"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 1/27/09

To paraphrase a good song, “Ghost writers . . . in . . . the . . . skyyyyy!”

To quote another good song …

May I have your attention please?
May I have your attention please?
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Slim Shady please stand up?
We’re gonna have a problem here.

Here’s the news, linked/reported entirely by me, in the first person:

  • It looks like the Yanks won’t have to resort to Jason Johnson or Freddy Garcia as a possible fifth starter … Pettitte is a Yankee again:

Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees agreed Monday to a $5.5 million, one-year contract that brings the left-hander back to New York.

Pettitte can make an additional $6.5 million on performance bonuses and bonuses based on time on the active roster.

“There was never another team brought up,” Pettitte said during a conference call. “I wanted to come back to the Yankees.”

[My take: If Andy has recovered from his physical ailments of late '08, the Yanks rotation could be the best in the AL East.  Welcome back Andy ... you put us through a lot these past few weeks, but we'll see you soon!]

  • Here is MLB.com’s coverage of the Pettitte agreement.
  • PeteAbe of LoHud steps us to the plate with his assessment of the Torre/Verducci (or is it Verducci/Torre?)  book:

Now we have Torre, the man who restored the luster to a faded powerhouse, prostituting himself for the sake of a book and another few million.

… Torre clearly traded some secrets for money. Nobody wanted to read another warm tale about his brother in surgery or Don Zimmer cracking jokes, so Joe and Tom Verducci threw a few players and team executives into the fire. Verducci is an elegant writer and a terrific reporter. The book will be compelling and 100 percent true.

But that’s not really the point. We wanted Bernie Williams Day at the old Stadium. You’d like to see that old warhorse Clemens in Tampa teaching Phil Hughes how to bust somebody inside. And many Yankee fans would weep at the sight of Torre getting his number retired, fat tears running down his face again as Mo, Jorgie, Tino, Paulie and the Captain gather around. …

It just never ends well. Maybe it’s the money that saps them of their dignity. For others it’s the attention or the lifestyle. But our heroes so rarely walk away at the right time. They kick and scream and claw.

[My take: Verducci states its a third person account not just of Joe Torre but of the entire organization during the Torre years.  If so, why have Torre on the cover and give him top billing (or any billing for that matter).  If much of the meat of the book comes from Torre's recollections, then how it can it NOT be a Torre "expose"?  Why title a book something as non-descript and generic as "The Yankee Years" unless it dealt specifically with one particular person's "Years".   If Torre is indeed the "mass" around which the Yankee universe "spun" for a 12-year period, why not call it "The Torre Years in Yankeeland" or something more descriptive and ... dare I say it ... truthful.

Further clouding those questions is the fact that it is Torre, not Verducci, doing the book tour (at least per the publisher's website).

Also, why would a seemingly classy guy like Torre consent to writing (or merely contributing to?) this book while he is still managing in the Majors?  I know the Yanks won't be facing the Dodgers this year (unless its 1978 World Series deja vu), but why talk about active players, coaches, management, etc. of a former employer while you still interact with them to some extent?  This isn't like an autobiographical  "come with me as I recount the great season we had last year" book.  Nor is it a sportswriter penning a "a season of  team X's complete and utter failure" book.

Something just doesn't seem right about the "need" for this book at this particular time.  Maybe it IS all about the Benjamins.]

  • Richard Sandomir of the Times does an excellent job examining the morass of the “Verducci/Torre” book paradox, as follows:

Torre is cast as the leading character in Tom Verducci’s narrative — not as “I or me,” but in the third person as “Torre.” This isn’t Norman Mailer playing with alter egos like “Aquarius,” but a device that lets Torre recede now and then …

If the structure is not confusing (Torre’s quotations are all over the place), readers may occasionally wonder: what did Torre say that does not appear in quotation marks? When, if ever, did Torre (or Verducci) mute the manager’s strongest views to let other characters voice them? When Verducci asserts that some Yankees called Alex Rodriguez “A-Fraud” (which you don’t doubt because of Verducci’s great reputation), is Torre’s concurrence implicit in more tempered assessments?

  • In discussing the book, Tyler Kepner of the Times writes of the impact of A-Rod’s arrival, by quoting a fellow Times employee’s book review (separate bullet on that review later in this post):

“Whether hitting 450-foot home runs or sunbathing shirtless in Central Park or squiring strippers, Rodriguez was like nothing ever seen before on the championship teams of the Torre Era: an ambitious superstar impressed and motivated by stature and status, particularly when those qualities pertained to himself,” the authors write.

