Joe Torre's Book Wasn't as Bad as Everyone Made It out to Be
When the news broke that Joe Torre was releasing a book he wrote about his time as the Yankees' manager, a lot of people around baseball thought this was a bad thing.
In sports there is the unspoken code that what goes on in house stays in house.
To some degree I think that's fair, but if a person is simply relaying their personal experiences, I don't find anything wrong with that.
When the book came out, there were a lot of Yankee fans that said they wouldn't consider reading Torre's book because they felt he might somehow portray the Yankees in a bad light.
Not even close.
Personally, I couldn't wait to read it. Never for one minute did I think that Joe Torre, one of the classiest guys around, would write a book bad mouthing the Yankees.
The book, co-written with Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci, detailed Torre's road in baseball until he was hired by George Steinbrenner in the offseason in 1995 and all the various things he went through in his 12 years in the Bronx.
In fact, Torre did detail his relationship with the Boss, the comings and goings of various players, the great Yankee championship teams, the change in how the Yankee teams were constructed, the break down of his relationship with Brian Cashman, and yes, he mentioned Alex Rodriguez, too.
From my perspective, his chapter on A-Rod was enlightening. Rodriguez is one of the most puzzling celebrity out there. For as talented a player as he is, he often stands out like a sore thumb because of the things he says and does that do not draw positive attention to himself. He is needy, and trying to get him out of his own head is almost impossible.
Torre explained how, by the time the Yankees signed Rodriguez, there was a big shift in the types of players the team was signing. Gone were the players like O'Neill, Brosius, Bernie, and Tino, who understood the team was the most important thing. All that remained of that kind of mentality was Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera. They were outnumbered by those who didn't grow up under the same roof, and the results demonstrated that.
Torre said that he and several other members of the coaching staff, as well as teammates, tried to make Alex Rodriguez feel as comfortable as possible. However, Torre noted that his focus always drifted to himself.
In the middle of the 2004 season, Rodriguez was walking by Torre in the dugout and Torre told him, "You know, you'll be fine. It just takes a little time to adjust to playing here."
Said Rodriguez, "Well my numbers are about the same as this time last year."
A-Rod couldn't wrap his head around what Torre was trying to say to him. For Alex, everything was about the numbers and that's something that changed the dynamic of the Yankees as a team.
However, Torre didn't fail to praise Rodriguez either. He said repeatedly in the A-Rod chapter that for a player of his caliber, he never stops working. There isn't anyone who works harder than him, and he'll do whatever is asked of him in order to improve. He doesn't feel that there is anything too trivial for him when it comes to playing better.
In that entire chapter, I really didn't find any part where Torre bad mouthed Rodriguez. He said what most of us know to be true already. Rodriguez attracts a lot of attention to himself whether he wants to or not.
He more than not seems like he's trying too hard when it comes to the media, and he really doesn't know how to be one of the guys because he always wants to be a level above where everyone else is.
As far as the breakdown in the Torre/Cashman relationship, I found that part probably the most sad in the entire book. Torre and Cashman worked together for 12 years, and as Cashman got more power from George Steinbrenner, the worse things got for Torre.
Cashman appointed a lot of his people to higher positions. Torre described walking into the Yankee clubhouse or the coaches' office and finding people that had never been there before. Cashman was a numbers guy, and as far as he was concerned the stat sheets and video on players was the best Intel there was.
It was those stat sheets and intel that brought Carl Pavano, Randy Johnson, Jared Wright, and many others to the Yankees—we all know how well those guys worked out.
Cashman had eyes and ears everywhere. Torre talked about the spring that Ron Guidry was hired to be the Yankees' pitching coach. This was a guy that had been a Yankee his entire career, won two World Championships, and was one of the greatest pitchers of his time. He also understood what it was to play in New York, and could impart that wisdom on the young and new pitchers coming to the Yankees.
Cashman felt that Guidry had no experience, and wouldn't benefit the Yankees, while Torre felt that Guidry's experience not only as a player, but as a former Yankee would be nothing but an asset.
At the end of Torre's time with the Yankees, he ultimately felt like he was left out in the cold. Cashman had separated himself from Torre completely by then, and the deterioration of George Steinbrenner greatly affected the way the Yankees did business.
When I finished reading the book, I felt like I had a better understanding of a lot of things. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and I'm sure Brian Cashman and others mentioned in the book saw things differently than Torre.
The book is very well written; it moves quickly, and brings back lots of good memories for Yankee fans. More than that, the book really showed just how well Joe Torre handled one of the toughest jobs out there for one of the toughest bosses imaginable, with some of the most demanding fans in the history of sports.
Any Yankee fan who is hesitant about reading the book should definitely pick it up. For anyone who thinks Joe Torre betrayed the Yankees and their fans by putting the pen to the paper, they couldn't be more wrong.
Torre shined a light on all that is great about the Yankees, while reminding us that if we stray too far from what got us all that success for those 12 years, this nine year drought of no ticker tape parade will feel like nothing compared to what we could be facing.
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