In response to yesterday’s hoopla about Joe Torre’s new book, the book’s co-author, SI’s Tom Verducci, answered some questions about the controversy. He claims that it is a third-person account, and that, as the headline says, Torre doesn’t rip anyone, and that “[i]t’s not a tell-all book.” He goes on to say that the book is a third-person narrative. While it’s nice to now know the point of view the authors employed, I don’t think this fact alone gets Torre off the hook.
Meanwhile, Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times offers up a review in Sunday’s paper. Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit more even-handed than the tabloid accounts we saw yesterday. It talks about the actual focus of the book, the post-2001 decline, rather than a few cherry-picked anecdotes. Again, none of this comes as a shocking revelation.
That said, third person point of view or not, it does appear Torre got in his shots:
The book does not hide Torre’s bitterness over his departure in 2007 (he was offered a one-year contract that involved a pay cut in his base salary) and takes a few swipes at the general manager, Brian Cashman, and some players — most notably, Alex Rodriguez.
The quote on A-Rod used in this review: “Rodriguez was like nothing ever seen before on the championship teams of the Torre Era: an ambitious superstar impressed and motivated by stature and status, particularly when those qualities pertained to himself.” There’s also a bit on Jason Giambi, whom Torre says “wasn’t part of what we prided ourselves on: playing well defensively.” So I guess the whole book isn’t third person.
Kakutani notes one of the book’s shortcomings:
This book often fails to detail Torre’s role in the decisions made over these years. His reactions to the signing of Giambi and management’s refusal to grant Williams a guaranteed contract in 2007 are duly noted, but in other instances, it’s unclear to what degree he protested specific choices made by the front office or its lack of a long-term rebuilding strategy.
I’m sure it also doesn’t discuss Torre’s on-field decisions, which had drawn the ire of fans for the last four or five years of his tenure. Despite the point of view, the book is Torre’s take on those years, and in all likelihood he didn’t see much fault in himself. What I also find strange is that he has these unkind words about the way the teams were constructed after 2001, yet he wanted to come back and manage that same team in 2008 and beyond. That, perhaps, is why many will view this as Torre taking swipes on his way out the door.
In the end, this has turned into more a marketing scheme than anything. Now we’re all talking about the book. There have been controversial claims made in the book. The only way to give it all context is to read it.
P.S. Joshua Robinson at the Bats blog has a great line from the Torre: “One thing I’ve learned is that people are going to feel the way they’re going to feel, regardless of what happened.” That means you too, Joe. That means you too.
The New Yankee Stadium has quite a large video screen out in center field. It’s 58-by-103 feet, and you can bet we’ll see highlights of Alex Rodriguez home runs and Joba Chamberlain strikeouts on it all season long. Yet there’s something the high definition screen cannot show us: replays of close plays. Phil Miller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press relates this sentiment in relation to the Twins’ new Target Field, but it applies just the same to Yankee Stadium.
Major League Baseball prohibits teams from showing a replay of any play that could incite either team or the fans. And despite fans’ thirst for another look at a close play at the plate or a bang-bang call on the bases, no high-def technology will change that.
I’ve always been a bit miffed when there’s a close play and we can’t get another look at it. The folks watching at home on TV see it from every conceivable angle, yet those of us at the park have only our memories to draw from. I get that MLB wants to avoid having umpires influenced by a replay unless it’s an officially sanctioned one, but don’t they allow this in other sports? Don’t they show close plays on Jumbotrons during NFL games?
This likely won’t change until baseball fully institutionalizes instant replay. That’s a shame for teams with high-def screens. What better use for them than to show replays of close plays? For the time being, we’ll just have to wait until we get home and can watch the highlights.
The crew over at Baseball Intellect have posted their list of the Yanks’ top 15 prospects (here’s 1-5 and 6-15), going against the grain and naming Jesus Montero the top dog. Each player comes with an in depth scouting report, so I highly suggest you check it out. (h/t Big B for the email) · (44) ·
Buster Olney has an interesting blog post today regarding statistics and baseball (the relevant part is free). His thesis:
Summers belong mostly to the scouts. That is the time of year when they have their greatest influence, when they are the eyes and ears for their organization, when they see the day-to-day changes and adjustments, when they see that an arm angle has dropped or that a swing has been shortened.