So there you have it: Joe Torre stating, on the record, that Rodriguez’s selfishness changed the character of the team.

[My take: No .... this doesn't definitively mean Torre is on the record as stating that A-Rod changed the character of the team, because its written in this "self-referential" third person tone.    The reader knows that both Verducci and Torre are responsible for this book, but who is the "owner" of any particular thought or observation?  This third person perspective is extremely lame and tiresome.  It gives Torre an "out", as if he isn't directly stating certain things .... does anyone remember Joe Torre EVER speaking of himself in the third person?  Why start now?]

  • Though the book isn’t supposed to be released for another week, the Times already has a review of it, including this:

There are two curious things about the book. One is that the volume is not a memoir but a third-person account, lacking anything resembling a personal voice and fleshed out with interviews with players like David Cone and Mike Mussina. The second is that it devotes less attention to the team’s remarkable run at the end of the millennium than to its subsequent fall from grace — a fall that began with the seventh game of the 2001 World Series, which the team lost when Mariano Rivera gave up a bloop single to Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and which marked what the former New York Times reporter Buster Olney would later call “the last night of the Yankee dynasty.”

“The Yankee Years” does a nimble, if at times cursory, job of reanimating the long highlight reel of the Torre era …

  • Newsday’s Arthur Staple thinks Torre is justified in taking a swing at the Yanks:

The Yankees played hardball with Joe Torre a little over a year ago. They dared their dignified, Hall-of-Fame skipper to walk by offering him a lowball contract, and he did walk.

That’s business, and it’s the way the Yankees chose to conduct theirs.

Torre has a book coming out in eight days — well, it’s former Newsday scribe and current Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci’s book, he says, even though it’s Torre’s name first on the cover — that spills a few secrets from 12 seasons as the Yankees manager.

That’s business, too. And if the Yankees, from the Steinbrenners on down to Alex Rodriguez, want to cry about it, maybe they can write their own books.

  • The Times’ Joshua Robinson has some distilled tidbits from the book, including this on Carl Pavano:

In no uncertain terms, the signing of Carl Pavano before the 2005 season is presented as a symbol of the Yankees’ impending decline. According to the book, Pavano had once been at the top of Torre’s wish list. But Torre still suspected Pavano might be a problem after a chance meeting at a restaurant in West Palm Beach, Fla. At a wedding rehearsal dinner, the book says, Torre saw Pavano as awkward and ill at ease and began to worry that he might underperform in the New York crucible.

Torre’s fears materialized. Injury followed injury — including a car accident in 2006 — and Pavano seemed all too happy to take his time rehabilitating. Torre was especially irked, the book says, about Pavano’s apparent disregard for his responsibility to his teammates. And, it seems that by spring training in 2006, Torre had caught wind of the clubhouse’s dislike for Pavano. Instead of protecting him, Torre had Pavano join the squad for their final spring training trip and effectively threw him to the wolves.

  • SI.com (Verducci’s employer) features an excerpt from the book.
  • In much more mundane news, Upper Deck is presenting a dedicated card collector with a trip to the Stadium and a meet-up with Derek Jeter.  All this collector did was track down every one of the special 6,661 cards Upper Deck produced in honor of that same number of games being played at the old Stadium.
  • MLB.com reports that the Braves have expressed a preference for Nick Swisher over Xavier Nady in trade talks with the Bombers.
  • Newly-acquired Angel Berroa turns 31 today.  Is this the same guy who won the 2003 AL ROY?
  • On this date in 2003, former Yankee Bob Kammeyer (pitched in 7 games in ’78 and 1 game in ’79) died of a pulmonary embolism, at the age of 52.  “Kammy” might have been best known for an incident where he allegedly took $100 from manager Billy Martin to intentionally hit Cleveland batter Cliff Johnson with a pitch.  The incident occurred in an inning where Kammeyer gave up 8 runs in the inning without retiring a batter, and was promptly demoted to the minors, never to return to the majors.
  • On this date in 1956, the New York Giants football team switches its home games to Yankee Stadium, leading to speculation that the baseball team will soon vacate the Polo Grounds as well.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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25 comments

1 PJ   ~  Jan 27, 2009 9:40 am

Good Morning Diane!

We have both Torre and Verducci in this unethical cash grab. Who is Slim, and who is Shady?

