The Yankees have been so successful for a decade, and have such a storied history, that the new generation of baseball fans doesn’t fully appreciate there are eras when the Yankees mortality is painfully obvious. The 1990 Yankees were the worst team in baseball. The futility of their season was symbolized by losing a game in which Andy Hawkins pitched a no-hitter. The Yankees didn’t even appear in a World Series for fifteen years between 1981 and 1996.
It was with the arrival of Joe Torre as manager that the sun rose on the latest Yankee dynasty. Joe was the right man, in the right place, at the right time, which is the only real formula for success. He was somewhat lucky. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a **** fine manager. Quite the contrary. Torre was, and is, the perfect manager for the cauldron of New York. Not only must one deal with a vapid media, there is an insane owner.
Let’s not forget that George Steinbrenner was banned from baseball in 1990 for hiring a low life gambler named Howard Spira to dig up dirt on a player. It is no coincidence that the Yankees hit rock bottom that year, and that, once Steinbrenner was forced to relinquish control and allow his baseball people to run the team, the Yankees resurgence began, culminating in a four-peat.
But success is dangerous, noted Pablo Picasso, and Steinbrenner once again asserted himself, abandoning the strategy of developing talent which his baseball people had pursued with such dizzying results to once again create Frankenstein monsters of overpriced free agents that never quite gel as a team. That they got so close is a tribute to Joe Torre’s management skills.
The Yankees might have done better to consider the experience of the Oklahoma Sooners who, after running Barry Switzer out of town for a series of four loss seasons soon found themselves hoping for four wins in a season. Things got so bad the team couldn’t even punt the ball down the field.
Perhaps it was for the best and fresh blood will lead the Yankees back to the promised land. But even if it turns out to be the right move on the field, the way it was handled was abominable. Quibbling over two million dollars for a Hall of Fame manager is absurd for a team with almost $200 mil in player payroll—about 1%. Making the contract performance based was insulting to a man who has delivered four championships, especially in the expanded playoff era when a wild card, which couldn’t even win its own division, has won 4 of the last ten championships. Ultimately the Yankee brass didn’t have the courage of their convictions. I’m suspicious King George’s stepping down was a means of evading responsibility. Guess he couldn’t dig up enough dirt on Torre to make it easy on himself.
The good news to come out of all of this is apparently the age of King George has finally reached its end. The man who fired Billy Martin five times couldn’t pull the trigger himself on Torre. As a matter of full disclosure, my on again, off again affair with the Yankees has been predicated on the antics of one George Steinbrenner. I’m hoping the firing of Torre was just badly mishandled and isn’t a portent that the next generation of ownership is going to be as morally bereft as its progenitor.
What is Joe Torre thinking? Even if he felt Rodriguez was out of line–and for the sake of full disclosure, I don’t think he was–why is Torre saying it to the press?
“They were angry,” Torre said. “Oh, there’s no question. I can’t say I blame them, but what are you going to do about it? What’s happened has happened.”
Torre said he spoke with Rodriguez after the game.
“It’s probably something he shouldn’t have done,” Torre said. “I don’t sense he’s going to do it again.”
Torre didn’t explicitly tell Rodriguez not to do it, and Rodriguez didn’t say he wouldn’t, according to the manager, but it was clear to Torre there will be no repeat.
Understand, I like Joe Torre. I always have. But there is something about this situation that doesn’t smell right. Torre has always been marvelous at keeping the New York press at arms length from his players. So why is he throwing A-Rod under the bus here? What possible purpose does his comments serve? And notice the chicanery in the last paragraph. If Torre felt strongly enough about it to blab to the press, why didn’t he instruct A-Rod not to do it? He is the manager, isn’t he?
Undercutting your most productive player (where would the Yankees be without Rodriguez’ April) in the press for doing something, anything to win–no matter how bush league–is not good management. And that is the best case scenario. I’m wondering whether this episode reveals deeper issues in the clubhouse, something which could explain the Yankees dismal start.
