Ned Colletti Should Be Time Magazine's Person Of The Millennium
I know it's early, but I don't think it's too early to make that call. After all, the Dodgers have a winning percentage of .517. Think about it. 51.7% of the time, the boys in blue have vanquished their opponents and bathed in their blood. If you ask Bruce Jenkins, for this Colletti deserves nothing less than the Executive of the Year Award. If you ask me, we should stop kidding ourselves and just give Colletti the MVP, the Cy Young, the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award and the Latin Grammy for Record of the Year.
General manager Ned Colletti, belittled all season for the signings of Jones, Pierre, Jason Schmidt, Rafael Furcal (who may yet return to play shortstop), Hideki [sic] Kuroda and Nomar Garciaparra, is now a candidate for Executive of the Year after picking up Ramirez, Casey Blake and Greg Maddux for a pittance.
1. Hiroki Kuroda is a pitcher for the Dodgers. Hideki Kuroda is the associate producer of Eko eko azaraku: B-page and Eko eko azaraku: R-page as well as the one of the directors of Inu no eiga (All About My Dog), the delightful 2005 comedy feature. (According to IMDb user chrischew2: "It loosely follows Kentaro Yamada (Shidou Nakamura), a timid media planner whose latest campaign for dog food is so stifling—not to mention utterly side-splitting—that it brings back memories of his childhood Shiba dog, Pochi. And weaved between this heart-warming tale are bursts of zaniness, from a spontaneous musical or a mockumetary to a dog's-eye-view of infatuation.")
Totally understand the mix-up, though. They get it a lot.
2. Here is a list of teams with winning percentages greater than that of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball organization:
Tampa Bay Rays Boston Red Sox Toronto Blue Jays New York Yankees Chicago White Sox Minnesota Twins Los Angeles Angels New York Mets Philadelphia Phillies Chicago Cubs Milwaukee Brewers Houston Astros St. Louis Cardinals
Yes, the Los Angeles Collettis are tied for the 14th-best record in baseball. The Florida Marlins also sit at 77-72, but keep in mind that Marlins GM Michael Hill had the luxury of a $22,650,000 payroll, whereas Ned had to make to with just $118,188,536. Juggling the egos of guys who make more than the entire Marlins pitching staff isn't easy!
The great thing about the Dodgers is that their biggest problem - the oppressive weight of clubhouse discord - seemed to disappear overnight.
In Bruce Jenkins' world, there exists one Universal Baseball Law:
The significance of the oppressive weight of clubhouse discord >> The significance of hitting
Jenkins' sentence is actually spot-on, if you'll allow me to adjust the wording slightly.
The great thing about the Dodgers is that their biggest problem - their complete inability to hit for power - seemed to disappear overnight when they got a guy who could hit for power.
There. It's the best sentence Jenkins and I have ever co-written!
Of course Colletti gambled on Manny -- you're getting fired if you do nothing, so you might as well pay the price in talent (no one the greater Los Angeles area seemed to place any value on the next six or whatever years of Andy LaRoche) to acquire a rent-a-player in a desperate Hail Mary attempt to save your job. And hey. Look. It worked. That was easy.
Jeff Kent, forever disapproving of the club's petulant youth, was lost to a knee injury (it has to be more than coincidental that the Dodgers won 10 of their first 11 games in his absence).
It has to be more than coincidence -- we thus have conclusive evidence that Jeff Kent was poisoning his teammates just like that mom in the Sixth Sense did to the little kid version of Mischa Barton.
Jeff Kent -- tragic sufferer of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
Torre put financial issues aside, benched Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones, and stabilized the outfield - for now and years to come - with Ethier and Matt Kemp.
Somehow, the fact of the existence of Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones on the payroll and the fact that it required one hundred-some-odd games and the addition of a Hall of Fame outfielder to compel Torre to bench Messrs. Pierre and Jones are now points in Colletti's and Torre's favor? This is the equivalent of two gardeners driving to your house, digging a twenty-foot hole in your front yard with a backhoe, buying two bags of sand, pouring the bags into the hole, and then getting lavished with praise for the sand part of the whole operation.
Arizona's problem isn't so much the standings. That deficit could disappear in a week.
Well, actually, the standings are a huge problem for Arizona. They're 4.5 back with 14 to play. That's an enormous deficit. Of course it could "disappear in a week," but that's incredibly unlikely. BP has them at 2.05397% to win the division. That sounds like a problem to me.