;)

2 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 27, 2009 9:46 am

I can't believe I'm contributing to this Torre stuff, but I think Olney is right in his blog today at espn.com (I'm pretty sure everyone knows where to find it).

I also wanted to bang my head against my desk, repeatedly, when I read this excerpt from Jack Curry over at the Times' Bats blog:

"Torre recalled how he told Cashman to unload Jeff Weaver after he allowed a game-ending homer in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series “because emotionally he can’t handle it, trying to come back from that.”"

If Torre knew that Weaver couldn't emotionally handle coming back from that - which his quote makes clear he did - then why did he ever put Weaver in the situation in the first place?!? For me, that's when Torre started to lose his luster, when he used Weaver instead of Mo in that game.

3 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 27, 2009 10:00 am

As a big Torre fan, I can't help but be a little disappointed in the timing of this book. Certainly, after retirement would have been more tasteful. It's also hard to believe he would trash his legacy with the Yanks, and his relationship with the Steinbrenner family and Cashman,

If the 'tastes' released so far are the 'hot stuff', then this book is going to be very tame. Goossip between your wife and her bast friend might be juicer. Moose and others spoke of the Pavano years. Torre's action here, while seeming mean spirited, is hardly hardball. Players called ARod A-Fraud? Can you visit a Yankee blog during any Yankee game where ARod is having a bad game and not here the A-Fraud term over and over? Is this really news? Really juicy?

It seems to me that the only news is that Torre would do this. That Torre would 'release' inside information. If this book didn't have Torre's name on it, we would be laughing at how lame/tame this 'tell-all' is.

Plus, we haven't heard any of the flattery or good things Torre has to say, which always tends to take the edge off. Is there a difference in reaction to these nexrt 2 sentances:

1) "ARod demanded attention all the time and was always looking for the spotlight. A number of players haved referred to him as A-Fraud"

2) "ARod demanded attention all the time and was always looking for the spotlight. A number of players haved referred to him as A-Fraud. But that's just who he is. Over the years, he has worked hard, wanted to win, and has gained the respect of many teammates".

I think people will need to read the entire book before we can pass judgement on Torre. I wish it weren't here to read, but we should reserve judgement until we know more.

It's sad that NOT ONLY did the Yankees FO behavior end up in Torre walking, but it happened in a way that Torre is OUT of the family. Certainly, his should have remained with the Yanks in some capacity. We also lost Donnie and Bowa. It was really done poorly.

4 rbj   ~  Jan 27, 2009 10:03 am

Did anyone else catch Verducci on Hot Stove on MLBN last night. Verducci comes across as this is his book, just with a lot of the information coming from Torre, and that it's not as much of a hit piece as it appears to be. I'll have to read the book myself to find out. Quite frankly, I'm not going to trust the newspaper reviews, they like to sensationalize things.

I'm sure it's being marketed as a Torre book just to get more sales. That was probably part of the deal with the publisher.

As to why Joe is doing this now, consider it like a divorce. For many years Joe & the Yankees were happily married (though with bad as well as good times, same as any marriage). Then the divorce happens and what should have been an amicable parting turns bitter.

5 ms october   ~  Jan 27, 2009 10:08 am

i hear you shaun about this whole thing, and i agree with you as well oyf.

when i was reading buster's blog on this whole thing this morning, it made me think of phil jackson and his "tell-all" book on the lakers. i didn't read jakson's book, but it seems his critiques of the lakers and particularly of kobe were pretty bad. and he obviously ended up back with the lakers and coaching kobe (i am in no way insinuating torre would be back with the yankees).

6 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 27, 2009 10:19 am

That excerpt was not kind to Cashman.

7 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 27, 2009 10:23 am

[4] Yeah, but Buster is right - Torre's name is on the book as an author. He's being paid. He's going on the promotion tour (it seems Verducci is not). He seemingly had editorial control over the content. That makes the words in the book his, whatever person the book is written in, whoever did the actual writing.

The stuff about Wells's book that Olney brings up is damning for Torre. I hate to see a person I respect be a hypocrite, but I'm afraid that is how Torre is coming off. The September '07 SI article was bad enough; this is worse.

And while you are right, OYF [3], that context is important, for now I'm not talking about what's actually in the book. I'm just saying that the book is clearly Torre's as much as it is anyone's, and for Torre or Verducci to claim otherwise, given all of the stuff Olney points out, is just plain disingenuous.

