I can’t imagine the New York Yankees without Joe Torre. Then again, I can’t imagine the Yankees losing the ALDS to the Cleveland Indians. Once upon a time I couldn’t imagine a World Series without the Yankees, or even a pennant race…which only goes to show, you can get used to anything.
When the Yankees lost the ALDS last year to the Detroit Tigers, I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t as bummed as I am now. For one thing, Cleveland’s win means they keep going, subjecting us some more to their disgusting idiotic ‘Indian’ logo.
Mainly, though, I was less bummed because Detroit’s pitchers came on like gangbusters, and it wasn’t hard to understand my guys, or the other teams, losing to them. Now, though Cleveland’s pitchers deserve some credit, they didn’t tear into the opposing teams quite as ferociously as the Tigers did. They weren’t why the Yankees lost.
They lost because their supposed star pitcher, Chien Mien Wang, had a meltdown in the opener, and again in the final fourth. They lost because the players, touted as the most dangerous lineup in Major League Baseball, stood in the batter’s box one after another and, with the possible exception of
Johnny Damon, screwed up.
They failed to swing at strikes, or swung and missed, or hit right into the trap of a double play. This last was the most appalling of their mistakes. In game 3 pitcher Jake Westbrook got the Yanks to swing into four double plays, two off the bat of Derek Jeter, who’s known for coming through in the clutch. Eventually they seemed to figure out what Westbrook was doing, adjusted their bats, and ended up winning the game. That effort, apparently, took everything out of them: last night they lost the series.
George Steinbrenner made a very public threat to Joe Torre: if we lose this series, he said, you’re gone. Some speculate that he did it to psyche up the team, and when they won Game 3 he thought his strategy worked. Bullshit. Baseball players on the level of the Yankees don’t win for the coach; they win because winning’s in their blood. Yeah sure, when victory happened they claimed they did it for Joe—why not? Why not use the occasion to express their love for the manager they so respect and want to keep?
Still, they might not get to keep him. If Steinbrenner makes good on his threat, Joe Torre is history. It’s not a matter of firing—his contract’s up anyway, so all the boss has to do is fail to renew it. If that happens, the man who is arguably the smartest and kindest manager in all of sports will be jobless after 12 years with the Yankees—for about two minutes. If Joe Torre wants to work, he’s sure to have his pick of the litter.
As for a new Yankee manager, the waiting list of hopeful prospects is no doubt long, despite the dismal working conditions. GS expects nothing less than a World Series win every year. No matter what else the team does, if they don’t end up as world champions, they’re losers in the eyes of their boss. This year the Yankees had a tough start that lasted half the season; they were written off as contenders, and their comeback was nothing short of miraculous. George Steinbrenner is the only man in baseball who doesn’t recognize the Herculean effort they made to turn things around. To work for a man like that, to survive public humiliation in front of the New York media machine, requires a quietly strong ego and high self-esteem.
Daryl and I have a great idea—we think Joe should trade subway stops with Willie Randolph. Willie would manage the Yankees next year, while Joe takes over with the Mets. The results of this move would be, at the very least, interesting: two dysfunctional teams, one maniacal club owner, and an amped-up press. A recipe for high drama…as if we didn’t get enough of it this season.
Meanwhile, the Playoffs Continue…
The Arizona Diamondbacks, who in 2001 won the World Series against The Yankees, swept the Chicago Cubs, and the Colorado Rockies came out of nowhere to sweep the Phillies. These teams now compete for the National League Championship, while Cleveland faces the Red Sox in the American League. Assuming, as I do, that the Sox win, they’ll play against either Colorado or Arizona in the World Series, and I’ll root for their loss. I hope Arizona makes the cut, since they’ve got one of my favorite players, ex-Athletic Eric Byrnes. Speaking of which, take note Billy Beane: both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks are small-money teams, proving you don’t have to keep selling off your best players to build a championship team.