The Strange Story of Joe Torre vs. The Yankees
Think back to the movie “Rocky V” for a second. I know it’s hard to, since it’s the worst sequel in the “Rocky” movie series. Boxing promoter George Washington Duke wants Rocky to fight his protégé Tommy “The Machine” Gunn. In the end Rocky takes him on in a street fight and mercilessly beats him.
“Rocky V” came out in 1990. Now fast forward to Saturday–it was almost the same principle.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, headed by former New York Yankee manager Joe Torre, decisively beat Joe Girardi’s Yanks 9-4. The Bronx Bombers had won on Friday by a count of 2-1, setting up the rubber game yesterday night.
Girardi served as a player and a coach under Torre, so in the words of Duke, it would be “Old lion vs. young lion; teacher vs. pupil” for the series win.
And what a rubber game it was.
The Dodgers seemingly had an easy series victory heading into the ninth inning, leading 6-2 with one out and the flame-throwing Jonathan Broxton on the mound. Who would have guessed the Yankees would play the role of comeback kids?
The Bombers scored four runs in the ninth frame to knot the game at six. A double by Robinson Cano to score Alex Rodriguez, a single by Chad Huffman to score Cano and Jorge Posada, and a fielder’s choice by Colin Curtis to score Curtis Granderson.
An improbable, but not impossible comeback–how many times have we seen this from the Yankees? (Whether they were managed by Torre or Girardi)
Cano later played the role of hero, belting a long two-run homer to left-center field in the top of the tenth, his 15th round-tripper of the season, to put the Yankees up 8-6.
From there they never looked back, taking the series from the Dodgers 2-1 and leaving So-Cal with a record of 47-28, still in first place in the AL East.
The pupil prevailed over the teacher this weekend, and it really came down to the pitching.
Broxton had thrown 19 pitches on Saturday and tossed an overwhelming amount of pitches during last night’s game. In fact, the Dodgers’ closer threw 48 pitches over the one inning he worked.
Don’t you think that’s enough? Closers are not supposed to be throwing 67 pitches over two days. They are not really built for that kind of work. Granted, the Yankees were extremely patient with Broxton; Posada and Curtis both worked 10-pitch at-bats, while Granderson worked an eight-pitch at-bat.
Among all three of those hitters, Broxton tossed 28 pitches.
But Torre refused to take him out. It even took him awhile to get another pitcher up and warming in the bullpen before Broxton went on to blow the lead. When he could have taken Broxton out for another pitcher, he left him in the game, only to lose it.
And this, my friends, is (why I think) the Yankees had to let Torre go.
Do not misunderstand me; I have nothing but respect for him. Every year he was Yankee manager he led his team to the playoffs. Four times out of those 12 (which would translate to 1/3 of his years as Yankee manager) he took them all the way to the World Series Title. Six out of those 12 seasons (or 1/2 of his years as Yankee manager) the Yankees were in the World Series.
From where the Yankees were (which in a lot of ways they were in a state of mediocrity from the early 1980s into the late ’90s) Torre brought them back. He turned the team around and the Yankees, under Torre, once again became THE YANKEES.
Torre’s resume and what he did at the helm of the Yankees speaks for itself. Four World Titles, six pennants…that’s just amazing. Most managers can only dream about what Torre did when he was the head man for the Bronx Bombers.
However some of his decisions regarding the bullpen were often criticized, especially towards the end of his run in 2006 and 2007. As far as that criticism goes, it was well-deserved. He over-used many of his bullpen pitchers and slowly they faded away; they lost their luster and were never the same pitchers again.
Consider former Yankee relief pitcher Scott Proctor. From 2004-05 with the Yankees (and under Torre) he only made 56 appearances out of the bullpen–which is respectable over a two-year span. But in 2006, Torre used him out of the ‘pen 83 times and he tossed a mind-numbing 102 1/3 innings.
For a reliever, that’s just absurd; it’s not even fair! And it was the same story in 2007.
Before the Yankees traded him to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit in the middle of the ’07 season, Proctor was used 52 times with 54 1/3 innings already under his belt. He once again finished the season with 83 appearances and 86 1/3 innings pitched.
