When the illustrious General George Washington entered a crowded room, silence ensued. The profound presence of the great man was enough to stir the silence even amongst the rowdiest of crowds.
George Washington, to put in lay man's terms, was a Man...a Man among men. When he spoke, he spoke with the interests of the Republic in his heart, mind, and soul.
Joe Torre too is a Man. When he speaks, he speaks with the interests of the game of baseball in his heart, mind, and soul. In recent weeks, some baseball analysts questioned Joe Torre's decision to go forward with a tell-all book entitled "The Yankee Years."
A few have even argued that the great baseball man had taken the low road. The low road? Really? That is quite a slanderous attack on a man of the game.
Joe Torre has given over 50 years of his life to this great game of baseball. He grew up in the game as a ballplayer during a time when players actually played the game...for THE LOVE OF THE GAME. How about that? THE LOVE OF THE GAME! Where do we hear that these days...other than some sub-par Kevin Costner movie?
Torre left the playing field and joined the managerial ranks managing the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, and his current stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He earned the respect of his players who played under him, as well as his coaches.
My grandfather Rube Walker was Torre's pitching coach with the New York Mets. When upper management for the Mets informed Walker in 1981 that Torre was being fired, my grandfather gave upper management an ultimatum ("If Torre goes, I go!"). Thus, Torre and Walker were fired!
However, Torre never forgot my grandfather's stand. After being hired prior to the 1982 season by the Atlanta Braves as manager, Torre hired Rube Walker as his pitching coach. In 1982, the Atlanta Braves ended up winning their first division title since 1969.
Torre spent several years as a broadcaster after leaving the Braves in 1984. But, he returned to managing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1990, where he posted three winning seasons in a row from 1991-1993. My grandfather was also employed by the Cardinals during this time working as a scout for the St. Louis organization up until his death in 1992. Among the well-wishers at my grandfather's funeral in the small mountain town of Lenoir, North Carolina was Joe Torre himself!
After Torre was unceremoniously fired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1995 in midseason, he was hired by the New York Yankees and George Steinbrenner. And what did Torre do during his tenure as manager of the Yankees? In his 12 seasons as manager, he won 10 division titles, six American League pennants, and four World Series championships.
He won these World Series titles with farm system talent and a multitude of reasonably priced free agents. When Brian Cashman began spending for the BIG MARKET free agents like Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, and Carl Pavano, the Yankees won zero World Series championships.
Torre had championed a system where he had little and created a lot. Cashman wished to install a system that had a lot...but in the end, created nothing! Torre was the product of the old-school...the Golden Age of baseball...when players placed team and teammates above their own selfish interests.
It was an age of baseball where a Roger Maris would lay down a suicide squeeze in a magical season where he was chasing Babe Ruth for the most homeruns in a single season. It was an age where Mickey Mantle would play hurt...sometimes in excruciating pain...to ensure that he could support his team on the playing field.
It was an age where Roberto Clemente would risk injury making a diving attempt to catch a pop fly in foul territory. Cashman was part of the business age of baseball where the game expanded to market itself commercially for the benefit of explosive profits.
He saw the game of baseball as a gigantic market that can be exploited by pursuing good ballplayers at unreasonably expensive prices. Thus, in Cashman's mind, a winning team can buy out the talent field available in the game.
The "old-school" Torre versus the "profiteer" Cashman is a significant clash of titans. The former believing that championships are earned and the latter believing that championships are bought. Torre is right to highlight those differences with Cashman.
His book should not be seen as an indictment on Cashman, Steinbrenner, or the Yankees. It should be seen as an indictment on this generation of ballplayers. There are very few players out there who go all out for THE LOVE OF THE GAME. Torre wanted more Derek Jeters...and fewer A-Rods (or should I say A-Frauds?).
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