It's the club's desultory reaction to a crisis. Virtually all of the fire and inspiration from last year's team - Eric Byrnes, Jose Valverde, Orlando Hudson, Carlos Quentin when healthy - has vanished.
You heard it here first: the reason Brandon Webb and Dan Haren pitched four shockingly, horrifyingly grotesque abominations of games against the Dodgers was the absence of Eric Byrnes and Eric Byrnes' Motivational Hair™.
Eric Byrnes' Motivational Hair™, winning division races since 2007.
In Ramirez's first 40 games, the Dodgers had a run differential of plus-22 and averaged 4.55 runs per game, as opposed to 4.43 through July 31....It's hard to talk about the MVP Award for Manny when the team that paid the Dodgers to take Ramirez is 27-13 without him through Sunday and have seen their runs per game increase from 4.94 at the time of the deal to 6.22 since.
KT said it already, and here's the link. It seems that rational thought has somehow insinuated itself back into Le Ravine Chavez (pronounced sha-vay). But wait -- here's Snakeskin Boots Colletti's quote on the matter:
"Is he [Pierre] a bench player or is he not starting tomorrow?" Colletti asked. "It's a long season. You've got to compete, you've got to play. I understand the build-up to Opening Day. But you look at a lot of Opening Day rosters and there are players you can't even recognize. It changes day by day."
Reading between the lines, I'd say it's fifty-fifty that Bootsy's going to DFA Ethier by the end of the week so Torre's forced to play a real man in left field. A man who can bunt. A man who can swunt. A man whose skills range from bunting okay to swunting acceptably well. A man who is constantly hailed as the consummate professional but was already complaining before the decision was made to replace him with a better player ("If they want to go a different route," Pierre said, "I can live with it and I have to understand it but it's something I don't get.")
Snakeskin has spoken. This story is far from over.
YOUTH & NAIL YOUNG YANKS WILL STRUGGLE TO MAKE PLAYOFFS
This isn't necessarily George King III's fault, but there's like forty different ways to read that sub-headline. "Because of their young players, the Yankees will fail to make the playoffs." "The youth of the Yankees will help them during their tough times this sesaon, and, despite struggling, they will make the playoffs." "The younger members of the Yankees will struggle to make the playoffs, while the older members will make it easily."
Okay, fine. Three ways.
They have the same first name, but after that Torre and Girardi are very different.
It really is hard to think of two more different men than Joes Girardi and Torre -- two Italian-American former major league catchers (each at one point for the St. Louis Cardinals) who have each been named Manager of the Year and Manager of the New York Yankees.
Torre let the players police themselves; Girardi is a stickler for detail and will run a tighter ship. How that plays with the veterans will be interesting to see throughout camp.
I guess that will be kind of interesting. Mostly to me, it will be interesting to see how much of the Yankees' success / failure / averageness is absurdly blamed on / credited to / assigned to Joe Girardi, and the way he gets along with the veterans (weren't we going to talk about the younger Yankees?), when it is way more likely to do with, say, pitching.
The organized Girardi can manage, and the Yankees New York Yankees were fortunate he was available. However, he has one year of experience. And his coaching staff is dotted with neophytes.
Surely his inexperience (second year overall, first with the Yanks!) will only hurt the team. One need only look at the list of recent WS winners, and it's easy to see that you simply must have decades of experience both with the league and your team, to win it all:
2007: Terry Francona (4th year with team, 8th overall) 2006: Tony LaRussa (fine -- 100 years with team, 340 overall) 2005: Ozzie Guillen (2nd year with team, 2nd overall) 2004: Terry Francona (1st year with team, 5th overall) 2003: Jack McKeon (1st year with team, 13th overall) 2002: Mike Scioscia (3rd year with team, 3rd overall) 2001: Bob Brenly (1st year with team, 1st overall)
Can Alex Rodriguez, coming off an MVP campaign, and Robinson Cano, the ink fresh on his first big contract, sustain last year's production?
Rodriguez won't hit .314, club 54 homers and drive in 156 runs.
Okay. He might. He certainly might hit higher than .314, not that it really matters that much.
That doesn't mean he won't have a solid year.
Very true. So what's the problem again?
