Aug
13

Two former Bronx icons near the end of the line

By

Joe Torre and Lou Piniella talk during a 2001 game. Credit: AP Photo, Ron Frehm

Last night in Philadelphia, the Dodgers lost a game that summed up their season. Jonathan Broxton, the once-untouchable closer, allowed four runs without retiring a batter in the 9th, and Joe Torre’s previous bullpen machinations failed. Minus Mariano, it was a familiar story for Yankee fans as Torre used five relievers to try to get the final seven outs of the game.

With their loss, the Dodgers dropped to 59-56, nine games behind the Padres and in fourth place. They’re just 6.5 out of the Wild Card but behind five teams, and the team is treading water as the season nears an end. Their manager too is just treading water, and Los Angelenos are awaiting to see if Joe Torre will come back for another stint in Chavez Ravine or call it a career. Fans, it seems, are ready to let him go. Jon Weisman for Dodger Thoughts opines:

There’s also the fact that Torre has always felt like something of a visiting professor here. There was a ticking clock –partly self-imposed by Torre — from the moment he hastily replaced Grady Little in the fall of 2007. Torre has been liked by many and loved by some — but he hasn’t penetrated the hearts of Los Angeles’ baseball community in a meaningful way. His ties to New York’s string of World Series titles can’t be broken by a couple of NLCS runs. It took Jackson several NBA crowns before Lakers fans could begin to feel that the former Chicago Bulls coaching legend was really theirs. Torre is never going to reach that level in Los Angeles, and the people here intuitively know this. It’s noteworthy that the single act Torre might be most remembered for as Dodgers manager could be coaxing the greatest Los Angeles Dodger of them all, Sandy Koufax, into a rare public conversation earlier this year…

Things might have been different if the Dodgers had been able to take advantage of their chances to even the 2008 and 2009 NLCS at two games apiece. But Torre’s magic couldn’t save Los Angeles those years, and now the odds are against him doing any more.

“My feeling is that Torre won in New York because of an unlimited payroll, though he couldn’t do it every year,” another Dodger Thoughts commenter said. “That’s not necessarily to say he’s bad under a more financially constrained regime, but I consider him replaceable in every aspect except his celebrity (which he owes to his time in New York City). I would not miss him, but I’d like to see him go out with a World Series championship – which, however, would probably bring a clamor for him to stay.”

Since leaving New York, Torre has had to face a legacy not of success but of late-career failure. After setting himself up with impossible standards, Torre hasn’t won anything since 2000. A bitter defeat in 2001 wasn’t really his fault, but both the World Series defeat in 2003 and the ALCS collapse in 2004 bore his managerial signatures. A post-New York tell-all memoir didn’t endear him to fans who demand nothing short of a World Series trophy every year. If he retires after this season, he will be feted in New York, but we continue to grapple with the complexities of the Torre Years.

A few thousand miles closer to New York but years removed from Torre, another ex-Yankee manager is calling it quits after this season plays out. Late last month, Sweet Lou announced his intentions to depart from Chicago after the 2010 campaign. Piniella got his managerial start in New York in the mid-1980s, captured a World Series title in Cincinnati in 1990, and hasn’t been able to push the Mariners, Devils Rays or Cubs past the finish line. He’ll retire with over 1850 wins and three Manager of the Year awards.

When the Yanks picked Piniella to take over from Billy Martin in 1986, the choice was controversial. Lou had a fiery temper but no managerial experience, and few in the Yankee organization knew how this approach would play at the Big League level. He led the Yanks to a 90-72 second place finish and earned himself a two-year deal. Following the 1987 season, Piniella was promoted to GM while Martin returned until he was fired again in mid-June. Following the 1988 season, Piniella would be gone from the Bronx.

Over the years, Lou and the Yanks would be forever intertwined. As he headed up the Mariners from 1993-2002, a fierce East Coast/West Coast rivalry emerged. The Mariners stunned the Yanks in 1995, and the Yanks returned the favor in both 2000 and 2001. Piniella’s name briefly popped up when Joe Torre’s tenure ended, but the two sides never had their long-awaited reunion.

As these two men prepare for what comes next, both will be linked forever with the Yankees even if both left on less than ideal terms. As a player, Lou won some memorable titles, and as a manager, he served as the perfect foil for Joe Torre’s victorious Yankees. That they will probably retire at the same time is fitting indeed.

Categories : Musings

49 Comments»

  1. nsalem says:

    The Invincible Johnathon Broxton until the evening hours of Sunday
    June 27, 2010. He entered that weekend with an 0.83 ERA

    /Proctored and Karsyed

  2. Rob Gee says:

    Mark my words: The Mutts hire Torre this off-season.

    Torre was always about the money. Coming back to the Mets, even if they’re not great, will be a chance to collect another paycheck. And given his ego, he may just believe he can turn them around.

  3. Simon B. says:

    Don’t care much for Torre.

    Don’t hate him either, but I’m not watching any YES specials or enjoying Joe Torre day if he and ownership reconcile.

    And please don’t retire #6.

  4. Januz says:

    I had always been pro-Torre until “The Yankee Years” came out. He could have done a Bobby Cox, and retired on top with his self respect intact. Instead, he the disses the team, that allowed him to win Championships, and will be responsible for him ending up in Cooperstown, as opposed to being known as “Clueless Joe”, and having the dubious record of appearing in more games in uniform without appearing in a playoff. ps. I watched a lot of that Dodger/Phillie game, and I have no idea who looked more “Clueless” & “Beaten” Broxton or Torre. A sad ending to a great career.

