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Good riddance to the Class Act
Posted by Chris Liss at 10/22/2007 12:25:00 AM
View more posts by this author

 

A lot's been made about the weak way the Yanks got rid of Joe Torre, and I can't defend that. They should have just fired him and said that for his salary and with a $200 million a year payroll, you got to win a playoff series every three years, or you're done.

But either way, Torre's dismissal was long overdue. Everyone goes on about what a class act he is - fine. He's a nice guy. Great. He doesn't believe in ARod yelling at another player trying to catch a pop up, and he didn't see fit to order the Yankees to bunt against a gimpy Curt Schilling in the 2004 ALCS, even though Schilling was mowing them down. And most of the players liked him - why wouldn't they? They could lose in the playoffs despite making more than $15 million a year, and you weren't going to hear about it from Torre. The only guy that seemed to get flack from him was ARod (was demoted in the order in the playoffs and called out for his trying to distract Howie Clark on a popup) - and no one liked ARod anyway, so it wouldn't tarnish Torre's class act rep. Sheffield didn't like him, either, and Sheffield was also a marginal character in the media (and also a little crazy).

It seemed Torre's agenda to be the good guy conflicted with doing whatever it took to win. He wasn't a good motivator, and he wasn't a good tactician - read Joe Sheehan's columns at BP about his use of the bullpen. He was making a huge salary for a manager, and he had huge resource advantages. Yes, the 12 playoff appearances were great, but is it really as big an achievement under the circumstances? There are only five teams in the AL East now, three of which (Tampa, Toronto and Baltimore) haven't been good in a decade.

The bottom line is this: if he's truly a class act, well, virtue is its own reward. But I'm always suspicious of the guy the media decides to praise in that way because all that means is that he was gracious to them. No one calls Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Pat Riley or Phil Jackson a class act. Those guys were way too focused on winning to spend much energy on the perception of them by players and media.

The question that needs to be asked is: Did Torre do everything he could to win? Was he willing to bunt against an injured pitcher? Was he willing to call out overpaid veterans for lack of focus? Was he willing to use his closer in high-leverage, non-save situations? His robotic use of the bullpen strikes me as lazy and unimaginative.

Yes, he deserves credit for the team's run in the late 90s, because what was needed then was a low key guy who would keep the clubhouse on an even keel. But when you're going out that quietly in the playoffs for three years, keeping everything on an even keel seemed awfully complacent. The best coaches know how to shake things up when they need shaking up, and how to keep things cool when the need to be kept cool. Torre could do the latter, but the $200 million team of mercenaries needed the former the last three years, and he didn't have it in him. The Yankees were wise to move on, the cowardly manner in which they did so notwithstanding.


Comments....

Good points, all. 4-13 in your last 17 postseason games requires action -- and not just another $20 million signing. An under-reported story in this affair, I think, is the division in the clubhouse between the old guard and the new guard. It's easy for fans and media to dismiss Sheffield -- as you said, he's crazy -- but some of things he said about divisions on the team, lack of communication with the new guys were true. And that's on Torre.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 10/22/2007 8:10:00 AM
 
Agree to a very large extent, but when is Brian Cashman going to get the ax? Do I even need to detail the litany of bad signings, particularly on the pitching side, lately? Wright, Brown, Pavano, Farnsworthless, Trading FOR Randy Johnson and then dealing him for nothing, etc. At least he's finally seen the light and is holding on his wealth of young pitching, but Cashman is just as responsible (if not moreso) for the Yankees relative lack of success this century.
Posted by vtadave at 10/22/2007 10:12:00 AM
 
How may of those signings were the actually work of Cashman? I think many of those were done over his head. As a Yankees hater I fear Cashman if left alone. He's the guy that traded R. Johnson and Sheffield and didn't want to part this summer with pitching prospects who are looking good.

As a Yankee hater, hopefully the Torre firing is the start of an offseason of chaos that brings back the days of Andy Hawkins signings.
Posted by schoenke at 10/22/2007 10:27:00 AM
 
Nice analysis...sentimentality + roster management=lousy on field results. As a Yankee season ticket holder since 1999 I have been tired of hearing about mystique and aura, how Jeter is a solid captain (let alone fielder), and what it takes to be a "true Yankee." The old guard/new guard situation no doubt contributed to a lack of chemistry in the clubhouse as the new guard could never become like the old guard. Hell, it's like joining the NYFD after 9/11...you'll never quite become one of the guys.

That said Yankee fans, especially if they lose ARod, will be in for a shocking surprise next year when the team's best right-handed power hitter is Derek Jeter.

And Cashman should go as well...if he can't stand up to bad team ownership (and at least tell the ownership that any bad moves like the Randy Johnson deal reflect on his career, not theirs, and that he would rather quit than do those deals) then he doesn't have enough spine to make the right moves.
Posted by kenkersch at 10/22/2007 10:39:00 AM
 
Ironically there are now two blogs in a row about terrible managers, maybe this speaks volumes at how good of a manager Clint Hurdle is. You guys have called out Torre, Wedge, Grady Little (in the past)and rightfully so, Francona hasn't done anything spectacular (anyone can decide to go with Papelbon in the 8th of a 3 run game with 2 on), yet Hurdle got the most out of a team that was considered all but done in September. Other than Helton, there aren't really any veterans on that team, and he's really gotten the most out of them.
Posted by kevinccp at 10/22/2007 2:13:00 PM
 
Did Hurdle suddenly get smart this year?

Wasn't he smart last year, when the Rockies were in last place?

Major league manager is a thankless job... win with good players and you get no credit (i.e., Torre, Francona). Win with players who people don't think are that good and you probably get too much credit (i.e., Hurdle).

Lose with good players... well, then you get fired.
Posted by czegers at 10/22/2007 5:49:00 PM
 
Hurdle's been lucky, tis' all. Timely hitting, airtight defense, a staff that's been tremendous top-to-bottom the last few weeks. He's not a good manager.
Posted by spianow at 10/22/2007 6:09:00 PM
 

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