Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why Joe should go - A Sox perspective

I know, why would you care - bitter Sox fan says, Yankees should fire Torre... no news there, but... they should - I have yet to see one argument, anywhere, beyond the emotional appeal, that says Joe is the best manager the Yankees could have.

But truthfully - beyond the emotional argument, what reason is there not to fire Joe? Yankees management are very clear each year - the goal is to win the World Series - not the AL East, not the AL - you can argue all you like on the reasonableness of that goal, but that is the goal - and the Yankees haven't achieved that goal in 6 seasons, heck they haven't even won the AL pennant in 3 seasons now (and believe me that should be 5...). Shouldn't the manager take some of the blame?

I would hope that no one would argue that Joe isn't a consummate player's manager - he has managed a club-house full of large egos...

Well that is a line that is always trotted out, but is it actually true? Who are these amazing egos? The Yankees are (and I am grinding my teeth as I type this) the largest franchise in baseball - the team has its own ego, the history of the franchise has its own ego - very few players rise up and become (even) as large as the Yankees - that is why so many of us, even those of us with little rooting interest in the Yankees, can name those players... Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Jeter... that is a pretty short list for a team with 26 World Series rings (and genuine apologies, I am a Red Sox fan, I know I will have missed some players that should be on that list - Neil M can admonish me tomorrow).

So who are these massive egos? Sheffield had the potential to be difficult, but aside from one or two minor grumblings, has been a team player... Giambi's BALCO admissions had the potential to be noisy, but the media (as they did originally) really just let this part of the story die on the vine at the alter of the chase for Bonds... A-Rod v Jeter - the NY fans and media were only letting there be one winner in that story, and A-Rod acknowledged that the day he agreed to move to 3rd base - and in that clubhouse - full of veterans - don't some of the other players, including Captain Intangibles, deserve some of the credit for keeping a quiet clubhouse? So which massive ego has Joe managed to the benefit of the Yankees?

I would also ask - is a manager really there to make sure all his staff are happy - isn't a manager there to make sure his team performs? I wouldn't mind my boss bringing me coffee, donuts and a morning paper every day - it would certainly make me happy - might not make me perform at my best... every player says Joe is a great manager, but a great manager knows when to pat, and when to punish - isn't the recent A-Rod SI story the first time we have heard him speak "harshly" of a player in public? Ah, I hear you mutter, that just shows how good he is - what happens in the clubhouse, stays in Joe's clubhouse - then if that is true, he chose to break that habit with A-Rod, in SI, two weeks before the play-offs? In this intense media age, isn't it just more likely that he just doesn't do 'tough love' in the clubhouse?

(And yes, he has practiced tough love on Kevin Brown... and no doubt on one or two other nobodies, but really, how hard is it to practice tough love on a guy that nobody liked...)

The thing that amazed me watching the Yankees over the last few days was the lack of fight - clearly in play-off series, particularly the DS - a good team can lose to a not so good team, but they shouldn't be outplayed, out-thought or out-fought - shouldn't the manager take some responsibility for that lack of fight, for the lack of passion shown by the team... and he isn't the go to guy for displays of fire, anyone looking to Torre for passion on the bench on Saturday was greeted by a glum, gum chewing guy with his hands in his pockets...

And it is not as if Yankee fans theselves think that Joe is beyond reproach... every blog has questioned his bullpen moves at some point this year, and his willingness to run the bullpen arms he trusts into the ground in the regular season has hurt the Yankees in the postseason, even if that wasn't a particular contributor to this year's failure.

But perhaps this story from the New York Sun sums up what I am trying to say (and a hat tip to The Weblog That Derek Built):
So, how is this Joe Torre's fault? The simple answer is that it's not. He did make some awfully stupid moves.

Starting Gary Sheffield at first base was incomprehensible, starting Wright over Cory Lidle was pretty ridiculous; his lineup moves from batting Bob Abreu third against a lefty to batting Rodriguez eighth were goofy as hell, and his puzzling rotations of Melky Cabrera, Bernie Williams, and Jason Giambi in and out of the lineup may as well have been based on astrology. None of that would have much mattered had the team had better starters.

Not being a failure doesn't make him a success, though, and it's his handling of Rodriguez that really marks the difference between why he should stay and why he should go. Torre has never been much of a strategist or tactician — his main strength has always been his ability to manage the egos of players and put them in position to succeed. He not only hasn't done that with Rodriguez, he's brutally humiliated him, first by participating in the shameful and repulsive team hit job on the embattled third baseman that ran in Sports Illustrated last month, and then by batting him eighth in a playoff elimination game.No matter how badly Rodriguez was hitting, he wasn't hitting any worse than anyone else on the team. Singling him out that way made him the story, rather than the collective failure. It was a crass move, and it didn't work.
For me "Not being a failure doesn't make him a success" sums up why, after 11 years in the job, and 6 years since the Yankees last bothered lower Manhattan in October, it is time for Joe to go.

And as a Sox fan... seriously George, Lou is the right man for the job...

0 threw a strike:

Post a Comment

<< Home