A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Joe Torre

When one does poorly, there is a certain demeaner that they should take - want to do better and not screw up so badly the next time. However, Manny Ramirez's remark that "he likes it" begs to differ with the philosophy, and all things considered, it is "Manny being Manny" - i.e. a complete idiot who needs his unconditional release for the purpose of waivers / psychiatric counseling. To be honest, he can live off his last couple contracts for a while. And since Bleacher Report is offering a list of the top 50 most over-rated people, what better way to start with than a guy who doesn't deserve a 5th chance (AT LEAST 2 from Boston, 1 from LA, 1 from Chicago, and now 1 from Tampa Bay), and to think that he does is saying A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT MORE ABOUT 1995 TO 2004 THAN THE REST OF HIS CAREER THAT ISN'T THE LAST 187 AT BATS OF 2008. Most of the list should be called 3 things - Yankees, Red Sox, and steroids users - oh my! On the list is some pretty standard fare on the bigger contract and "value" to the team than actual productivity: Hideo Nomo, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, and Barry Zito (minus his teddie bear). But there are some pretty confusing choices, too: Cliff Lee, Brooks Robinson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, and Pete Rose, a man who played the game to win obsessively, but who is slighted for being ONLY a hitter in the same way that they call Nolan Ryan only a strikeout pitcher who threw a lot of walks. In this, we can only say one thing - "If Rose's stubborness to never give up and keep playing until he ran out of gas completely is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Didn't Cal Ripken never give up his streak until it was incredibly late in his career? The Orioles had been in the toilet and have been since he refused to make room for a new guy - because Baltimore loved him that much. But alas... the point of lists is to debate, so I debate with two of their choices. The first question would be how Roger Maris is considered over-rated for two good seasons despite the folks at Bleacher Report forgetting his 1960 MVP Award. Perhaps, from their narrow minded judgements of remembering what parts of baseball history that they choose to see, they should remember how the New York media did their damnedest to destroy the man who failed to live up to being Babe Ruth. Now, we are Maris apologists here - because we realize what he was to the game: a hard working player who didn't have time for the cliches and short talk. He may not have been as charismatic and lovable as Mickey Mantle, but he brought a tremendous upside - even if he never did hit .300. And for that, he was very good. He wasn't great. We don't claim he was. I can't do that revisionist history thing, but at the end of the day, his season in 1961 will stand as the only home run season to eclipse Ruth's - without aid of PEDs. And then, there is Joe Torre. Now, I'm a Yankee hater, but I do love the books Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney and The Yankee Years by Tom Verducci. Both of them accurately depict an era of time that I came to loathe as I grinded my teeth to the thought of the Yankees winning again and again (I wasn't vested in 96, but the Padres, the Mets, and the Braves all had to have something to beat the Yankees... and when they didn't... thank God for 2001 and the DBacks, which led into the Angels, the Marlins, and that miracle Red Sox run in 04 before the collapse that led to teams like Detroit and Cleveland beating the Yankees. I used to hate Torre. I used to hate his look as he sat in the dugout waiting for something good to happen or to pull the hook on Chin Mein Wang, someone who is TRULY over-rated (but not on the list), but after I read that book, everything changed. There was something about the way that guys like Jeter and Mussina rallied the troops for the coach, a guy who wasn't even wanted in New York due to the fact that he couldn't get his other teams to gel. But that's leadership. Sometimes, being in the right place for the right people is all that matters. Call it a facet of Gladwell's book Outliers, but could anyone else have had the right training, the right manner, the right respect from his young troops that he built confidence in with any of the same talent that Torre used to get it done? Was he the best manager ever? Probably not, but then again, Larussa and Francona are far more over-rated than Torre and they're on teams that I like. In the end, he was run out of town by the extended Steinbrenner family, but for what he did for that time, we all hope that we can get the troops to come together and win 4 of 5 and almost 2 more. That's dominance beyond the players he did and didn't have (since really, only Jeter and Rivera are hall of famers on that team). If that makes the list of Yankees that I loathed for the better part of my adult life over-rated, so be it, but I have to believe that a leader brings the best out of his players, and for him to do that, and for me to spend my life hating the Yankees... I don't fear what isn't real.

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