Maybe it is time for Torre to go. And like I said, I like Joe.
— Michael Norton
The here-to-fore winless O’s bested the boys in pinstripes 6-4 at vaunted Yankee Stadium Friday. Former Oriole Mike “Moose” Musina gave up all six runs and lasted only four innings. The Moose abuse was loosed with the very first Oriole, as Brian Roberts opened the game with a double. Melvin Mora then singled on a perfect bunt, before Nick Markakis hit the first of his two doubles, driving in two runs.
The Moose really had no excuse as it was an ideal night for pitchers, cold with the wind blowing in. Adam Lowen threw five strong innings, a hopeful sign for Baltimore, who has had little to cheer about so far. Kevin Millar, who as a former Red Sox has plenty of experience with the Yankees, noted before the game that the Orioles needed to arrive with a swagger and dominate in Yankee Stadium.
The O’s did. At least for one game. The two teams play ball again today with Steve Trachsel matched up against Kai Igawa.
Meanwhile, the teams’ two Triple A clubs are battling it out elsewhere in New York, with the Orioles affiliate Norfolk Tides losing to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 6-3 to even the series at one apiece.
And the Nats fell short after falling behind again…
— Michael Norton
With all due respect to Jason over at Baseball & The Boogie Down Bronx, I have an alternative mystical explanation for what ails the New York Yankees. When you convert the best shortstop in baseball to third base you are bound to offend the baseball gods. The Alex Rodriguez situation epitomizes the embarrassment of riches that makes the Yankees so hated in the hearts of many.
As any thoughtful person who has made a little can tell you, money does not eliminate problems, it creates problems. Moreover, the problems that money creates are far more perplexing than lack, which, if you consider, is actually a fairly simple problem.
One problem money creates is the belief you can buy your way out of any problem. I overheard some software developers were playing a cubicle game the other day of “What car would you buy if money were no object?” After all the Porsches and Jaguars and Lamborghinis, one particularly astute developer noted if money were no object, the car wouldn’t be the issue since he wouldn’t be driving it.
The problem is no one is actually driving the Yankees, ironically because there are too many drivers: Steinbrenner, Cashman, Torre, Jeter. And those are just the people we know about. But as any New Yorker can tell you, the real driver in the Big Apple is money.
The reason Rodriguez is maligned is not his production-it is the amount of money he makes. If he were making a million a year he would be simply be the greatest player of his generation. But because he is paid twenty five times that, he is a bum because he doesn’t produce on demand. No player does, of course. Baseball is a game of averages. Anyone who argues post season numbers just doesn’t grasp that the statistical sample is simply too small to be very meaningful. Coming up big in the post season is by and large a phantom phenomenon.
Or a gift of the baseball gods, if you will.
Too bad the Sox lost the series to the Tigers. It is an interesting game between Toronto and the Yankees though. I think Dad paraphrased the importance of this game perfectly: “Can the Jays actually intrude on the Yankees/Red Sox hegemony?” However, the hot discussion on ESPN is the retractable dome in Toronto. Although I’ve never been a big Toronto fan (short of collecting George Bell’s cards in the 80’s), I’ve always thought that the Skydome was a cool stadium. I gravitate towards the Yankees in this game, but I am a fan of teams playing good ball…and the Jays are playing good ball! Just as I say that, they give up the tying run! I’ll be quiet for a bit. It’s interesting to note that extra inning games become endurance trials. It can almost be perceived as a battle of wills. — cmn
Well, they are finally underway in the Bronx. I love this interleague rivalry. It’s like a House of Mirrors with all the New York logos. And in the spirit of reflection, we are midway through the season. My, oh my, where does the time go? Seems like only yesterday we were dreaming of spring… — Michael Norton
Congrats again to Jeter! If nothing else, I think this steroid era has flogged the Homerun horse race to a pulp. We would do well to direct our attention to the other aspects of the game as well (such as Jeter’s hits). — cmn