The Yankees made two mistakes with Cano. They didn't retain third base coach Larry Bowa, who rode Cano hard every day last season before following Torre to LA this offseason. Then they gave Cano, not a hard worker, a multi-year deal.
Because he's good. They gave him a multi-year deal because, ultimately, it doesn't matter how hard he works, as long as he plays baseball well.
And so now, I'm supposed to believe, the onus for Cano performing well in his first big contract year falls on...Girardi? Wait -- actually, now I'm not sure what I'm supposed to believe. A-Rod? Probably A-Rod. Everything is that guy's fault.
Unless Cano does well. Then we can all agree that Jeter did it.
There was nothing wrong with Andy Phillips and Doug Mientkiewicz, but the Yankees got rid of them. Instead, they are looking at Duncan, Wilson Betemit, Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg. How long before Rodriguez complains about not having a glove guy saving him errors?
I love how the bar just keeps getting higher when it comes to creative ways of calling Alex Rodriguez a shitty guy.
He committed plenty of errors last year. I don't once remember him blaming anyone other than himself. Has he ever thrown a teammate under the bus? Why are we suddenly anticipating some sort of inevitable locker room blamefest where A-Rod starts whining about Jason Lane's glove?
Because he went to therapy and kind of liked it?
I don't get it. This kind of A-Rod bashing is Lame Fucking City, USA. In the words of the incomparable Sagat: "Funk dat."
Torre > Brosius? It cannot be. I will not hear such blasphemy, Sir Buster.
Look, Joe Torre seems like a good enough guy. Grandfatherly mien, reassuring eyes, a calm, arms-folded presence in the dugout. No obvious assholish tendencies. Sure, we're all emotional about his departure. I ask you, though, Buster Olney, when you wake up one year from now, will you still really believe this paragraph? How about five years? Fifty?
I always will believe that during the 1996-2001 dynasty, Mariano Rivera was the only uniformed member of the organization more important to the Yankees' success than Torre. They could not have won so much without him, and it remains to be seen if any Yankee manager can ever be as successful or as adept as Joe Torre.
Oh. "Always." You will always believe that no player besides Mariano Rivera was more valuable than Joe Torre. Seriously, when Derek Jeter retires, are you really going to write that, hey, Jetes was a pretty sweet shortstop, but he was no Joe Torre when it comes to winning baseball games? If you had a crazy combo draft of players and managers in 2001, are you really taking Torre over Derek Fucking Fitzgerald Jeter, God of Baseball and Winner of Life?
I'm sorry. This is a heartfelt piece by Buster. He's emotional. There's stuff in there about fatherly pats on the cheek (his words, not mine) and cancer and Scott Brosius' dying dad that I'm not even going to touch. Buster, I understand that you know the man and that you empathize with him. You spent time with him. You know more about Joe Torre the person than everyone reading this blog except for Don Mattingly (hi, Don!). But you can honor Joey T-Bones without resorting to this kind of run of the mill, knee-jerk, Baseball Tonight Bold Prediction-type sports-writing/-commentary hyperbole.
And let's take a step back. Again, we're all sad. Torre is leaving. Stand-up guy. Might be a bad decision for the club. But we're talking about a situation where you're feeling misty-eyed for a guy who's turning down a five million dollar base salary because it is a fucking insult to him. Five million dollars. And he's not hitting 97-mph Josh Beckett fastballs or spearing Curtis Granderson laser beams. He's not doing something that only a select few hundred human beings have the physical and mental capacity to do. He's choosing what order to write down names in a lineup (sometimes poorly). He's deciding when to put a relief pitcher in a game (often incorrectly).
Managing is easier than playing.
Which brings us to value, or as Buster frames it, "importance." Mariano Rivera: extremely important. Thanks for the concession, Buster. And now, a smattering of stats from some of the players who helped the Yankees win four championships in five years. I'm not saying that Joe Torre didn't contribute. I bet he did. Some. But these guys effing played the games.
Tino Martinez, 1996-2001: 175 HR Derek Jeter, 1996-2001: 1187 hits Bernie Williams, 1996-2001: 6 consecutive years of OPS+s over 131 Andy Pettitte, 1996-2001: 1274 2/3 IP, ranging from good to outstanding Paul O'Neill, 1996-2001: 604 RBI
And these are just some of the really good guys. The list, honestly, is endless. Forget these guys. Forget even the regulars: the Brosiuses, the Knoblauchs, the Stantons. How about Chili Davis' 476 okay at bats at DH? At least he got hits and scored runs. Hideki Irabu sucked, but at least he got some outs.
