Torre Fires Deserving Shot at Yankees
When Sparky Lyle's "The Bronx Zoo" was released in 1979, it was viewed as a light-hearted, but serious, account of the controversial chicanery that was the Yankees clubhouse during their championship 1978 campaign. The man known for his large moustache was traded to Texas that offseason.
Fast forward nearly two decades and the latest written account of the dysfunctional family known as the Bronx Bombers have been exposed once again, this time by a former manager. Even casual observers have to understand that this organization elicits this type of negative response by their own doing. The last person anyone expected to throw barbs would be Torre, who is spoken of as if he is being anointed for sainthood.
When Torre left New York for Los Angeles in 2008, he did it reluctantly but felt as if his 12-year New York run - which included four World Series rings - was not appreciated. Ownership did not go out of its way to shower the Brooklyn native with love by offering him a contract that included win incentives.
"The Yankee Years," which was co-authored by well-respected Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci, shows that Torre felt that George Steinbrenner forced big-name players on him that he had no desire to add to a team that had been a dynasty. The Yankee teams from 1996 through 2000 were known for their stars and role players. As the pieces started to fall off, square pegs replaced them.
Players such as Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano and Kevin Brown came on board with huge, long-term contracts and under-performed. The only one still on the team is Rodriguez, who is mentioned often in Torre's book.
"When Alex came over, it became strained in the clubhouse," Torre wrote. "When it comes to a key situation, he can't get himself to concern himself with getting the job done, instead of how it looks."
The biggest knock against A-Rod is that he is not a clutch hitter, especially in the post-season. Since he was acquired from Texas in 2004, his batting average in five playoff series has been .421, .258, .133, .071 and .267, with only 4 home runs and 9 RBI. From your $25-million third baseman, you would expect much higher production.
Finally ridding themselves of Giambi's contract this winter, the Yankees were more than happy to let the former American League MVP go back to Oakland. The epitome of a team player, Tino Martinez, was shown the door as Giambi was coming through it.
"They wanted Jason," continued Torre. George [Steinbrenner] really liked the big bopper. I was outvoted, which was fine." Apparently it wasn't, or else Torre wouldn't be bringing it up.
By bringing in old, but still expensive pitchers like Johnson and Brown, the Yankees showed that they were reaching and no matter what they did, they still couldn't win a pennant since 2001. Bringing in former MVP's, Cy Young Award winners and the best player in baseball has not produced as the Steinbrenners had hoped.
Torre had a front row seat through all of this and proved that he was far from finished. In his first year at the helm of the Dodgers, he led the to the National League West crown.