Joe returns to New York

Tabata yanked for disciplinary reasons
The Great Mariano Rivera

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.

Tabata yanked for disciplinary reasons
The Great Mariano Rivera
  • Jamal G.

    Even with the past post season failures and the burnt out arms of Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon, and Scott Proctor (to name a few) I don’t think you will find an assortment of Yankee fans sans NoMass that really hate Joe Torre. Everyone agrees he did a wonderful job, but the truth of the mater is the direction this team is headed Joe Torre would have been a hindrance to this ball club. You can not willfully entrust a team of young, burgeoning, high-powered arms to a manager who has repeatedly blown out the arms in the bullpen.

    BTW, I strongly, strongly, strongly dislike Lost.

  • r.w.g.

    A lot of the media coverage on the team is complete nonsense and just overkill. After every single game there’s an interview with like 9 players. They get asked ridiculous things like “So did that feel good to get that hit?” “What effect do you think winning games has on the team?”

    While I think it would probably be less negative if they had come away with a ring in either 2003 or 2004, the media in general just creates a fucking issue out of anything to give themselves something to do and take up airtime/column space.

  • Rich

    I think success spoiled Joe Torre. Some time after the fourth ring, he began to believe that he was in fact infallible, and as a result, he appeared to adopt the position that he should be immune from criticism, be it about his bullpen management, his propensity to play his guys over some of Cash’s acquisitions, or any of his in game tactical moves. He even went so far as to have his acolytes in the media insinuate, without proof, that Kim Jones was being fed tough (i.e., unfair) questions by the higher ups at YES. I never heard her ask an overly challenging question.

    The net effect was that he wanted credit for the positive developments but none of the blame for the negative ones. Yet starting with the 2003 WS (pitching Weaver 2 IP), Torre made a series of postseason blunders: using an already overworked Gordon with a 9 run lead in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS; batting A-Rod 8th in the 2006 ALDS; and not being more proactive when the swarm descended in last year’s ALDS.

    Torre provided the perfect antidote to Showalter’s overcontrolled personality when he arrived in 1996, and since as Parcells has said, you are what your record says you are, he deserves significant credit for the subsequent WS championships, but, imo, there should have been a managerial change after the 2004 playoff collapse.

    • Steve

      Thank you. His sense of entitlement and being above criticism were in particular hard to take when looking at his managerial record before he got here and after. I’ll never forget some of the post game quotes he gave during recent post seasons. In 04 saying “I think our approach at the plate is good” as guys up and down the lineup are jumping out of their shoes swinging at balls in the dirt and trying to hit HR’s on every pitch. Saying after the loss to the Angels in 05 “No one’s going to tell me we didn’t have a successful season” That makes one of you, Joe.

      His infighting with the Yankee brass also became counter productive. When Jose Contreres was getting nowhere with Mel Stottlemeyer and they wanted him to work with Billy Connors in Tampa, Joe was furious. Joe was more concerned with protocol and having his 4 rings kissed than he was interested in finding a answer for a struggling pitcher. When The ‘Joba Rules’ were imposed, he took it as a personal affront instead of understanding the need to protect a young arm very valuable to the future of the franchise. Joe became a obstacle to doing what was best for the team far too often.

      BTW-I thought he deserved to stay after the 04 collapse, he was coming off a WS appearance in 03. But in 05 I would have let him walk, contract and all.

    • Mokers

      Great Comment. Torre had a great run, but he needed to prove he can change with the times. Football is not the same as baseball, but look at what Tom Coughlin did with another high profile team in NY that was under a lot of scrutiny. Coming into the season, Coughlin knew he had to change his ways or he was going to be shown the door. He decided that he was going to make some changes in his approach. There were growing pains, but it worked out in the end.

      I think that Torre could have still been the Yankee manager, but he did not seem ready to ake many of the changes the organization was looking for. That does not mean he had to bend over and take whatever was coming, but he did have to realize that his conventional wisdom was not getting results. I think most troublesome thought about keeping him around is the thought that he might hamper development of players as they reached the big club.