The much belabored point is this: Joe Torre managed supertalented teams for a super long time in a super overexposed media market. For that he is a saint in the eyes of many. But he is a human man, a man who was an okay to pretty good baseball manager doing a job that probably a fair number of other people might have been fine doing as well. Baseball managers do not play the game. They do not have as much influence on the outcome of the game as say, football coaches or Ramiro Mendozas. Search your pinstripe-tattooed soul. You know this to be true.
Now excuse me while I finish crying about Joe's departure. I started several days ago and am not ready to stop just yet.
1. Tony La Russa He put to rest the notion his players tighten up come October with one of the great managing jobs of our time last year. It's no easy thing to make an 83-win team believe it can win. Now he's made me believe. He's an original thinker who's unsurpassed strategically. "I have tried to guess along with him on what moves he'll make next,'' David Eckstein told me in spring training, "and it just can't be done.''
If you haven't already, I invite you to read Buzz Bissinger's book 3 Nights in August, about La Russa. The purported aim of the book is to show how brilliant La Russa is as a strategist. The actual accomplishment is to make one feel like one wouldn't trust La Russa to take care of one's cats, much less one's baseball team. It starts with an anecdote about how Albert Pujols has a severe arm injury -- one that allows him to swing a bat but not throw. La Russa wants to play him anyway, to like intimidate the other team (which doesn't know about the injury), so he puts him in left field and tells him to casually underhand the ball to the SS if it gets hit to him. A doctor has told La Russa that Pujols, the most important player on the team by a factor of fifty, is risking severe like career-threatening shit if he throws a baseball. This is a not-super-important game. I mean, what the hell?
Avid readers of this blog might remember many months ago when I wrote that I was going to do a lengthy review of this book. I started reading and making notes. By page 80 I had filled ten notebook pages with scribbles and exclamation points and frowny faces, and decided the task was just too big.
And before we go talking about how La Russa is a master strategist because his crappy team won the WS after winning 83 games last year, let's all remember that he controlled three of the most disappointing WS teams in recent history -- the 88 A's (104 wins, McGwire/Canseco, 3 16 game winners and Eck, blown out in 5 games by the Dodgers), the '90 A's (who got humiliated by the Reds) and the '04 Cardinals (who won 105 games and got brushed aside like sidewalk trash).
2. Jim Leyland Perhaps he isn't the master strategist that La Russa is, but as a salesman and motivator, no one's better. His only blemish is his short time in Colorado, when his heart wasn't in it.
I fail to see why it's okay that his heart wasn't in it when he had a tough job. As opposed to when he managed the '97 Marlins, the best team money could buy, or the ultimately disappointing 90's Bucs. I think he's a fun guy, and a good manager, but shouldn't a big part of a manager's evaluation be how he does when he gets handed a pile of crap? (And please don't tell me the '06 Tigers were a pile of crap. They were well-positioned to be a solid team with that pitching.)
3. Mike Scioscia Smart and solid, he's extremely even-keeled, and his players have bought into his aggressive, NL style.
Whatever. He's fine.
4. Joe Torre Fourth place for the four World Series rings. But can he please take it easy on his favorite relievers? He especially needs to be careful with Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
I don't really know what to make of Torre. I happen to think that the most important job a manager does is handle the clubhouse and the owner. He has a tough clubhouse and a terribly whimsical/crazy owner, and is always even-keeled, so, to quote that weird guy who writes a weekly column about Starbucks and The Sopranos for SI.com, I think I think he's good. He also has a $200m payroll every year and occasionally makes some really odd decisions.
5. Lou Piniella He didn't do his best work in Tampa, and baseball people noticed. Plus, he's been cited by some for mishandling pitchers. He certainly can lose his cool, as well, but that's part of his charm. Wouldn't want to have to match wits against him in the postseason, though that might not be anyone's worry this year.
I believe Sweet Lou is insanely overrated. Tampa never seemed one ounce better off with him than with anyone else. But what really irritates me is that he's sitting here at #5, and is followed by
6. Bobby Cox I'm sure most would rank him higher. But since the goal is to win titles, that has to be seen as a failing.
I mean, you've got to be kidding me.
