Friday, May 08, 2009

A Tale of Two Joes: Baseball Musings

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

One of the most famous opening lines in literary history could well describe Joe Torre’s passage through the Bronx as manager of the storied New York Yankees. From 1996 to 2007, Torre managed the Yankees to consecutive postseason play, winning ten American League East Division titles, six American League pennants, and four World Series titles, while earning a .605 winning percentage.

All of this got tossed overboard after Torre published his kiss-and-tell book, mildly titled “The Yankee Years,” ripping into his former employer and certain players, whom he called “prima donnas.” But Torre reserved some of his most acid remarks for A-Rod, according to the NY Post:

Alex Rodriguez, was called "A-Fraud" by his teammates after he developed a "Single White Female"-like obsession with team captain Derek Jeter and asked for a personal clubhouse assistant to run errands for him.


And that’s not all. Torre headed for the sunny climes of California to manage that other team that had fled NY for LA, the Dodgers. In doing so, he made sure to torch any and all bridges to the Yankees. As Yogi Berra said, “when you get to a fork in the road, take it.”

Today, another Joe is managing the Yankees: Joe Girardi. He’s well known to Cubs fans as a capable defensive catcher and game caller. When he was a Cubs player, I met his parents once in a bar on Milwaukee Ave. Or so they said (I had no reason to disbelieve them.) They were nice folks, proud of their son.

Joe Girardi is a nice guy, some would say a player’s manager. But managing the Yankees and all those prima donnas Torre blasted may be too much for Girardi. I get the impression that Girardi is as tightly wound as Willie Randolph was when managing that other NY team, the Mets, in a slow, painful, downward spiral, till he was abruptly and summarily fired.

By the numbers, the two Joes are a study in contrasts:

Which of these Joes would Yankees fans want to see managing the team?

- Joe Torre
- Joe Girardi
- Neither Joe

Question for Cubs fans: Is Lou Piniella overrated as a manager? I’ve never understood his penchant for yanking starters after six innings, no matter how well they’re doing on the mound. I saw two blown Cubs games in which the starters were stellar and the floodgates opened up once Lou decided to yank them after six.

PS - The Dodgers' red-hot record is imperiled now that Manny Ramirez is out for 50 games after testing positive for steroids.


From the other side of town said...

Did Torre rip the fans? Because taking shots at a prima-donna (and playoff no-show) like Rodriguez, spilling the truth about George “The Boss” Steinbrenner, or even going to a team that moved from the city a half century ago doesn’t mean the fans won’t embrace him even more warmly if he were to return and win.

I don’t think citing the Post makes for anything more than elevated sensationalism.

All in all, Torre was not warmly received as the replacement for a popular young manager Steinbrenner had chased off after a playoff season. He was an admitted last choice for the job, and soon heard even after his hiring that Steinbrenner was working back channels to see if he could bring Showalter back. Critics regarded Torre as a recycled commodity without portfolio. Torre was in Cincinnati with in-laws on the day after his news conference when a friend from New York called him up.
“Uh, have you seen the back page of the Daily News?”
“No, why?”
The New York Daily News welcomed the hiring of Torre with a huge headline that said, “CLUELESS JOE.” The subhead read, “Torre Has No Idea What He’s Getting Himself Into.” It referenced a column written by Ian O’Connor in which O’Connor said that Torre “came across as na├»ve at best, desperate at worst.” Wrote O’Connor, “It’s always a sad occasion when man becomes muppet.” A last choice, a placeholder for Showalter, a man without a clue, a muppet . . . this is how Torre was welcomed as the new manager of the New York Yankees. None of it bothered him.
---The Yankee Years

Carlos said...

I agree, the fans would love to see Torre return; they never wanted to see him go. Management, that's another story. In the modern era, Torre was the greatest of all Yankee managers, and one of the greatest in baseball.

Though I wish him well, I don't think Joe Girardi can cut it as Yankees manager. We'll see how it goes. If they don't make the playoffs, he's out.