Sep
21

For Torre and the Yanks, an ambivalent reunion

By

In the history of hugs, this one ranks up there on the awkward list. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The unveiling of a larger-than-life George Steinbrenner plaque in Monument Park wasn’t about any single member of the so-called Yankee family last night. While the typical luminaries and club veterans made their ways to Yankee Stadium, the only people who warranted introductions were the members of the Steinbrenner family. David Wells simply walked down the field; Don Mattingly, alone, strolled out to Monument Park; and Joe Torre and his wife Alli, making their return to the Bronx for the first time since 2007, were pelted with cheers only after a camera found them.

Yes, last night was about George M. Steinbrenner, and the way he turned the Yankees and himself into something (and someone) who towered over the baseball and city landscape for the better part of four decades. But earlier in the afternoon, the day was about reconciliations for Joe Torre, the one man who, during his prime, was capable of taking the backpage away from the Boss, and the Yankees, an organization which spurned him and which he spurned in return.

For Torre, a George Steinbrenner memorial just a few days he called it quits in Los Angeles served as the perfect excuse for a homecoming. Based on the narrative of the time, Joe Torre was, by the end, Steinbrenner’s guy through and through, but by 2007, the Boss wasn’t living up to his nickname. After another first-round playoff exit, the Yanks wanted a change at the helm, and they brought it about by low-balling Torre. The four-time World Champion manager repaid the favor by burning every bridge he had built by writing a largely unnecessary book. He returned yesterday not to make nice with the men who fired him, but to honor the guy who gave him a chance back in 1996.

Joe Torre responds to questions from the New York press. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The media response to Torre’s turn in the Bronx is as any Yankee fan would expect. The press embraces Torre as they always did, but the writers and columnists note, as Tyler Kepner did, that this isn’t Torre’s time any longer. No one knows that better than baseball fans 3000 miles away. After Torre was ousted from the Bronx, he headed into the sunset and found himself in Los Angeles, atop another franchise struggling through years of mediocrity.

The Dodgers haven’t won much of anything since 1988, the longest such drought since the team fled Brooklyn for Hollywood, and Joe Torre was supposed to change that. He took the job in Los Angeles to turn around a stagnant franchise just as much as he did to try to teach the Yankees a lesson. I’ll win anywhere, he wanted to tell them, and he fell just a few wins short of his goal.

In his first two years with the Dodgers, Torre’s team reached Game 5 of the NLCS before petering out. This year, the team is bound for fourth place and a sub-.500 record. Come March, Don Mattingly, another former Yankee great, will be at the helm in Chavez Ravine, and although Torre, 70, says he’ll listen if the Mets come a-knockin’, his managerial days are probably behind him.

Joe Torre and his wife Alli step out of the dugout at Yankee Stadium for the first time. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Yesterday, at Yankee Stadium, Torre and Cashman seemed to bury the hachet. “When I left, that was a very dark time for me,” Torre said. “I was hurt, and yet if you try to be rational about it, you had two parties not knowing how to say goodbye. That’s what it turned out to be.

Cashman, who Torre acknowledged was hurt by the book, is ready to let bygones be bygones as well. “I think we’ve agreed to just put it behind us,” the Yanks’ GM said. “We had a long, terrific run. I would put our relationship while we were working together up against any GM/manager combination in the game. We both agreed it’s just not healthy. It’s time to turn the page. Whatever happened on that side, it’s a small sample compared to the huge sample of all the good stuff that took place.”

The Yankees can afford to let Torre’s words slide. They’ve won a World Series without him, something they could not accomplish in his any of his last eight seasons as manager. They’ve ushered in a new stadium and feature a young core of players who can lead the team more wins. Plus, they’re doing so with their own Joe who just so happens to be a disciple of Torre’s at the helm.

So the Yankees can turn the page. Last night, when the camera found Torre, the crowded roared in recognition. They know that Torre will be back, maybe even next year, for a ceremony retiring number 6. They know Torre will probably be enshrined with a Yankee cap on in Cooperstown for his work as the team’s manager. They know they don’t need to carry much of a grudge because life and baseball have gone on without Torre.

Maybe he wouldn’t have gotten the same round of applause if he had been formally announced. Maybe the boos would have been there. But why not send him off in style? When all is said and done, it is what Joe Torre deserves.

Categories : Musings
  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    All hatchets should be buried eventually. Now seems like a fine enough time.

    Since Torre and Cash are willing to make nicey-nice, perhaps we can retire #6 next summer as you said. It would be the 15th anniversary of the 1996 champs.

