October 12, 2006

Torre Situation Just Déjà Vu for Yankees

Print More

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times and you know this is getting old.

Last Saturday the Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Yankees behind Jeremy Bonderman’s solid 8 1/3 innings and, subsequently, Hell froze over. People in Detroit, who saw its team lose 119 games just three years ago, started to celebrate. Detroit players then sprayed champagne into the crowd, celebrating it’s most recent playoff series win in Rock City. Manager Jim Leyland was hoisted on the shoulders of his players and paraded around like an idol. It was even reported that the first-year manager danced with the team inside the clubhouse after the game. The celebration rivaled that of winning a World Series — what a difference a few years makes.

Last year’s joke of the league, with the addition of Kenny Rogers and Leyland’s blue collar no-nonsense attitude, defeated arguably the best lineup ever assembled in baseball history based on numbers, and completely changed the playoff landscape of professional baseball. Now, the Bronx Bombers are baseball’s newest and biggest joke.

Around this time last year I wrote a column about how the Yankees had lost to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and how George Steinbrenner ignored recent trends in baseball by keeping Joe Torre as his manager after six seasons without winning a World Championship despite having a $200 million payroll. The opening lead of the story was that it all seemed like déjà vu.

Today, déjà vu is an understatement. The Yankees, who are just 3-10 in the postseason since 2004, recently seem unable to deliver. Baseball fans everywhere are forced to watch Joe Torre get up in front of cameras and speak about his relationship with George Steinbrenner, thanking him for the opportunity to coach and about how hard every season seems to be — remember it was a slow start in 2005 and injuries to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield hampered them this season.

That’s why after watching the same scenario take place three years in a row, I say this is getting old. The sad part is that many baseball fans are watching in joy as the Yankee dynasty unravels and the house that Ruth built implodes to the ground. And yet, manager Joe Torre is still there.

Most owners would have fired Torre after this year. But instead, without noticing a new trend which shows that teams are winning the World Series with first or second year managers, Torre is staying. For a franchise that hired 19 managers in a 23-year span before Torre arrived in the Bronx, I’d say the move still makes absolutely no sense.

The fact is that it has been six seasons since Torre last won a World Series. Ozzie Guillen won with the Chicago White Sox last season in his second season as manager. Two years ago, it was the Boston Red Sox who won with new manager Tony Francona. The year before that it was Jack McKeon in his first season as manager of the Florida Marlins. In 2002, Mike Scioscia and the Angels won the World Series in his third year at the helm. Lastly, it was Bob Brenly in his first season as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks who won the World Championships in 2001. Even scarier is that the likely favorites to win the World Series this year are Willie Randolph in his second year with the New York Mets, Leyland in his first year with the Tigers and Ken Macha in his fourth season with the Oakland Athletics.

Even though Torre has one year remaining on his contract, Steinbrenner let the public know that Good Ol’ Joe will be back next season in his 12th campaign as skipper for the New York Yankees. Although he hasn’t won since 2000, and has seen his team dumped in the first round of the playoffs each of the last two seasons, Torre continues to flounder in what he calls “the best job of my life.”

Support for Joe is uncanny. Players, fans and front office members alike all have rallied around to Joe’s corner. The interesting part is that the people in support of Joe are the same people who have helped the Beast of the East slay itself when it comes to the post-season. Relief pitcher Ron Villone called Joe “a class act” who “knows what he is doing.” Jaret Wright, who went 2 2/3 innings in the Game 4 loss, showed his support by saying that Torre “wasn’t the one who had the at-bats and that he didn’t throw the pitches.” Lastly, it was reported through Alex Rodriguez’s publicist that the former American League MVP, who batted eighth last Saturday in the Yankee lineup, also supported Torre, saying he wanted the skipper to stay.

Isn’t it shocking that those who want Torre to stay are the ones that Torre keeps playing in the post-season instead of regular season stand-outs like Melky Cabrera who was dismissed to pinch running stints in the playoffs until his game four start in left field last Saturday. There is a chance that all the people who keep supporting Torre will be on their way out of the Bronx, leaving Joe all by himself.

Yankee loyalists seem relieved that he is staying. For me, however, this situation is getting just a little old.

Tim Kuhls is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. That’s Kuhls, Baby will appear every other Thursday this semester.