :-)

  • dan

    I remember last spring, Bruney was yapping about “finally being able to repeat his delivery consistently.” We all saw how that turned out. Until he walks the walk, I can’t take his words too seriously.

    I do, however, agree with his criticism of Torre. I’ve said this before, but when Torre signed with LA, Joe Beimel said that Scott Proctor told him to be ready to pitch a lot. We all see how he fell in love with certain guys (Proctor, Sturtze), but this is the first I’ve heard of being “afraid,” and I don’t recall a contradicting statement from another player.

  • Geno

    Didn’t Bruney arrive in NY with a history of attitude problems?

  • pete c.

    Yes he did. The D’backs couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.

  • pete

    funnily enough, i feel like bruney’s comments are both entirely true, and entirely inapplicable to him. Bruney was “one of joe’s guys” for much of the first half last year. He was probably the only pitcher who actually proved that he didn’t deserve a spot (although i still think his stuff merits an equal shot in ST this year). What bugged me about torre was the way he dealt with the young guys in the bullpen other than chamberlain. Relievers, just like starters, need to pitch regularly without being overworked. This should not, however, be considered torre’s “achilles heel” or something like that. Notice how few, if any, bullpens there are that are dominant year after year. The reason for this is that every manager seems to be just like torre. If a team has a great closer, and two members of the bullpen emerge as elite set-up men one season, then every manager falls in love with the simplicity of a bullpen that makes games get late early. Every manager wants to feel like he only needs 6 innings with a lead because that is the ideal postseason setup. However, this is also why setup men burn out so quickly. There are guys like Proctor and Vizcaino who can give you 70 appearances a season at a good but not great ERA, but even they are rare. The number of closer-esque set-up men, however, (such as betancourt last season), guys who dominate and post low 2s/high 1s ERAs are rarely dominant for more than one season. Wow i’ve gone off topic. Anyway, Girardi has a chance this year to set a precedent with the bullpen this year, as long as he doesn’t fall too much in love with the concept of a 6 inning game. Guys like Ramirez (who is apparently working on a cutter w/ mo, which is exciting in and of itself), Veras (gotta love the heater/slider combo w/ setup men), Ohlendorf, and maybe a couple of those highly touted minor league relievers (melancon, sanchez, wordekemper), all have good enough stuff to form a dominant bullpen year in and year out, so long as it is a set up crew of 4 or 5 guys, not 1 or 2. Say for example, those guys are cycled regularly (or as regularly as possible, some games may require more caution) so that each pitches 2-3 times each week, for an inning each time (again these are ideal conditions, but something resembling this is possible – the joba rules worked out ok, after all), and long relievers (karstens, marquez, igawa?) are given occasional spot starts (we’ll need a few this year, considering innings limits and such) and are given the nod in extra inning games after the 10th inning or something like that. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but if Girardi could manage to actually stick to it with conviction and not get wrapped up in the traps that have befallen many a hapless manager with a talented bullpen, then the results could become revolutionary.

  • TomG

    Bruney was a serviceable reliever at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007. He just lost confidence in his fastball at some point started nibbling at the corners and walking a ton of guys. I imagine it was due to a combination of his own disposition and the institutional bullpen problems under Torre, but let’s hope the change does him some good, at least until the trade deadline.

  • pete c.

    Brian Bruney was a head case at some point last year. I never had a lot of respect for Torre’s bullpen management, but he did make a point in saying body language was very immportant with a pitcher. I agree and Bruney’s was terrible. He looked like the last place he wanted to be was on that mound at that moment. The only one with a worse outlook was the Farnz.

  • kunaldo

    funny thing about bruney is that i remember his excuse for walking a lot of guys was “if he threw strikes, they’d hit him hard, but if he’s going to try and nibbles, he’s gonna walk guys”

    ummm…get better control of your fastball fool

    it’s great he lost weight, but that won’t directly help his ‘tude and control

  • Lanny

    Bruney has to good of an arm to give up on.

    You never give up on talent. All it takes is a lil switch going on. Maybe Eiland will find it for him.

    And lets be honest.

    No one cares about his tude if he gets hitters out. We’d be praising his fiery attitude if he throws strikes.

  • http://www.mvn.com/mlb-yankees Jim Johnson

    The Bank of New York blocked RAB overnight. I am extremely irritated.

    • Lanny

      Playing devils advocate on that most of the time you cant trust the employees because while some are looking at RAB and ESPN. Some are on porn sites and shopping and being very unproductive. So it makes sense for a company jst to block everything.

    • kunaldo

      Really Jim? I work for BONY as well, but I can still access RAB…maybe the restriction just hasnt trickled down to our system yet…

  • deadrody

    Unreal, Jim. It will never cease to amaze me how counter-productive it is for employers to treat their employees like children.

    On topic, should it really surprise anyone that Torre’s abysmal bullpen management that almost every Yankee fan could see wasn’t ALSO affecting the very pitchers he was using and abusing to the neglect of other pitchers ?

    That doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  • CB

    I suppose it was Joe Torre’s fault that Arizona cut Bruney and his 97 mph fastball as well? This guy is something else. When does he ever accept responsibility for his performance.

    Bruney is just too much. The notion that he has no command of his fastball and its Joe Torre’s fault is preposterous. Other than that brief couple of months at the end of 2006 Bruney has never been able to put the ball over the plate. It was Torre who gave him a chance and “trusted” him enough to put him in important situations down the stretch in 2006.

    All these articles we see about the “New” brian bruney. Let’s see how long they last.

  • kunaldo

    this picture by nomaas still cracks me up

    http://nomaas.org/images/nightmare.jpg

  • Rich

    For a time, I had hopes that Bruney could be Jenks-like.

    • steve (different one)

      unfortunately he’s stopped drinking and lost weight. so that’s out.

      • Rich

        zing

  • Curramba

    Like others have said he should just shut up and throw strikes. What happens this season if he doesn’t throw strke? Is he going to blame Joe G? Go out there and perform and he can have the right to open his trap.

  • http://yankeefansunite.freeforums.org/portal.php Old Goat

    The only reason this is a story is because it goes back to bashing Torre. Torre became the cause of all woes in the post season. Who knows, maybe some of it is deserved, but in this case, Bruney is just doing what he always does, blame others.