    Girardi can present him the #6. Full circle, holmes.

    —————–

    Side note: Yes, some idiot on ESPN 1050 did say yesterday that “Hopefully this means Girardi can go to the Cubs and Torre can come back and manage the Yankees.”

    Muthaf#$%a, the idiocy of some people knows no bounds. I love Joe Torre and am happy he’s back in our good graces, but the caveat is I want Joe Torre to never have the power to ever make a single decision about this ballclub ever again.

    The old man has been put out to pasture.

    • Esteban

      All sorts of this

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS
      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Well, Torre won 4 championships and made 12 playoff appearances, so therefore his bullpen management must have been beyond excellent.

        Joe Girardi, meanwhile, is a stupid dumbass moron chowderhead who obviously knows absolutely nothing about bullpen management, because he’s not Joe Torre who won 4 championships and made 12 playoff appearances.

        Girardi should be fired and Torre rehired.

        Q.E.D.

    • gc

      Now DOES seem like a nice time. There’s no need for long drawn out grudge matches when it comes to the Yankees. Especially when you’re dealing with such a central figure in so many great memories. I’m glad they got this part of it out of the way, and I look forward to the day when #6 gets retired by the team and Joe goes into the HOF wearing that Yankees cap (which I think he will).

      Everyone makes mistakes. We all have our pride and our ego. Some people will simply never forgive the man, as if he personally kicked their dog in the gut while smacking their mother in the face. But it was good to see him there last night (and as always, Donnie Baseball as well!). He would have been cheered loudly if he were formally introduced, of that much I am certain. And knowing Yankee fans, I think he may have even been cheered the loudest had that happened. They all knew he was in the park. They’re good at recognizing those “moments.” If there were any boos to be heard, we would have heard them when his face was flashed on the screen. I didn’t hear any. It would have been a nice moment had they introduced him, but I understand why they didn’t. No intros were given to any of the former Yankees. The night was about George, after all. All in all, I think it was a nice ceremony. And the shot of Mo as the last man standing, paying his respects, was a sight I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Truly a wonderful snapshot of a memorable night.

    • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

      If Torre is the alternative, I will never complain about Girardi ever again.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      Said it before, will say it again – can A-Rod punch him in the face just once? Then I will fully forgive him.

      • Jerome S

        This, +100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

    • podjoe

      There is no room for booing at a memorial service. Torre’s time was up and everyone moved on that’s the way life is.

    • podjoe

      There just seems something not-quite -right about the size of the monument to George. Obviously ,I can’t speak for the man ,but I DON’T THINK he would have liked his plaque being bigger by far than anyone else’s even though he might have been bigger than life . And I mean no disrespect to him or his family either.

  • Tank Foster

    I will always wonder why Torre chose to write his NY Yankee memoir in the fashion he did. Irrespective of one’s view of his performance as a manager, his unquestioned virtue as a manager was, allegedly, the manner in which he treated his players: like a gentleman. The way he wrote about several Yankees, Cashman, etc., was not what I’d call gentlemanly. I guess worse things have been written, but it was almost as if with that book he punctured his reputation like a cheap balloon. I lost alot of respect for him.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      All of that.

      You can’t hand your managerial hat on the “I was a great leader of men who knew how to manage egos, build trust, and unite a team of disparate selfish superstars into a single team focused on the goal of success” and then write a book bitching out everyone else for not being good enough/smart enough/strong enough/selfless enough to win.

      If you are the man you say you are, you’d never drop dimes on confidential clubhouse shit and you’d never point the finger at your subordinates for not buying into the team ethos.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Sorry:

        “You can’t hand hang your managerial hat on…”

      • Chris

        You can’t hang your managerial hat on the “I was a great leader of men who knew how to manage egos, build trust, and unite a team of disparate selfish superstars into a single team focused on the goal of success”

        Or, you could go out a write a book to demonstrate exactly how large their egos were and how selfish they were, just to prove you were an even better manager than everyone thought.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Yeah… no.

          Especially since all the shit he complained about happened to coincide with the period we weren’t winning titles.

          Did The Yankee Years really make anyone here think “Wow, he’s an even better manager than I thought he was!”

          • Chris

            I’m not saying he succeeded in convincing anyone, but the way it read seemed like he was trying.

  • Lucci

    I thought it was a great book.

  • Sal

    1000% agree , great stuff

  • Damian

    Nice to see Torre back at Yankee Stadium; he taught the Yankees to have their famous Killer Instinct which won them 4 championships from 1996 to 2000.

    [Not in the least bit serious.]

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Oh you were kidding that time. My bad.

