Monday, October 09, 2006

Hey Boss: Don't Fire Joe Torre [J. Mark English]

I am not a Yankees fan. I'm better described as what President Bush called an ABY fan. "Any Body but the Yanks". Actually I'm really a Mets fan, but the feeling is mutual with the President. (He once swore he'd never attend a World Series until the Texas Rangers were in, but after 9/11 he broke that promise).
However, I am appreciative of individuals on teams. The Yankees have been blest with tremendous players and coaches over the past decade. This group would include players like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre.
The 1998 Yankees were the culmination of just how great a baseball team could be if given the right tools.
The team was truly a TEAM. In 1998, a year in which Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire hit over 60 home runs....the Yankees did not have one player hit over 30. Instead they had ten players hit over 10 home runs. No player had over 40 stolen bases, but six players had at least 10 or more. They only had one pitcher with 20 wins or more, where as six pitchers had over 10 wins, three over 15. The combined ERA of the team was 3.82.
Their pitching staff was feared...imagine if they could throw out David Cone, David Wells, Andy Petite, Orlando Hernandez and Hideki Irabu against the Tigers instead of the cast of characters they have now?
Their team batting average was .288. But the team did not have an abundance of star hitters. Instead they had key role players...including Scott Brosius, Chad Curtis, Chuck Knoblauch, Darryl Strawberry, Tim Raines, Joe Girardi, and Shane Spencer.
These players did not have the glamour of a murderous row (including Cano), but they knew what their role was, and they went out and won 114 wins in the regular season.
Manager Joe Torre was the skipper that led this motley crew to victory day after day. And finally to a World Championship. He would eventually lead the team to 4 out of 5 World Series victories. They would have had their 5th if not for a bottom of the ninth single in game 7 off of Rivera by Luis Gonzalez against Arizona in 2001.
Slowly, this team was dismantled. Not by Torre, but by the decision making of Brian Cashman, and the wallet of George Steinbrenner.
Now the team more resembles an All-Star team that plays for themselves instead of a team that plays for the pride of the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, and Randy Johnson...may dazzle on the field individually, but they do not perform as a team would require.
To lay this at the feet of Joe Torre is not fair. When given a real team, Yankee fans know what he is capable of doing. But when given an ensemble of ego driven talent, there is only so much a manager can do.
If someone in the organization must fall on the sword, don't let it be Torre. Let it be someone else...someone who destroyed what was so good in the late 90's for all of Yankee Land.