In 1996-2000, my friend Moishe was fond of Joe Torre. Since the Yankees were winning and everything was going right, Torre was Midas. Every call he made was the right one. And when things didn’t go right, nobody blamed him, because he’d earned the reputation as a great manager. He was thought to have taken managerial advantage of everyone from Mike Hargrove to Bobby Cox.
Now, I wonder.
When EDS says this, “…is as lost as Joe Torre without Don Zimmer at his side.”
And The Sports Guy says this, “I know it hurts to say it, but the Yankees wouldn’t keep pitching to Big Papi with guys on base if Joe Torre was still alive. (Wait, he’s still alive? Are we sure? He’s in the dugout? Really?)“
within a day of each other, then you know something’s up.
So what’s up? Is Joe Torre a good manager, or was he the product of circumstance?
Keep in mind, EDS is as big a Yankee fan as they come. For him to question Joe Torre would be like the pope questioning Jesus. Seriously, it’s a big deal. And still, he recognizes some important facts:
1) Joe Torre’s success came when he had a brilliant old baseball mind, who was a successful manager (Zimmer) by his side. He’s not won squat without him.
2) A monkey with a line-up card could have won championships with the Yankee teams of 1996-2000.
3) Managing comes down to execution. You can make the consensus right call (let’s say, bringing in the lefty to face the lefty) and he might still get a hit. Or you can make the wrong call (bringing in a crappy lefty just because he’s a lefty to face the lefty) and he might make out.
4) Joe Torre’s flaws as a manager have always been there. They are just exacerbated when the Yanks can’t cover his flaws with superstar players who more often than not execute, even if the signs coming in aren’t the right ones.
For instance, maybe bunting is the right play. It’s the safe call, and the best way to play baseball. But Torre doesn’t insist that his pampered superstars bunt. So he let’s them swing away. But because this was Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez and Bernie before he sucked, eventually someone would come up with the big hit, and bail out Torre. Even if the right play would have been to bunt, and then tie the game on the next out, and not need the big hit.
But now, Pauly, Tino and Bernie have been replaced with A-Fraud (What’s the score? 10-1? OK, Now I’ll homer), Giambi and…Bernie. Now, more often than not they won’t come up with the big hit. Now, not bunting means the Yankees are leaving the tying runs on base more and more often, and losing games because of it.
Or the pitching staff. Back when the Yanks had a dominant bullpen, he could bring in whoever, and trust that he could get the outs. Didn’t matter that maybe there was somone else in the ‘pen with better numbers against this particular hitter, or maybe pitching around some guy was the best call. Nelson, Stanton, Rivera, Wetteland…those guys would get the outs.
Now, he actually has to manage. He has to decide which of Sturtze, Proctor, Villone or Myers is the best guy to bring in. He has to know that not a single one of them could get Ortiz out with a two-strike head start and a machine gun. He has to know that taking starters out because they give up a single with two outs in the seventh isn’t an option with this bullpen. (Seriosuly, what’s with his crazy quick-hook? He doesn’t have the bullpen for it!) He actually has to manage. And that’s biting him in the ass.
Moishe used to say that Torre made Bobby Cox look like a fool. Well, Mike Scoscia returned the favor. Twice-over.
Maybe it’s sacreligious to say, but I don’t think Torre was ever a good manager. And now it’s showing. He has 217 ex-managers on his staff, and a rookie with no coaching experience in the only job that matters (pitching coach). He doesn’t have a right-hand man who’s got management success (but was one of his cronies in the post-success not-so-old days; Lee Mazzili is no Don Zimmer. He’s not even Jose Cardenal).
I think the Yankees would be better off with Larry Bowa managing. Or Joe Girardi.