      • Damian

        No sweat.. I loved the reaction it got. I figured people would recognize the comment as parody of MSM, but people (including a lot of writers) actually do believe that kind of stuff so it’s easy not to pick up the sarcasm I guess.

        • JobaWockeeZ

          It’s bad timing. With the losing streak I hoenstly expected complainsts like ‘killer instinct’ to be said. Nice job there.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            I assumed Damian was dead serious about “killer instinct” since he’s, you know… Damian.

            http://www.best-horror-movies......e-kill.jpg

            • Thomas

              Who, Damien? He was nothing, just a mischievous, rambunctious kid.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Ha. It did lead to some great discussion at least.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      Bah, I just assumed you were serious because of the First Name Only Male Handle Rule. At least it was funny.

  • Yank the Frank

    Both Joe T. and Joe G. owe it to Mo.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Yup.

      And Mo owes it to Jeter, Posada, Bernie, Paulie, Andy, ARod, Knoblauch, Cone, Clemens, Tino, Giambi, Wells, El Duque, Mussina, Sheffield, Abreu, Strawberry, Soriano, Cano, Damon, Matsui, et. al. for getting him into the playoffs 15 of his 16 years so that he could be “MARIANO RIVERA” and not just “Mariano Rivera”.

  • steve (different one)

    Cash comes across as very classy here. Torre’s book was very unkind to him and he should have punched Torre in his giant, grotesque nose. J/K. Sortof.

    • CBean

      He took it out on AJ last week.

  • YanksFan

    I would always love to be low-balled by my employer, even though that would still make me the highest-paid individual in my profession.

    He didn’t want to go thru a lame-duck season as manager but he did exactly that w/ the Dodgers, LOL. I know doing it in NY is different from LA, but still.

    That being said, it was great for him to be back. I would love to retire his #6 & have the fans really show him their love for what he provided to us during his tenure.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      He went to LA to restore the honor (Glenn Beck?) to that once-proud franchise… and he leaves LA three years later with the Dodgers just a much a questionmark as when he got there.

      • gc

        To be fair, it’s not as if nothing happened on the way from one question mark to another. He helped get them further in the post-season than any manager since Lasorda, and I would think that two championship series appearances in three years would be looked upon pretty favorably just about anywhere…except NY, of course. :)

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Sure.

          He also might have ruined Jonathan Broxton, who potentially was the best non-Mo closer in baseball. That’s a huge negative if Broxton can’t get back to his prior level of dominance.

          • Thomas

            You can’t put Broxton’s problems all on Torre though. Some of the blame should be put on Grady Little who worked him harder than Torre.

            Little
            2006 76.1 IP, 320 BF
            2007 82 IP, 334 BF
            Torre
            2008 69 IP, 285 BF
            2009 76 IP, 300 BF
            2010 60.1 IP, 260 BF

            • gc

              Agreed. At some point, you have to simply look at the player and maybe he just isn’t as good as they thought he was. Or maybe Matt Stairs knocking the ball to the moon in the NLCS had more to do with “ruining” Broxton.

              To go even further with your numbers, if you go month by month and look at appearances and innings pitched (discarding the post-season because anything goes there), you’ll see that Broxton was used about as much as any closer or top bullpen guy should be used.

              Apr ’08 – 11 appearances – 11.2 IP
              May ’08 – 13 – 12 IP
              Jun ’08 – 10 – 10 IP
              Jul ’08 – 11 – 11.2 IP
              Aug ’08 – 13 – 12.1 IP
              Sep ’08 – 12 – 11.1 IP

              Apr ’09 – 10 – 11 IP
              May ’09 – 12 – 14 IP
              Jun ’09 – 12 – 11.2 IP
              Jul ’09 – 11 – 11 IP
              Aug ’09 – 14 – 14.2 IP
              Sep ’09 – 14 – 13.2 IP

              Apr ’10 – 09 – 8.2 IP
              May ’10 – 14 – 14.2 IP
              Jun ’10 – 11 – 10.1 IP
              Jul ’10 – 10 – 9.2 IP
              Aug ’10 – 11 – 11.2 IP
              Sep ’10 – 06 – 5.1 IP

              In all that time, he only pitched beyond 40 pitches in an appearance twice, both this year. And only ONE time in all three years did he pitch the day after throwing 30+ pitches in an appearance. Whatever misuse there may have been seems to me to be pretty minor or greatly exaggerated, and not out of line with what just about any other manager would have done with him. I think, more likely, he’s just like any other non-Mo closer…very good for a short period of time and then apt to fizzle out. But not because he was overused IMO.