But the winters, on the other hand, have become a domain of numbers. Scouting reports are valued, for sure, but in November and December and January, statistics have an even greater influence in player evaluations, because they are immovable points of reference. You can talk all you want about a kid’s leadership ability, but in a conference room in the dead of winter, what stares everybody in the face is the .312 on-base percentage. In the winter, more than at any time during the calendar year, you are what the numbers say you are.
Reflecting on that, I can see what he means. It’s not just front offices, though. It seems we as fans seem to focus more on a player’s aggregate output during the dormant winter months. This winter in particular we saw the introduction of another useful statistic, and a reminder of a more efficient way to judge pitcher strikeouts.
It makes sense. We have no games to judge in the winter. All we have is a ledger of what each player did during the season. Because those ledgers are so long, though, we tend to go with the aggregate. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. It leads us to talk about generalities, which can lead to some false conclusions, but we’re still talking about objective data.
Yet when the season rolls around we’re not so apt to talk about aggregate statistics. For instance, Jason Giambi had a bad April, but once he started to heat up in May we focused on that rather than his stat totals. We talk more about the last game, or the last week of games, than we do about the season as a whole. Hence, scouting reports — that is, what we’ve seen — become more important.
This is pretty natural. I think it’s nice that we have a period where we’re talking about the here and now, and another time when we reflect on what happened. It only adds to the enjoyment of the game.
In today’s Times, Harvey Araton wrote a meandering column on the fate of old Yankee Stadium. Notable in his piece is the news that the city won’t get around to completing the destruction of the old cathedral until spring 2010, and he plays off of this painfully slow timetable.
The Mayor’s Office explained the slow pace of deconstruction to Araton:
PART I “The primary reason Yankee Stadium has not started demolition is that the new stadium and its offices have just now become available for occupancy.” But if New York schoolchildren can learn in trailers when there is a shortage of building space, why couldn’t the Yankees have conducted business in a temporary shelter for a few short months to expedite the demolition process?
PART II “The demolition of Yankee Stadium, with a lot of adjacent construction, utility work and proximity to the elevated subway structure, requires a complicated public procurement process.” But if demolition is so complicated, how has Shea Stadium — not as cramped but similarly flanked by a new stadium and an elevated subway — been largely flattened, piece by piece, since October, with the job expected to be completed next month?
Hogi’s point about construction priorities is one that cannot be hammered home enough. When it is in the baseball team’s interest to demolish a stadium so there will be enough parking by opening day, the old ballpark can’t come down soon enough. When the existing stadium site has been designated for replacement park baseball fields, the community can wait — in the case of Heritage Field on the existing old Stadium site, until at least fall 2011, or three years after the last major league pitch.
As I predicted when the bond issue reached its conclusion, the parkland replacement problems are going to emerge to the forefront of stories surrounding the stadium. And it is a problem because the South Bronx — the nation’s poorest Congressional district — needs its parkland.
“That’s going take at least two years because the city’s priority is the Yankees, not the neighborhood,” Joyce Hogi, a member of the Community Board 4 parks committee, said to Araton.
There’s a lot of cynicism in Araton’s article, but there’s a lot of truth to it too. This time, though, the problem falls on the shoulders of the city. As much as the baseball traditionalist in me doesn’t want to see Yankee Stadium ever destroyed, the city must make good on its promise to replace the parks lost to the new Stadium. The Macombs Dam Park closed in Augusth 2006. It’s going to take five years to replace that space, and the South Bronx will suffer because of it.
It seems like every year the big stories at the beginning of Spring Training are about how Player X showed up looking trimmer than last year. Player Y looks to be in great shape. We saw that plenty of that last year, and I wouldn’t expect any different this year as we head into February. Up first this year: Robinson Cano. Kat O’Brien reports that he looks “very trim,” though we know that has little to do with how well he’ll perform.
