The match between Joe Torre and the Yankees was as close to perfection as one could want in today's baseball world: twelve years of service, twelve playoff appearances, ten AL East titles, six World Series appearances, four World Series wins.
Last October, after all that success, all the Yankees could muster was a bad faith contract offer.
Of the contract offer from the Yankees, Torre said, "The fact that somebody is reducing your salary is just telling me they're not satisfied with what you're doing...If somebody wants you to do a job, if it takes them two weeks to figure out, yeah, we want to do this, should do this, yeah, you're a little suspicious.
I like to work with people—there's a certain trust that has to be earned and forged in order to have the commitment to follow...it wasn't the type of commitment that 'we're trying to do something together,' as opposed to 'let me see what you can do for me.'"
From '96 to '07, Torre's managerial reign in the Bronx, the Yankees winning percentage was .605. The ten years prior, from '85 to '95, their percentage was .518, and the team had just one postseason appearance.
Torre had a knack for getting the best out of both his veterans and his young players, earning the loyalties of his players in the process. His greatest ability, is in how his teams tended to consistently build to a crescendo throughout the season.
Often starting slow, feeling each other and their opponents out in April and May, gaining chemistry with their teammates in June and July, then pressing the gas in August and September, while making that homestretch playoff push.
Accountability was never a question and injuries never an issue, Torre pushed each of their buttons properly and got them to play for him as well as their teammates.
Instead of Torre, the Yankees hired former Marlins manager (and Yankees catcher!) Joe Girardi. Girardi was the hot name on the market, and was hired because the Yankees didn't feel Torre could handle the team's young pitching staff, and Girardi, who allegedly handled the Marlins 2006 staff really great, even though they all broke down in 2007, could.
The Dodgers were apparently interested in Girardi first before the Yankees got to him, but the Dodgers had to settle on Torre.
Interesting isn't it, that with 21 games left, the Yankees, are ten games back of the division lead, eight games out of a wild card spot, and dwelling in irrelevancy? Even more interesting though is that the best pitcher for the Yankees this season has been veteran Mike Mussina.
Most interesting, though, is that with 20 games left, the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks today to land themselves in first place, half a game ahead of Arizona. Make the arguments about divisions strengths, actual records, opponents schedules, or anything else. Its irrelevant. Torre has his team in position at the right time.
For the Yankees this year, number One starter Chien-Ming Wang, as well as top prospects Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Phillip Hughes all saw the DL this season, and it clearly impacted the team. Torre wouldn't have let that happen.
When Girardi was hired, ESPN analyst Keith Law wrote an article titled "Girardi's the right man for the job." I wonder what he's thinking now?