Figuring out what effect, if any, a manager has on a team is very difficult. Moneyball famously talks about how Billy Beane loved Art Howe because Howe sat stoically in the dugout and stared straight ahead and had the appearance of a leader, while essentially just following orders. He presided over those overachieving computer-generated teams that everyone loves to call underachieving because they got terribly unlucky in October, and then he went to the Mets and stunk up the place.
As I said, most anecdotal evidence (because empirical evidence with managers seems misleading) says that managers' most important job is that of a sheep dog -- herding the players in the same direction, keeping them from going astray over the course of a long season, focusing them on the task at hand, that kind of thing.
If that is at all true...who is better than Bobby Cox? He didn't win titles? He won every division title from 1844 to 2005. He throws some of the best player-protecting temper tantrums in the game. His guys love him. He handles veterans and rookies and retreads and rich guys and does gutsy things like make John Smoltz a closer. If I were GMing a team, I might get Bobby Cox to run it. Assuming he secretly agreed to run it Moneyball-style.
7. Grady Little He was knocked hard for sticking with Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS, when his critics apparently would have rather seen him turn the game over to a very iffy bullpen. He's a low-key guy who doesn't get the plaudits he deserves.
Grady Little is a bad manager. He is a very nice man who says pleasant things in a pleasant drawl. He has no business being anywhere near a dugout. And this is not sour grapes. This is common sense.
9. Ozzie Guillen It may look like he's managing on emotion, but few know the game better.
He hits Podsednik first, doesn't care about OBP, thinks everyone should steal, bunts all the time, and says racist and insulting things. But he has a fun accent!
10. Terry Francona The Red Sox skipper keeps his cool in a tough environment. He manages both the clubhouse and game well.
If these are your criteria: put Torre first, Terry 2nd, Cox 3rd, and everyone else 4th.
11. Ron Gardenhire Always has the Twins hustling, just like in the Tom Kelly years.
He also thought Luis Castillo was worth 15 extra wins for his team. He seems decent, I guess, though he does some funky things with his line-up.
Managers are a mystery. Uneven payrolls and the large element of luck in short series make conclusions about their abilities very difficult. In general they should probably be judged on their overall team management skills, on and off the field -- controlling their players well and also letting them have fun without letting things get out of control...all that jazz.
However, I believe -- and this is from memory, so correct me if I am wrong -- that it was Rick Pitino who once said that the only time a basketball coach really has any tangible influence over that fluid game was coming out of a timeout, when (s)he could set up a specific play. If there is any corresponding truth in baseball, then people who famously make bonehead moves at crucial situations should never be on the list of best managers in baseball.
It should be noted that in the same article, Heyman seems to imply credit to Schuerholz for the acquisitions of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Andruw and Chipper. ("...the one who procured the talent")
Glavine was drafted well before Schuerholz took over.
Smoltz was acquired in a trade (Doyle Alexander to the Tigers) during Cox's tenure as GM of the Braves, which I think a lot of people (including paid journalists) forget.
And this is just speculation on my part, but given that Chipper was drafted in the first season of Schuerholz's tenure as GM, it's at least somewhat likely that it was Cox and his team who did the early legwork on that one.
Hey America. Joe wants to chat. We want to insert ourselves into that chat, five days later. And that's what we're going to do.
Brian Lesley (Pearl River, Louisiana): Joe, what teams do you think will advance past the ALDS?
Joe Morgan: My first thought was the Yankees, but I thought Oakland was going to play Detroit. I picked the Mets, but now all their pitchers are hurt. And I picked the Cards at the beginning of the year. So, now that Oakland's won the first game, they have the edge in that series.
This question was posed on Wednesday, when the playoffs were already underway. Why Joe needs to tell us where his head was at before Wednesday, when the matchups could have been different, I have no idea. What the Mets and Cardinals are doing in an answer to a question about the American League -- again -- your guess is about as terrible as mine.
Joe, here are the acceptable ways to answer the question from Pearl River:
Oakland and New York Minnesota and New York Oakland and Detroit Minnesota and Detroit
sandy, boston: Joe, why do you think Joe Torre took Chien Ming Wang out in the 7th inning last night with two outs and no one on base. His relievers gave up a homer and two singles before the inning ended.