The picture to the right is of Cano at a recent WBC workout for the Dominican team. It’s just one picture so it’s tough to tell if there’s any difference. According to O’Brien, Cano finished the year at 213 and now weights 208 (though she also notes that he probably played most of the year weighing more than 213). While it’s good to know that he did work out this off-season, it really means nothing in regards to his performance on the field. He’s put himself in a better position to succeed, no doubt, but he still has to prove it with the bat. It’s going to be tough to forget his slow starts the past two years.
Thankfully, Cano knows what’s at stake:
“I’ve just been working on my new stance,” Cano said, “just getting ready mentally and physically. … I know that I have to start in April, not in May or June.”
Or March, for that matter. Cano had a monster spring in 2008, hitting .446/.471/.646 in his 65 at bats. Even if he does tear it up again this March, we’ll be looking for how he transitions to April. Adding his bat early on could help the Yankees avoid the slow starts they’ve experienced the past two years.
All the rave on this Sunday morning relates to Joe Torre’s new book, The Yankee Years, which is due in stores on February 3. Tabloid reports focus on two main aspects: Alex Rodriguez and Brian Cashman. You can check out the report on NJ.com if you want to check out the tabloids, but I’m not linking them here. I know we’ve basically broken the tabloid ban, but these headlines are perfect examples of what we don’t like about those two outlets.
First, Mr. Cashman. The complaint levied in the book, or at least how the media portrays it, is that Cash didn’t stand up for Torre at the end of the 2007 season. I guess Torre’s ire stems from Cashman’s public stance that he supported Torre. Yet both can be true. Cashman might have favored the one-year deal the Yankees were willing to offer, but not the two-year deal Torre sought. In any event, I can’t see the reason for any harsh feelings between the two. Cashman did stand up for Torre and had him brought back after the 2004 season.
Regarding A-Rod, is this anything we didn’t know before? It’s not like any of us think he’s a model citizen. He’s an insecure bastard who happens to hit baseball really well. This isn’t some shocking revelation. It will continue to fuel the fire of those who dislike Alex for his personality, and will ignite a spark in those who defend him for his baseball skills. I hope we can avoid this discussion in the ensuing comment thread. The important point, I think, (and as ‘The’ Steve pointed out) I wonder how his current players feel about him publicly slamming a former player?
These are just two points in a 400-plus-page book. They’re the juiciest details, so that’s what the tabloids will pick up. What will make someone buy a paper: a headline which includes the term “A-Fraud” and “betrayal”, or a headline that says “Torre speaks mostly well of time with Yankees”? So please, let’s reserve judgment until we all actually read it. If we do at all, that is.
* Another revelation was that the Yankees team doctors told George Steinbrenner that Torre had prostate cancer before they told Torre himself. I have no idea what to say about this charge. If true, that’s a pretty deep violation of ethics and the law.
Via BBTF, Chop-n-Change took a stab at ranking baseball’s general managers. Excluding guys who’ve been on the job for less than a year, they anoint Billy Beane, Theo Epstein and Andrew Friendman as the elite GMs, noting their ability to build and sustain winning clubs. Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman falls into the second tier, alongside Mark Shapiro, Kenny Williams, Larry Beinfest and Dave Dombrowski. Brian Cashman’s legacy is a sensitive topic in Yankeeland, as some feel he’s greatly underperforming considering his vast resources, while others praise his patience (ie ability to deal with the Steinbrenners), loyalty, and track record of successful teams. Fun fact: Cashman’s teams have more division titles (9 to 6) and the same number of World Titles (3 to 2) as the First Tier GMs combined. · (113) ·
According to SI’s Jon Heyman, the Yanks are still looking to add a veteran presence to their rotation, and are still having dialogue with free agents Andy Pettitte and Ben Sheets. In one helluva coincidence, Joe talked about Sheets’ new medical report and Ben mused about Pettitte within the last 24 hours. With each passing day, I’m more and more intrigued by the possiblity of adding Sheets to the rotation, especially since it’ll only cost a fourth rounder. · (104) ·