  • BigBlueAL

    This is a touchy subject for me. Im sorry, but Joe Torre should be treated as a GOD by Yankees fans, same as players like Jeter and Mo are. Im only 27 (turn 28 next week!!) but for me the Yankees of the mid-late 90’s were MY Yankees, the teams that when you get old you say, “When i was a kid in high-school, i was fortunate enough to watch them play.” I lived in NY only till I was 10 (1990) so for me my childhood days were filled with EVERYONE I knew being Mets fans and celebrating the WS in 1986 and at least always competing for championships. As a Yankees fan thanks to my parents, I was stuck with watching the 1978 championship video and bragging about Don Mattingly being the best player in baseball.

    You dont know how excited I was in the summer of 1993 when for one day the Yankees were temporarily in 1st place, but of course finished behind the Jays. The strike in 1994 was devastating, and still to this day the toughest loss I have ever dealt with was the loss to the Mariners in Game 5 of 1995. Then Mattingly retires, and we lose Buck and hire this “loser” named Joe Torre. What does he do??? Wins 4 championships in 5 years where every single move he made turned out perfectly. It was amazing. I think thats why I get more frustrated with this team, and the teams since 2004, because I am constantly comparing them to those teams. There is no comparison. Back then, they had a REAL bench and bullpen, and always made smart moves in picking up veteran role players and integrating some youngsters here and there. Sure, when the team started having weaknesses (the BULLPEN) Torre struggled adjusting since he was used to having a perfect bullpen when he joined the Yankees. But guess what, Buck Showalter’s handling of the bullpen cost the Yanks their season in 1995, so I gave Torre a pass somewhat cause I had seen this script before.

    When people say anyone couldve managed and won with those Yankees, I disagree strongly. Only the Yankees of the past few years, which havent won, were clearly stocked with way more talent than all the other teams, and had a payroll of 200 million. Back when the Yankees were built like a real team, Torre still had to make the right moves in the bullpen and platooning in LF and DH, and handling 2B in 2000 after Knobby completely lost it. Torre deserves all the credit in the world, and at least for me, no Yankees team will probably ever reach the status and be as good as Torre’s championship Yankees were, at least in my eyes.

  • Tim Sherman

    I have to respectfully disagree. Torre was scrutinized in the media because he made bad decisions. While I think he is a good man, he was and is no longer a good manager. His mistakes can be overcome over the course of a 162 game season because you play enough bad teams to make up for the games that he blew. But in the playoffs, his mistakes became glaring and he is the reason they failed to win in the playoffs the past few years. I like Joe, I just don’t think he is a good manager anymore.

  • JRVJ

    I liked the Lost finale a lot, including the scenes of Kate in her ‘jammies.

  • steve (different one)

    Torre wasn’t as bad as his detractors would make you believe.

    but he also wasn’t as good as his biggest fans would say either.

    he made HUGE, HUGE blunders that simply cannot be overlooked, the most egregious of which were outlined by Rich above. the Gordon in game 3 of the 2004 ALCS to me is the single worst decision (followed closely by Weaver) he made, and is simply inexcusable and unforgivable.

    just a colossal, colossal blunder.

    you have TWO reliable relievers in your bullpen. because of a rainout, you will now be forced to play FIVE playoff games in FIVE days. no off days.

    you have an 11 run lead. who do you use? one of your TWO good relievers?

    Joe was the perfect personality to manage those teams of the late 90’s. they were largely a team of veterans, and they needed a steady hand to help them reach their potential. for that, he will rightfully go to the Hall of Fame.

    but the game has changed since 2000. the dynasty is not coming back. money doesn’t buy you quite the advantages it used to. more teams have tons of money. teams have realized the value of pre-arb players and are locking up their young stars before free agency. Selig’s dream of NFL-like parity is becoming a reality.

    the yankees have to adapt and they have to change.

    while i don’t HATE Joe Torre, my position is simply this: this is a time of great change for the Yankees, why not instill a new manager who can take this new group of yankees and manage them for the next 10-15 years?