This whole thing makes me very sad.

8 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 27, 2009 10:25 am

But you know what, people? How can I objectively read this book, having had a reaction and formed an initial opinion based on all of the excerpts published here and in other media outlets? Then Verducci goes on a program and undercuts the marketing force behind it (that this is mainly a collection of Joe Torre's observations) by coming across as though it's really HIS book, recounting what Torre and others have said about active players and executives... I don't care whose book it is at this point, I question the motivation of all those involved.

I have questions like these roiling in my mind that can't be answered objectively until the book comes out, and by then I'll have already formed a biased opinion about it. And I can't pretend that none of the information is out there about the book's contents because all of it is so "IN YOUR FACE!!!" in print, the TV and radio. It's like hearing that awful song with the catchy hook everywhere you go.

This is what bothers me more than anything else; if the book had dropped seemingly out of no where, I would be more inclined to see what the hubbub was all about, but the cynical marketing that has pushed this book along the dirty gutters of curiosity have disgusted me nearly enough not to be bothered at all >:'

9 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 27, 2009 10:49 am

[8] man, don't I sound like an E@#$ Radio soundbyte, ugh...

[5] I think there's a difference beyond the fact Phil is still coaching the Lakers and Kobe... Phil had a quite different coaching experience than Joe when the book was published. Having won a handful of rings with Jordan and Chicago, then 3-peating with the Shaq in his prime, Phil had the cache to criticize his own team and star player, who had in effect broken the championship tandem and assumed the mantle of superstar all for himself (and I'm guessing here, but was Kobe already in a lot of hot water for the incident in Colorado?), so who was gonna step[ to Phil and say, "Wow, that was so wrong" when his record implies he may be right?

Joe has a smaller cache to back up his credibility; yes he came in a won on his first year with the Yanks and then after missing the WS, proceeded to 3-peat before losing out on a four-of-a-kind by an error and a hit. But after that, it was a slippery slope to losing his job, especially after the meltdown in 2004 and the brain freeze in 2007. Torre rode out on bad terms with the organization and a lot of good will from the fans after the way the Yanks handled the process (badly as usual), and fairly or not is perceived as having an axe to grind because he's not there anymore.

Torre's exalted status comes from his victories with one team, the Yanks, and to come out with a book that is perceived as bashing the organization and active players from afar (and in third-person) is to me a bit different from being with the team, already having made your reputation elsewhere and continuing the winning there. And confronting any controversies head-on.

10 Just Fair   ~  Jan 27, 2009 11:00 am

Nice Eminem reference, Diane. Pettitte may be humming, "I wish I had 12 million dollars.....,"

11 The Hawk   ~  Jan 27, 2009 11:07 am

Just ... read the damn book before you form a strong opinion on its contents. Doesn't that make sense and simplify things? If you don't like a passage that's been published, then keep your opinion to that passage without extrapolation as to the rest of the book. You'll save yourself a lot of sports agita.

I mean this aside from if you just think in principle the book shouldn't exist, or shouldn't exist now, anyway. Personally I lean toward the latter, if just for the sake of "classiness".

12 The 13th   ~  Jan 27, 2009 11:19 am

[4] To continue on with your marriage/divorce analogy, I wonder how the Dodgers feel about this. To them, it must feel like dating someone who keeps talking about their ex.
That's never pleasant.

13 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 27, 2009 11:30 am

[11] Oh I agree with you, Hawk; it's the principle that bothers me, if there's any principle involved at all. Seems like the authors timed this well in advance for the slowest part of the year to maximize the reaction and stir up a lot of buzz, and what with the clips that have been liberally sprinkled and dissected so far, it comes off as an irritant as opposed to a catharsis or an expose. I'd just as soon not read the book or talk about it, but I can't escape from it.

I'm still wondering if Cash has another trick up his sleeve to settle the CF question; I don't think they want to go into Opening Day with Melky or Gardner as their starting CF, both having achieved next to nothing offensively. I am curious to see how well Melky has developed as per Kevin Long, but the trust is still an issue.

14 The Hawk   ~  Jan 27, 2009 11:55 am

I support Melky in CF. If he can bounce back to playing at the decent level he played at in 2007, he's fine. I don't like the looks of Gardner. Yeah he's fast but you do need to get the ball out of the infield every once in a while. (I'll admit I didn't watch much of his late season re-call-up.)