Joe Morgan: I think Joe still wants to know how his bullpen stacks up. Remember Rivera has been injured and he still wants to know who he can count on out of the bullpen. He didn't get a great performance last night other than Rivera. He wanted to bring in Myers to face Granderson and that didn't work out. I think Joe found out they're going to have to score a lot of run to wins and they can do that.
There are two answers in this paragraph. One of them is boring, but right. The other is interesting if not crazy, and is wrong.
BORING BUT RIGHT: Joe Torre brought in Mike Myers to face a lefty, Curtis Granderson.
Here's the situation: Two outs, seventh inning, playoffs, four run lead, lefty coming up, who you can be pretty sure is not going to be pinch-hit for
If Mike Myers doesn't come out of the bullpen, you have to believe he's heading straight to Torre's office after the game. Not to complain, but to find out what sort of medical condition Torre's suffering from that prevented him from making one of the easiest decisions he'd make all night.
INTERESTING BUT SUPERWRONG: Joe Torre wasn't sure just how many runs he was going to need his team to score in future games to pull this series off. So to gather a little more information, he throws Mike Myers -- almost hoping that he gives up a run or two, just so he can know what kind of a series this is going to be in the future. Helps him plan his offense for future games.
Brandon ( London, KY): Should Frank Thomas win the Comback Player of the Year award? I think his numbers speak for themselves.
Joe Morgan: Of course. He should win that almost unanimously. He'll win that definitely.
Dom from Btown: Though A Rod has more godgiven talent, is the major difference between them that Jeter isn't afraid of failure and A Rod seems to dwell on it? Basically it seems Jeter is metally tougher than A Rod and that seems to be why he tends to come up bigger in pressure situations. Your thoughts?
Joe Morgan: My minor was in psychology, but I'm not going to get into that. I don't know either of them well enough to make the statements that you made. On the surface, it would seem that you're correct, though.
"I did a thing that is sort of related to your question. But I don't want to talk about that thing. In fact, I'm not even qualified to comment on this at all...but you're probably right."
(By the way, Joe Morgan graduated from Cal State Heyward in 1990 with a major in Physical Education.)
DAVID (MINNEAPOLIS): How big was that game one loss for the Twins? can they recover?
Joe Morgan: It was big. Very big. But they CAN recover. Today's game is the biggest game, because Loaiza is going today, one of their better pitchers, while Minnesota has Bonser, and you don't know what you're going to get. So today's the biggest game, but the next one will be the biggest after that. That's the way the tension builds. Color me very confused about the definition of the word "biggest." Today's game is the biggest, except for the one after that which is even bigger (the biggest).
Oh, okay! I figured it out. "Biggest" means the most big, or the second most big.
That makes sense. That's the way the tension builds!
SI.com's worst writer (with the possible exception of Jay Mohr) strikes again. An avalanche of readers sent this link in.
To give you an idea of where the article's headed, it's titled "No ordinary Joe: Torre deserves credit for the Yankees' success."
Amazingly, Johnson never explains why that's true. Let's take a look at what he does offer.
With a lifetime managerial record of 978-631 (.607), it's hard to accept that Torre's mark once stood a Bad News Bears-like 135 games below .500, before the skipper finally lifted his head above water during the Yankees' 1998 season.
It's not at all hard to accept. The number one most important factor that determines how good a baseball team: THE PLAYERS. Are they good? Then they'll win a lot of games. Do they stink, like Torre's teams before 1998? Then they'll lose like crazy.
How many additional wins does an excellent manager provide for a team? I'm not going to pretend to know an exact number, but I would wager that it's far lower than most sportswriters seem to think.
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.
John Rolfe of CNNSI.com has this to say about Joe Torre.
Torre's coaching job one for the record books
If the Yankees somehow reach the postseason for the 11th year in a row, Joe Torre should be handed the AL Manager of the Year Award on a nice silver platter.
Right off the bat, I have to say: no. I don't think you can reward the guy who is handling a $200 million payroll for just making the playoffs. I don't care how many injuries and squabbles and whatever he has had to deal with. I would vote for Ozzie Guillen over Tore, and Guillen is the most overrated manager in baseball right now.
Torre is in his 10th year at the helm -- the longest run in the Bronx since some guy named Casey Stengel hung around for twelve (1949-60).
