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Is Joe Torre a Good Manager?
Posted by David Martorano at 3/10/2008 2:47:00 PM
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On the surface, Joe Torre appears to be a great manager. He managed the Yankees from 1996 to 2007 and during this time, the team won four World Series Titles and went to the playoffs every single year.

Last week, several sportswriters pointed out the tremendous shape that Yankee players like Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon arrived to camp in. The articles seemed to suggest that each of these players had arrived to camp in 2007 in terrible shape and their disappointing seasons could at least be partly attributed to that fact. The articles seemed to suggest that the players understood that things would be different under Joe Girardi and that they needed to arrive to camp in great shape or risk losing playing time to less established Yankees. The articles also seemed to suggest that players like Giambi, Abreu and Damon took advantage of Torre’s "soft" side and did not push themselves because they knew there would be no consequences for failing to do so.

I found the articles significant because I always questioned whether Torre was a great manager or simply a product of circumstance. Torre had a losing record during managerial stints with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals but immediately began enjoying tremendous success once he became manager of the team with every advantage imaginable- The New York Yankees.

I would consider Torre’s strengths as a manager to include: his ability to be liked by his players; his ability to handle superstars; and, his ability to handle the media. I would consider his main weaknesses to include: his mediocrity as an “in game manager”; and, his soft side, which was sometimes taken advantage of by his players.

Maybe it’s unfair to assume that players regularly took advantage of Torre’s "soft" side. Maybe he had simply worn out his welcome in New York and his players had become too familiar and too comfortable with Torre and had begun taking him for granted. Or maybe Torre has gotten “soft” in his old age and is no longer able to demand as much from his players as he once did. Maybe change was exactly what the Yankees and Joe Torre needed and maybe both parties will benefit from their divorce.

I am fairly confident that the switch to Joe Girardi will turn out to be a great decision for the Yankees. He seems to demand excellence from his players and this could lead to “bounce-back” seasons from players who might have needed a little push (Abreu, Damon, Giambi). His demanding personality could also play a major role in getting the most out of the younger players who might otherwise have lost focus due to immaturity and/or a lack of experience (Hughes, Kennedy, Chamberlain).

I am not so sure about how good of a fit Joe Torre will be for the Dodgers. If I were general manager of the Dodgers, I would look to hire a disciplinarian type of manager to lead my team full of rookies and young players. I would look to hire a manager who demands excellence and a certain level of professionalism from his players. I would not hire Joe Torre.

I think this upcoming season will tell us a lot about Joe Torre. If he leads the Dodgers to the playoffs and the Yankees fail to reach the playoffs, a strong case can be made that Torre is a great manager. However, if The Yankees reach the playoffs and the Dodgers miss the playoffs, a strong case can be made that Torre was a product of circumstance and is nothing more than a decent baseball manager. There is also the chance that the results could be mixed; making it hard to take a solid position along either end of the spectrum. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out.


Comments....

Anything is better than Grady Little (I hope), but the jury is certainly still out in LA. At least the 3B dilema was solved via LaRoche's unfortunate injury, but playing Juan Pierre ahead of Andre Ethier is probably going to be mistake #1. Playing Matt Kemp every day in RF looks like a no-brainer, but even that isn't a given. I wouldn't read too much into Torre v Girardi when it comes to Giambi and Abreu, as both are in their walk years and looking for a final pay day. Not sure on Damon, but perhaps he's realizing that he's not 23 anymore and that the in-season injuries can be mitigated against by coming into camp in better shape.
Posted by vtadave at 3/10/2008 3:55:00 PM
 
I think your right, time will tell. Torre has a million options in LA, we'll see what he does with them and how successful he will be by the end of the year.
Posted by kevinccp at 3/10/2008 7:51:00 PM
 
For years we've all heard the "I could manage the Yankees with that lineup" comments, which tends to make one think "yeah, another wanna be thinks that he could manage a big league club". However, if there ever was a case where that could be true, it would be the Yankees for the past ten years. Obviously, writing the names that he had at his disposal down on a lineup card made that aspect of his job hard to screw up. The one thing that he had to be good at (and was) was managing egos. He must have been very good at that. Yes, his players liked him, and perhaps he was too sensitive to their perception of himself. This probably contributed to what you referred to as his perceived "soft-side".
If being a good manager is defined by in-game actions, then he probably wasn't a good manager. But, Steinbrenner and Cashman nearly took the need for a good "in-game" manager out of the equation. When you have all stars at your disposal, you just need to put them out there and watch them play. With the team that they had, his job was mainly to preside over the egos, and perhaps provide some motivation, which he apparently was good at. So, he was a good fit for the Yankees (although I agree it was time for him to move on) but with another club, I do not see him being anything outstanding.
Posted by thepearl-673 at 3/10/2008 8:30:00 PM
 
Don't get me started.
Posted by cliss at 3/10/2008 10:14:00 PM
 

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