This is the season Torre wasn't supposed to win.
Are you insane? Everyone was talking about how good the Yankees were going to be this year. They have one of the best offenses in baseball. They added Randy Johnson, not to mention Carl Pavano and a healthy (?) Jason Giambi.
No one -- absolutely no one -- was predicting that the Yankees would be bad in 2005.
But wait, Roy S. Johnson wants to tell us why people might have done just that:
His team was coming off that stunning pratfall against the Red Sox in last year's American League Championship Series. Jason Giambi was in post-steroid testimony funk. The pitching was in tatters. And everyone knew that Bernie Williams couldn't throw out your grandmother anymore. Sure, there was early promise, buoyed by the signings of free-agent pitchers Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano. But it seemed only about a week before the trio, stymied by injuries and stifled by expectations, began to embody the Yankees' new mantra: Mediocrity in Pinstripes.
Yes, the Yankees choked last year. They were still one of the four best teams in baseball (if not the two best). Jason Giambi couldn't be worse than he was in 2004. The pitching was not in tatters (at least before the season) because Cashman added three more starters, including Randy f-ing Johnson. Bernie Williams is stunningly bad in the field, but Joe Torre -- the very man you're genuflecting before, Roy -- insisted on sending him out ther in centerfield for half the year.
The team faltered and flopped, stumbled and staggered -- so much so that it looked as if Torre just might be fired. For real -- or as my daughter says, Frreeel -- this time.
Torre was managing while the team stank. Shouldn't he be held accountable for that?
But there was Torre, though it all, in his familiar place, stoic and unbowed, behind darkened glasses. I'm sure his stomach was often twisted as Dontrelle Willis' arms-knees-elbows-and-legs-everywhere windup, but we never knew it. He never let on and now, well, who doesn't know that Joe's got skills?
Oh, Joe Torre looks so calm! His sunglasses alone are worth 15 wins, right?
Frankly, it's creepy how fetishistic some guys get about sports figures' appearances.
This just may be his finest season. No, this is his finest season.
No, in 1998 his team won 114 games. That was his finest season. This year is like his seventh finest.
There is no logical reason why these Yankees should be in first place.
For God's sakes, yes there is. Have you seen their lineup? It's unbelievable. They rank second in the majors in runs scored. There is nothing more logical than the fact that a team that scores a lot of runs can be good.
Also, obviously, their payroll is enormous. Historically so.
So that's a reason.
No explanation for the quiet way they plugged through the second half of the season on unknown wings and prayers to find themselves not only in the thick of the wild-card race, but also tied with the Red Sox for a division title absolutely no one not on the Yankees' payroll thought they could win.
The explanation was runs scored. Also, the mysterious competence of Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon. That's it. That's the explanation.
No logic nor explanation other than Torre.
No. It was hitting and pitching.
Seven games this week in Baltimore and Boston will determine whether the Bombers accomplish the improbable (division title), achieve the acceptable (wild-card playoff berth) or endure abject failure (no postseason for the first time on Torre's watch).
But those seven games should not determine whether Torre is named Manager of the Year for the third time. He's already earned it.
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