The Joe Torre Era appears to be finally over. Unless the Yankees or Torre have a sudden about-face, which seems unlikely, it’s done. “And that’s that,” as Martin Scorsese’s father said in Good Fellas over Joe Pesci’s fallen, and bleeding body.
Torre became an icon as manger of the Yankees, a native son who was one of the most popular and famous coaches New York has ever seen. He was far and away the most successful manager under George Steinbrenner. And he managed more than twice as many games as anyone under the Boss. Torre made the playoffs in each of his twelve years in New York. But the Yankees have not won the World Series since 2000 and Torre makes more than twice as much as any other manager in the game. Today, the Yankees made Torre an offer he could refuse. It was not an outrageously insulting offer, but it is one they could reasonably expect him to turn down.
Torre did and now is out, but on his own terms. “He finally showed some balls,” barked a friend of mine. I didn’t think Torre would ever walk away from the Yankees, but I like him more for it. And he still comes out smelling like a Rose. To be honest, I agree with Joe Morgan and several other talking heads I’ve heard tonight in seeing both sides of the equation. I understand why Torre turned them down. After all of his success you’d think he’d get more than a one-year deal. But I also understand that the Yankees would still be paying more well more than any other manager is earning. It’s not bad business on their part.
I don’t know if the Yankees have any idea of what they are doing (Also, I find Randy Levine to be crude without having any of Steinbrenner’s charm). It’s funny, but even hardcore Yankee fans are skeptical about the idea of Don Mattingly as manager. Some are terrified. Which is about how I feel too, even though I loved Mattingly as a player. But I thought Torre was a bum when they hired him too, so one never knows…
I’d still expect to see Posada and Rivera back, even without Torre. Who knows with Alex Rodriguez and I’m not so certain about Pettitte either. I’m okay with the Yankees moving on. It makes things exciting. But it also feels uneasy. So much change: the loss of Bernie and now Torre, the decline of Steinbrenner. Who knows what the roster will look like on Opening Day?
I will also miss Torre very much. I grew accustomed to his face, as the song goes. I love watching him on TV–he gives great press conference–and am a flat-sucker for the Poppa Joe routine. I was 25 and had just moved to Brooklyn when he was hired. Torre looked like an undertaker or the butcher from the neighborhood. His time with the Yankees will always stand out as a way to look at a certain time of my life–from being single and working in the film business, to being married and writing about baseball. In fact, it was the great Yankee run of the late nineties that compelled me to start writing about baseball in the first place.
Torre has been a wonderful manager and I’ve never been especially bugged about his shortcomings, though I recognize he’s got plenty. I’ll especially love the days with Don Zimmer, not only because the Yankees were winning all the time, just because those two were so amusing. Torre sure loved being Yankee manager and without the pinstripes he may be a little bit like Superman without the cape and suit. But I’m sure he’ll land back in the broadcast booth–if he doesn’t go and manage the Dodgers or something like that–and still be appealing.
Thanks for the memories, Joe. You done good.