  5. bexarama says:

    Good article. It’s honestly still weird to see Torre in Dodger blue, but it seems like the mistakes he used to make in his later years as Yankee manager are really amplified. Obviously Broxton’s implosion wasn’t truly his fault, but his bullpen management is just… ummmm… and the whole thing with Kemp…

    Also – Dodger Thoughts is freaking amazing. Even as a Yankee fan, I make a point of reading it every day.

    • bexarama says:

      Though I should note that Broxton really hasn’t been the same since he threw, what, about 70 pitches over two days, including 48 pitches in one inning, during that Yankees series. So maybe that is kinda Torre’s fault……

      • nsalem says:

        maybe? I think Torre has a deep seated hatred for relief pitchers he claims he can trust.

        • Poopy Pants says:

          I also think he has a deep seated love for Schilling’s bloody ankle, since he did nothing to test or aggravate it. Ugh.

          • bexarama says:

            It’s not classy to bunt on an injured guy, Poopy Pants.

            Writing a book about how exactly everyone in the organization wronged you so terribly, including revealing a bunch of stuff that happened in the clubhouse, is totally classy, though.

  6. CS Yankee says:

    A mixed bag on Torre…

    I thank him for the ’96 comeback after MSM said the Braves were better than the ’27 Yankees…Torre stayed cool and aloof to the Boss rants and guanteed that they would win in Atlanta (well Cone/Leyritz made the dirrence in the turn around). He & Mel stood by and help correct Pettitte when most wanted him traded. He re-started the dynasty, remember they were good under Buck but always short.

    The Yankee years should have been written (like it was) but sat on for a few years (and reviewed/edited) to get a more proper insight to those great moments as it was a little emotional. I disagree with the player/manager code coming out while they are still in the game but maybe, just maybe, his words help correct Arod and embarrassed the FO enough to hide Hank from the public.

    Thanks Lou (old #16) for being the best 4th OF’er of Yankee history and to Torre for the five great years.

    • bexarama says:

      I have to agree here on some points. I definitely don’t hate Torre or anything like that and I think he did a lot of good. I don’t think Pettitte would have stayed with the Yankees without him; he would’ve been traded, probably.

      I don’t think The Yankee Years necessarily should’ve been written, though, and certainly not while actively managing. That was just a horrendous idea, and though I don’t doubt he really did mean what he wrote, it just seems so unbelievably petty. Even if most of the clubhouse stuff he wrote was really obvious, it’s not okay for him to share that shit, again, especially while actively managing. There’s also a lot of double standards based on the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in the book.

      And I bet The Yankee Years had 0% to do with what happened to A-Rod last year. 0%.

      • nsalem says:

        The Yankee Years was all about embarrassing the organization that wronged him. His publishers believed before the books release that the contents would sway public sentiment to
        Torre’s side, plus sell a lot of books. Well they were half right anyway. Joe didn’t only burn the bridge, he nuked it. I don’t think the animosity will ever cease.

      • CS Yankee says:

        I’ve enjoyed most of the behind the scene books (Ball Four/Five, Bronx Zoo, etc) that explain the good & bad through the player’s eye, so a book by a manager sounded good.

        However, a well respected manager, who held players like Wells to a code, let his emotions (maybe even ego) keep himself from living up to that code.

        A manager is management and therfore should not do anything to affect players earnings or the business he had just left in a negative way.

        He totally wronged Cashman and might have negatively affected the earnings of players in respect to future contacts. His comment about Arod being insecure and always asking what he could do to better fit in…”get your own coffee”, might of helped as Arod has seems to be less robot-like and more real.

        Anyhow, I like that he penned a book but wish a less bitter version was written and available for read in 2014.

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      Thanks Lou (old #16) for being the best 4th OF’er of Yankee history

      ???

      1) Lou never wore #16 with the Yankees, and 2) he was much more than a 4th outfielder.

      • CS Yankee says:

        You must of mis-remembered.

        /clemens’d

        • Sweet Dick Willie says:

          Nope.

          Lou wore #14. His 1st year w/ the Yanks was ’74, the same year the yanks retired #16.

          And while Lou wasn’t as good defensively in left as Roy White, he was much better than Reggie in right.

          • CS Yankee says:

            Right on (my reply was a poor attempt of humor in being wrong)

            Lou had some clutch hits and i recall him as one of my favorites. I thought Roy White (LF), Mickey Rivers (CF), Reggie Jackson (RF), Sweet Lou (RF when Martin needed D or was pissed at Reggie…but #4 with time in LF/RF), and Oscar Gamble as #5 OF.

            I was a kid then.

  7. larryf says:

    I think Torre has a much younger wife and youngish kids (for a 70 year old). they may still want him to work :-)

  8. The209 says:

    Just wondering: did anyone who’s anti-Torre, or so-so-Torre watch the Yanks in the 80s/early 90s?

  9. crawdaddy says:

    I hope Torre makes amends with the Steinbrenner family and Cashman so we can celebrate his Yankee career that made him a HOF manager. Also, I wouldn’t be surprise to see Sweet Lou become an advisor to the Yankees and work out of his Tampa home for them.

  10. larryf says:

    Steinbrenner/Jeter/Piniella/Tino….any other Tampa residents? that seems to be our home away from home…

  11. Kevin M. says:

    He’s the same failure after the Yankees as he was before the Yankees.

    Shocking.

  12. smurfy says:

    Nobody will ever do the bag-of-bones shamble to the mound any better than Joe.

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