              • Chris

                Broxton in 2010 before throwing 44 pitches against the Yankees: 0.83 ERA, 48K in 32.2 IP

                Broxton after throwing 44 pitches against the Yankees: 6.41 ERA, 22K in 26.2 IP

                I didn’t include the game against the Yankees in either split.

                • gc

                  He also had SIX DAYS REST in between that game against the Yankees and his next appearance. If you’re going to use that lone appearance as some kind of proof, I’m afraid I just ain’t buying it.

      • vin

        “He went to LA to restore the honor (Glenn Beck?) to that once-proud franchise…”

        Seriously, let’s leave Tony LaRussa out of this. I believe its in the commenting guidelines. Haven’t checked in a while.

    • gunk

      5 mill guaranteed and a three million dollar incentive for making it to the world series? Shoot, the Yankees can low ball me all day.

  • theyankeewarrior

    I find it fitting that after reading this “blast from the past” article about Torre, I went to comment, and it said: Comments (26).

    26.

    When I hear that number, all I can think about is the last 8 years of Torre’s career. Whatever, lets try and remember him for the first 5-6 years, shall we?

  • theghostofgeorge

    bring him back. just like we brought billy back… how many times? i forget. and pinella. brought him back, too. it’s all part of the narrative of the yankees. what’s missing now is the soap-opera quality of the story. RISP, OBP, ERA, charts, wins, losses, all that baseball crap is OK, but we need a story of redemption that puts the brand always on the back page. that’s what’s missing. don’t resign gerardi. he’s a hack any. sign torre. he’s a hack, too, but he’s OUR hack. Bring Zim back as bench coach and pinella as some kind of special assistant. think of the headlines and story lines. it would be just like the good old days.

    • theghostofgeorge

      forgot. tried to bring howser back, too, but the little ingrate wouldn’t go for it. went to god-damned kansas city instead. imagine that. kansas city over new york. can’t explain some people.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        This has to be satire. Has to be.

        • Not Tank the Frank

          Yeah. It helped me to read the post in my best Larry David/George Steinbrenner voice.

  • the other Steve S.

    Anybody think George’s monument was big enough? Babe Ruth gets a tombstone and George gets this thing? Well, I’m sure he designed and paid for it so what the hell…

    • theghostofgeorge

      it isn’t nearly big enough.

  • nsalem

    For public consumption the Yankees had no choice but to invite Torre and Torre had no choice to accept. I don’t think the hatchet has been buried. Joe’s book not only burned the bridge it nuked it. Torre’s only regret about the book was that he was the loser in the court of public opinion. I think the number 6 may not be used so quickly but I don’t see it being retired and him getting his plaque and day in the near future. I think Joe would be foolish enough to accept the Met’s job and the Met’s are desperate enough to hire him. This would also lessen the chance of a reconciliation anytime soon.

  • Sweet Lou

    The Yankees should’ve brought out Larry David dressed as Steinbrenner yelling at Mrs. Steinbrenner saying that she forgot to put the fancy mustard on his sandwich.

  • Rob

    Torre is going to take the money from the Mets. They’ll give him two years at $10 million and let Backman do the Donnie thing.

  • nathan

    That “hug” picture needs to be airbrushed, its beyond awkward. I was never much of a Torre fan.

    I lost respect for him as a manager when he threw dirty laundry about Arod to Tom Verducci in a 2003 online piece with Giambi also chiming in.

    I lost more respect for him as a person when he complained “he needs no motivation” regarding the “Escalator clauses” in a contract that would have retained his status as the highest paid manager in the game.

    I lost a lot more when he started negotiating with Dodgers while Grady Little was still not fired.

    And the “Yankee years” completely made me despise him. I want to like the guy, he was on the sidelines when our team won 4 times, but his ego is way bigger than any of the egos he allegedly managed.

  • Slu

    I wouldn’t retire 6. And I am pro-Torre. Just don’t see any reason to.

    • nathan

      I kinda would like to give #6 to Montero, would be awesome.

  • Big Stein

    Look at that photo of Torre answering questions — he sure loves attention.

    In truth, that was Torre’s favorite part of the game, not winning, nah, not that, it’s having his ring kissed by an adorning media clique.

    • Big Stein

      It’s kinda like the Pope. His favorite part of the job isn’t dealing with religious issues or the day to day operations of the church, no, he gets off when people knee before him and kiss his ring.

  • Eirias

    WTF? How does Joe Torre know about small sample size issues.

    I was under the impression that it was an eternal hole in his mind.