With the Dodgers claiming a share of the NL West lead with Arizona and the New York Yankees gazing upwards at Tampa Bay and Boston respectively, Newsday’s Wallace Matthews concludes, it is clear the Yankees owe Joe Torre an apology, because he wasn’t the problem with this team last year any more than Joe Girardi is the problem with it this year.” I don’t get it, is there no one else willing to blame everything on Hal Steinbrenner?
Nearly a year later, the ugly public divorce between the Yankees and Torre turns out to have been a blessing for one but a wash for the other.
It probably would not have mattered who managed the Yankees this year, what with the rash of injuries to key players such as Jorge Posada, Chien-Ming Wang, Hideki Matsui, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the lack of production from the likes of Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera, and the undeniable effects of aging on Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and yes, even Derek Jeter.
Throw in the unreliability of the bullpen and the appalling thinness of the bench and you have a mess Miller Huggins couldn’t have managed to win with.
Torre, of course, would have loved to stay here under the right conditions — i.e., minus the threat of “Win the World Series or else” — but was smart enough to realize that taking a job simply for the money is a sure road to misery and failure.
“They’ve had a rough go over there,” Torre said of his former team. “They’ve been banged up real good, and they’re starting to run out of games.”
Torre did not mention that his own team had its share of injuries, to Rafael Furcal and Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Schmidt and, most recently, to Brad Penny, or that they had made a free-agent blunder with Andruw Jones that not even the Yankees could approach, or that his clubhouse had just added slugger Manny Ramirez and his .famously subversive hairdo. Torre was simply being charitable to an organization that did not afford him the same courtesy.
To be perfectly clear, Torre is neither working pro bono in L.A., nor did he inherit a squad that appeared to be a sure bet to win the NL West. While we’re cataloging who owes who an apology or a thank you, let’s not forget the debt of gratitude Joe might owe the underachieving Snakes.
Early Tuesday morning, WFAN’s Chris Carlin took a call from a listener enraged that Greg Maddux had been acquired by the Dodgers for a mere “bag of balls” while the Mets continue to suffer from poor relief pitching. “C’mon, Omar, can you try to sign someone who isn’t from a certain part of the world?” sighed the caller, who received a mild rebuke from Carlin (“would you really want John Maine as your closer?”). The blatantly racist implication — an argument advanced by a handful of WFAN callers over the past few seasons — that Minaya considers ethnicity above baseball credentials, went unchallenged by the host (whom to fair, might not have heard what his listener was clearly saying). You’d have thought the offseason acquisitions of Latino legends Ryan Church and Brian Schneider would’ve put an end to this sort of bullshit.