Is this somehow a point in his favor? Just...that he's been there?
Torre last won the award in 1996, when he shared it with Johnny Oates of Texas. The echoes from that season -- the dawn of the most recent Yankee dynasty -- can be found in the way Torre has masterfully held his team together through a relentless onslaught of injury, slumps and pressure.
Okay, so, there's the argument: that Torre has "held his team together." To which I will respond immediately: any team that has the veterans that he has -- Jeter, Posada, Williams, ARod, Tino, etc., and still needs a manager to "hold the team together," is a sad team.
Right off the proverbial bat, these Yankees were engulfed by the Jason Giambi mess.
Poor babies. The guy who cheated for them made their lives difficult.
Then came their unsightly 11-19 start that plunked them into the basement of the A.L. East.
Who was managing the team during that run? Not Torre? How is this a point in Torre's favor? He did a shitty job, then later, he did a decent job?
There was a 1-9 skid in late May and early June that included a three-game sweep at the hands of the woeful K.C. Royals, and a 2-6 slide into July. A pack of wild card contenders has surrounded New York, and as soon as the picture brightens, the hoo-doo continues. Witness Jaret Wright getting knocked out by a line drive and Mike Mussina developing a sore elbow.
So, here's how I understand the argument so far: Torre's team stunk out of the gate. At various times during the year, Torre's team again stunk, against terrible teams. Lots of other teams are better than they are. Jaret Wright got hit by a batted ball and missed a start. Mike Mussina is old. The Yankees are still in the Wild Card hunt. So, Joe Torre is great.
New York's beefy offense has fueled some impressive hot streaks, but these Yankees are prone to playing flatter than a flounder fillet in the middle of I-95, especially against teams such as K.C. and Tampa Bay. Torre has probably conducted more team meetings than at any time during his tenure. He most recently gathered his squad in Oakland after they opened a key three-game series with a 0-12 eyesore Friday. The Yankees came out and won the next two, patiently wearing out Barry Zito in a 7-3 win on Sunday.
There's a lot going on in this paragraph, including terrible and weird analogies. If their offense is so good -- which it is -- then, what influence does Torre have over their wins? The murder the ball. They've got Sheffield, ARod, Matsui, Jeter, and Giambi batting 1-5 in their line-up. What kind of brilliant coaching is necessary to make their offense go?
Torre has been called a push-button manager, but he's had some funky buttons to push this season. The roster, particularly the pitching staff, resembles a contraption cobbled together by the Little Rascals out of wobbly baby buggy wheels, fruit crates, a bulb horn, cats on exercise wheels under the hood and a goose on a string attached to the front bumper. I don't think I've ever seen a team enter so many series without knowing who their starting pitcher will be in every game.
Wowie wow wow. Ignoring that descriptive flair, I will simply say: yes, they have had a ton of injuries. But they also signed Randy Johnson. They signed Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, who have both been injured, and whose injuries were the best thing that happened to the team all year, because they both stunk up the joint. And please don't give any credit to Joe Torre for Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon piching way above their heads. Torre just plugged them in, and they've made him look good. Credit, if any is deserved, and I'm not entirely sure it is because it seems so flukey, goes to Cashman.
As usual, Torre has remained as placid as a cow on thorazine. He's kept the glass over the panic button intact, as he did in '96 when New York's 12-game lead dwindled to three in late August and September, and in 2000 when the Yankees backed into the playoffs on a 3-15 roll and still won the Series. Never a small achievement when a team plays under a win-it-all-or-go-home-in-disgrace edict.
Torre is indeed very calm. You'd be calm too if you had a 3 year, 18-million dollar guaranteed contract and had already won four WS titles, and had also clearly decided years ago that you weren't going to let Steinbrenner's nonsense get to you.
Clearly, the sun is setting on the dynasty, but I fully expected this to be the season when it all fell apart in a steaming heap. Yet here I am astounded to see Torre's gizmo approaching the finish line, tattered but intact.
I'm sorry. Torre is a very good manager, but I just don't get "astounded" when a $200 million team is only within shouting distance of the playoffs in early September. They've got too much talent.
You know, I posted this quickly, and it occurs to me that I should have added: any manager who gave Tony Womack 350 AB, and who continued to hit Robby Cano in the 2-hole (of that line-up) long after he had come back down to Earth,, deserves to have his head examined.