It’s a quiet night in Yankeeland. We’re awaiting word on Tuesday night’s starter, and the Yanks had an off-day on Thursday as they journeyed to Minneapolis for a wrap-around weekend set with the 28-25 Twins.
But across the city in Shea Stadium, Joe Torre made his return to New York. He managed the Dodgers to a loss against the Mets and was received warmly by the Shea Faithful. Jack Curry sat down for an extensive look at Joe’s life post-Bronx:
But Frank Sinatra never had to manage a baseball team in New York, New York. While Torre was renowned for his lengthy interview sessions and seemed to enjoy the interaction with the news media, he said that the coverage surrounding the team changed about eight years ago. Torre could not pinpoint why. He just felt as if the game details often became secondary to other issues. Torre recounted how the Dodgers plunked Boston’s Manny Ramírez with a pitch in an exhibition game and it was barely noticed.
“New York is great for the good times and memorable for the bad times,” Torre said.
Three nights after Randolph heard a smattering of “Fire Willie” chants, Torre was serenaded like a returning king. After a pitching change in the seventh inning, Torre received a partial standing ovation as he walked from the mound to the dugout. He lifted his cap to the fans.
While Torre couldn’t pinpoint what changed, I can. The invulnerable Yankees lost in the postseason eight years ago, and they haven’t really managed to win that Holy Grail, that 27th championship, since then. What happened in 2001 was hardly Torre’s fault. Mariano threw the ball away; Scott Brosius didn’t throw the ball to first; the roof took away a potential Shane Spencer home run.
But as the Yankees stocked up on talent — when Jason Giambi came in and the Yanks had to replace Tino and Paul O’Neill — the media began to nitpick every move the $200-million team made, and Torre bore the brunt of that scrutiny.
Today, we’re on the verge of wrapping up month two of the Joe Girardi Era, and it’s gotten off to something less than the smooth start for which we were all hoping. The Yanks enter Minnesota in last place, one game under .500. They’re only 4.5 games behind the Red Sox for the fourth AL playoff spot, and I have to believe that the team’s fortunes will improve.
As I watched some of the Dodgers-Mets game from the gym before the Lost finale took my attention away from baseball for a few hours tonight, I asked myself if I wished Joe Torre were still managing in the Bronx. My answer was still no. I loved Joe in New York, and I think it’s too bad that he couldn’t still be around to manage the team into the new stadium. But I still think it was the right move for him and the Yanks to part ways.
Today, he and Girardi are both managing teams with high payrolls and sub-.500 records. But only in New York is the manager, the General Manager and everyone else under the sun under fire for this start. In Los Angeles, Joe Torre just sounds more at home, green tea and all.