    Joe Torre is turning 68 this year. sure, the Yankees could have brought him back for another year or 2. but you are simply prolonging the inevitable. Torre is old, he’s not going to be around for the next generation of Yankees. so why not make a change NOW?

    made sense at the time and still makes sense. people just need to give Girardi some time. Torre wasn’t even a .500 manager when he came to the Yankees. Girardi has already shown me that he can learn from his mistakes, i.e. bringing Mo in to pitch the 9th and 10th on Tuesday was a correction from the debacle in Cleveland. he’s young, he’s smart, and he cares. he is going to be fine, even if we (myself included) don’t agree with every single move he has made.

    Torre was great, but his time has passed.

  • GoTerpsGo

    I think Torre should be thankful to three people for his success – Buck Showalter and Gene Michael (and to a lesser extent, Bob Watson). I recall from the bottom of the celler the team was slowly coming up starting with Bernie in ’91. Then they put the other pieces slowly together – Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Wade Boggs, David Cone, Mike Stanley. I remember the team getting closer and closer to the Jays in ’93 but they just didn’t have enough, but they were going in the right direction.

    When Torre came in in ’96 those pieces (minus Donnie) were a major veteran presence along with DJ el al – that was the culmination of all the work done by those 2 guys the previous 5-6 years. IMO personnel decisions made after ’01 were iffy at best and the results showed. Am I pointing the finger at Cash/Big Stein? Possibly. But my point is Torre could be considered spoiled and Girardi is doing his best with an “eh” staff.

  • Rob_in_CT

    Torre was neither as good as he looked during the dynasty years nor as bad as he looked in ’04-’07. Overall, he’s so-so. He’s got weaknesses, but he also avoids some of the blatant stupidity you see around the league at times.

    I prefer Girardi going forward. Torre was old, and the team just needed a change, I think. Girardi hasn’t been the perfect manager either, of course.

    • Old Ranger

      I hope you mean something other than old age? Did you forget Casy S (Yanks), Leo D. (dogers)? Both of whom were older than Joe T. There are many older mgrs. that have winning records. Age only counts when one has lost the ability to make the decisions that need to be made…personal or on the field. 27/08?

      • steve (different one)

        Durocher retired at 67. Torre is 68 in a few weeks.

        Stengel’s last good season was at 69. After that, he was 175-404, managing the expansion Mets.

        no one is saying Torre at 68 is incapable of doing the job for another few years.

        we are simply saying that he will be finished managing sometime in the not too distant future, so now was as good a time as any to begin looking for the NEXT Joe Torre.

        • Old Ranger

          Amen to that! His time was long past…in NY. Not that I disliked him, he was the right guy at the right time…that time had passed a few years ago. I only had trouble with the “To Old” part. Maybe, because I’m an old old guy, that’s all. No one is to old to do their job…as long as they do a good job, that’s the bottom line, right? Anyhow, I was making fun of the old part, just having a little fun. 27/08?

        • Old Ranger

          By the way, anyone managing the mets in those years would have been looked upon as being washed up. Remember how much of a disaster they were? 27/08?

  • A.D.

    Torre was a good manager, his big problem with bullpen management, and in the later years he completly got away from the hit & run that he used so effectively during the championship years. It was classic in the Torre era to have a nice 5 run lead and see Tom Gordon warming up for no reason, or Mo tossing if there was a runner on in the 9th regardless the score, and of course the Scott Proctor random outings.

    I give credit to Joe Torre for the success, I blame David Wells injury in the ’03 series, and I blame Joe Torre for his season long bullpen management for the ’04 ALCS, as I watched Gordon & Mo struggle after game 3 of that series, they were just out of Gas after a long run of complete over use and mis management that season.

    Torre had a good run, but the time was over, and I’m happy with what we have now