15 The Hawk   ~  Jan 27, 2009 11:57 am

[12]Well you know, it's only one book so I don't know if it's like someone who "keeps talking". You can expect to hear about the ex anyway, near the beginning of a relationship. Gotta get it out of the way and in fact you might want to know. "So ... what went wrong?" haha ... But if the person won't stop talking about it, yeah it's a problem. Let's see how many books Torre has in him. I suspect this is it.

16 PJ   ~  Jan 27, 2009 12:45 pm

Point of order...

Mike Francesa is going to have either Hal or Hank on his radio show at 1:05 P.M. EST today!

While I hope most of the time is devoted to the '09 Yankees and the signing of Pettitte, which is really all I want to hear about, we all just know the 800-pound gorilla in the room will be discussed as well!

Stay tuned!

;)

17 rbj   ~  Jan 27, 2009 12:50 pm

[7] Oh I agree that it is a "Torre book", it's just that Verducci made it sound like it's mostly his own book.

And as for A-Rod's insecurities, that's well know, heck it's already out there that he sees a psychologist. It reminds me of another Yankee who had insecurities: Billy Martin, who treated it by fighting and drinking. I'd rather Alex want to be liked by Jeter than to become an alcoholic.

18 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 27, 2009 1:22 pm

[16] Rhetoric... >;)

[17] All things considered, if the worst thing that can be said about A-Rod is that he's insecure and likes to bring attention to himself by parading around with older women, then I can deal with that. The alcohol can hurt a lot more people than the broads, in a manner of speaking...

19 krad   ~  Jan 27, 2009 1:23 pm

"Though the book isn’t supposed to be released for another week, the Times already has a review of it"

That's not unusual. Publishers generally send out advanced reader copies of books (usually the unproofread galley pages bound together) in advance to review sources so that they can publish reviews just prior to the book's release.

20 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 27, 2009 1:56 pm

The notion that you have to read the entire book to form an opinion about is absurd. From all the excerpts I've read, I am more than comfortable in coming to the conclusion that Torre showed very poor judgment contributing to this book. Context is important if you want to break down all of his statements, but as far as judging the motivation and type of content, all you really need to do is look at what the publisher has sought to promote.

Think of it this way...if someone sends you a 10-page letter, included in which is an excerpt explicitly insulting you, do you really need to read the whole thing to be insulted.

As for Arod, I doubt he'll care much or even be surprised by this book. Torre already sold him out to Verducci in an SI article during the season! If Torre was willing to do that to a player while still managing, why wouldn't he do the same in a book?

21 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 27, 2009 2:10 pm

Also, did anyone get a sense of deja vu reading Olney. His post seemed like a good summary of some of the same arguments given here, not only the general points, but pointed references like my David Wells quote from 2003 and Dimelo's mention of the McClellan quote. Maybe Buster reads BB for inspiration? He could do much worse!

22 PJ   ~  Jan 27, 2009 3:20 pm

It's refreshing to hear Andy Pettitte speak so highly of A-Rod even though he wasn't there in '04 at the beginning, when A-Rod struggled to find acceptance with the Yankees. I gladly take that as a sign of solidarity heading into ST!

[21] My favorite part of Wells' book was when he and Cecil Fielder, while with Detroit and playing in the Fall League, slept with the roaches. Bugged the hell out of Wells literally, while Fielder took it all in stride.

I surely hope we here at Banter are somewhat within the vacinity of the pulse of all that is Yankees Universe! I mean my wife and I have our shirts from Sloan-Kettering... don't you?

;)

23 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 27, 2009 8:07 pm

[21] I noticed that!! Perhaps Buster is posting here under an alias?? Perhaps as Evil Empire or thelarmis? After all, they are down south, and didn't Olney go to Vanderbilt (which if memory serves me, is in Georgia or Alabama...? ah's it's all the sticks once you cross the Verazano.. :)

24 PJ   ~  Jan 28, 2009 9:10 am

[21] Vanderbilt University is in Nashville, TN. It's known as "The Harvard of the South". It's a great college and very expensive to attend. Also very near the campus, there is a restaurant called The Noshville Deli and it's a traditional New York style deli, with the best sandwiches this side of Carnegie and it's about eight miles from my home!

I thought you'd like to know!

;)

25 PJ   ~  Jan 28, 2009 9:45 am

I'm sorry... Post [24] was in reply to post [23], not [21]. We posters really need an edit feature around here!

;)

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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