Again, it just wasn’t right for Torre to use him that many times.
Buster Olney, baseball insider and author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” mentioned in his book that one of Torre’s former pitchers (who chose to go unnamed) said, “I think Joe Torre is a great manager. He nearly ruined my arm, but he is a great manager.”
I have no doubt in my mind that Proctor was the pitcher who said this.
On the night of Oct. 8, 2007, Yankee Stadium burst into a loud chant of “Joe Torr-e (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)” It was his final game as Yankee manager and this was the fans’ way of saying goodbye, as they knew this would probably be his last round as Yankee skipper.
I was watching the game at home and something was happening to me; I felt strange and sad. I also knew Torre’s days as head of the Yankees were numbered and as soon as the Yankees exited the first round of the playoffs he would probably be gone.
It was sad to me, because he was really the only Yankee manager I knew; when Buck Showalter was the manger before Torre, I was young and not nearly as big of a Yankee fan as I am now.
I remember texting my dad after the game was over, and I expressed my sadness about Torre. My dad’s response: “It doesn’t matter what the Yankees do. He is still the BEST manager in baseball!”
That text message almost made me cry–because at the time I believed it was true.
The Yankees offered Torre a small salary at the conclusion of ’07–$6 million for a year, plus an additional $million for every round of the playoffs he could make it through. If he could reach and win the World Series, he could potentially make $9 million.
The offer, to me, was insulting and disrespectful.
How could the Yankees, in their right minds, basically (in not so many words) say, “Well Mr. Torre, you haven’t won the title in a long time; seven years, in fact. Maybe the money will give you extra incentive to want to win it all again.”
In his first year as Yankee manager, Torre brought them a title. It had been 18 years since the Yankees had won a Championship. The New York newspapers even went out of their way to call him “Clueless Joe” when he was named skipper, thinking he had no idea what he was doing.
He certainly proved that he did know what he was doing when it came to management–at least up until the end of his tenure.
Apparently the Yankee organization looked past all that when they came up with the poor excuse for a deal. I still cannot believe they offered him that deal, but I also think the Yankees knew what they were doing; I think they wanted to make him that deal because they knew he wouldn’t accept it.
Basically, they were trying to move him out and they succeeded.
It seems now that the Yankees (in a way) have turned on Torre. There has been speculation about a “rift” between Torre and Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ General Manager. After all, Cashman is responsible for coming up with the deals and is really the main person in charge of negotiations, so the idea for Torre’s insulting deal could have been his brainchild.
I don’t think Torre’s book “The Yankee Years” helped at all, either.
In the book, Torre mentioned something about Rodriguez and how he and others called him “A-Fraud.” I never really heard Torre deny the claim or refute it in any way, so maybe he did say some unfavorable things about his superstar player.
As for Rodriguez: he didn’t care. When A-Rod was going through the “steroid saga” prior to the 2009 season, Torre’s comments in the book came up in questioning. Rodriguez simply stated, “I’m a good receiver, not a good ragger. When people rag on me, I take it. But I don’t like to rag on other people.”
Torre and Rodriguez hadn’t spoken until Sunday, when A-Rod approached his former manager during batting practice and talked with him. If you ask me, it was one of those, “Everyone has noticed we haven’t said anything to each other, so let’s just say something to each other to get them off our backs.”
It’s nothing Bill Belichick hasn’t done a million times in his life.
If the media hadn’t pointed it out, would Rodriguez have said anything to Torre at all? I’m not sure. I don’t really think it matters now, anyway. They acknowledged one another and now the press can stop talking about it.
All I can say now is that I have the utmost respect for Torre. I don’t think he makes the right decisions in terms of his bullpen, and last night was just another example of that. To leave Broxton in for that long was simply a bad move; it backfired on him, as it has several times when he was Yankee manager.
Yet I haven’t forgotten him; in my mind, he will always be a Yankee legend. No matter how bad his rift is with the organization, no matter what he said in his book, and no matter how far away he is, he will always be my favorite Yankee skipper.
But…I am sure glad we beat him this weekend. I love Torre, but I LOVE the Yankees.