October 9, 2006

NIGHT OF THE LONG SPIKES:

Out with old, in with Lou: The Boss must show Joe the door & hire Piniella (Mike Lupica, 10/09/06, NY Daily News)

George Steinbrenner does not make his pitching any younger, or better, by firing Joe Torre. He does not turn Alex Rodriguez into Mr. October, instead of the guy who just puts the O's in October. He can't buy a new heart for the most expensive team in baseball. This is still the right time for Steinbrenner to make a change. Nobody gets to be Yankee manager forever, not even Torre.

This is a time for a new voice, in the clubhouse and in the dugout and in the organization. The best one out there, by far, a voice you can't ever ignore, belongs to an old Yankee line-drive hitter named Lou Piniella. He is not a perfect choice to manage the Yankees. The only perfect choice turned out to be the man he would be replacing. Sweet Lou Piniella is just the best choice.

If Steinbrenner has his way - and he was described by those who know him yesterday as having his "finger on the button" - then Torre goes.


Time To Fire Joe Torre Has Arrived (TIM MARCHMAN, October 9, 2006, NY Sun)
The old school wisdom is that good pitching beats good hitting. State of the art research by Nate Silver and Dayn Perry, published in this year's book "Baseball Between the Numbers," shows that the strikeout rate of a team's starters and the quality of its closer and defense correlate with playoff triumphs far better than anything else. Whichever angle you take, the Tigers, not the Yankees, were the team built for the playoffs, as you can see from the results. The Yanks won the game started by their best pitcher, lost a close one in the game started by their second-best pitcher, and were destroyed in the games in which they sent an elderly and infirm Randy Johnson and a wretched Jaret Wright to the hill. None of this is stunning.

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.

Still, he has to go. He's been with the Yankees for 11 years, and that's a long time to manage in New York. He's not a failure, and any movement to paint him as one in the next few days will be stupid — the team may not have won a World Series since Bill Clinton was president, but it's won two pennants, developed some great young talent, and been consistently excellent over the last six years, often in quite trying circumstances. (The rest of the country and Mets Nation weep salty tears for those trying circumstances, of course, but losing your starting outfield is never fun.) If he's a failure, so are Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa.

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.

People may hate Rodriguez, may think he's a failure and a phony and a fraud, but he remains a transcendent talent and the best player on the team. This is a player who's one day going to hold the career records for home runs and runs, and Torre has gone out of his way to expose him to shame and embarrassment. Like his baffling decisions and the failure of the Yankees to win a World Series, it's not on its own the sort of thing that should lead to his dismissal. Add it all together and factor in how long a tenure 11 years is in today's game, though, and it's time for Torre to collect his complementary watch and be out.


Buster OIney's book strongly, though unintentionally, suggests that Jeter is just as big a problem as Torre. They don't like the guys who weren't on the winning teams of the 90s so they just don't bother to deal with them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 9, 2006 8:03 AM
Comments

Watching the narcissistic Damnyankee fans eat their own is almost as much fun as seeing the team disgrace itself on the field.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 9, 2006 11:02 AM
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