Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Let's Get Together
2005-08-19 05:23
by Alex Belth

The Yankees are in Chicago this weekend for a three-game series against the White Sox, a team that has slumped recently. Mike Mussina faces Jon Garland in Game tonight. The Bombers trail Boston by four games after the Sox were pounded by the Angels last night in California. Not for nothing, but after going 0-9 over the last two games, I'd like to see Alex Rodriguez carry the team this weekend.

There are a few articles about Joe Torre's future as the manager of the Yankees in the New York papers today (Chass, Lupica). If the commentors on this site are any indication, Torre has faced more criticism this season than he has in almost any other year in New York. There is clearly a segment of Yankee fans out there that would be happy to see Torre go. Brian Cashman's contract expires this fall and he may not be back either. Personally, I think Torre will return next year, but in George Steinbrenner's universe, of couse nothing's shocking (I'd also like to see Cashman return as well). In spite of his flaws as a tactition, I would like to see Torre come back in 2006. Call me sentimental, but I'm not ready for the Torre Era to end just yet.

Ol' Reliable

Allen Barra's former partner in crime over at the Village Voice, Allen St. John, has an interesting look at the dominant relievers in the game today in The Wall Street Journal. Mariano Rivera is at the top of the list, but not the tippy-top. That spot is reserved for...Justin Spieir. St. John checks the statistics.

2005-08-19 06:06:31
1.   mikeplugh
I'm generally fairly sentimental. I like baseball because of its link to history. History is full of sentimentality.

I still close my eyes and remember the 1st World Series I watched beginning to end. I'd watched the Reggie Jackson 3 homer game as a 6 year old, and I still remember it to this day, but I was too small to stay up for every game. I watched every second of the 1979 classic, and I still get goosebumps when I think of Dave Parker, Tim Foli, and Wille Stargell wearing those funny hats with the stars and the whole We are Family business.

That sentimental streak keeps Paul O'Neill fresh in my mind, and Joe Girardi. If Torre must go, I pray that someone in the organization has Girardi in mind to replace him. The word being whispered though is Lou Piniella.

I'll draw my sentimental line there. Sweet Lou was a great Yankee and I loved that Bronx Zoo bunch, but I have to tell you I love the Torre bunch more. I love the fact that the O'Neill era Yankees went out and played without the soap opera. They had dignity. If Lou comes back, I guarantee that dignity will go out the window and the Bronx Zoo will be back in full force. Steinbrenner, for all his free-spending glory, is a magnet for chaos. Lou is like gasoline on the fire.

Imagine the 1st time he blows his top at Posada. Jorge may knock him out. I would. Imagine Lou staring down Gary Sheffield after he bobbles a ball trying to side-saddle a catch. Fireworks. He'll blow a gasket if he has to manage this middle relief.

Tampa has prepared Sweet Lou for losing, like never before, so the Yanks may just mellow him out a bit, but why take the chance. This team doesn't need a loose cannon manager. Jeter doesn't need a fire lit under him and neither do Sheff, Matsui, A-Rod, Giambi, or Posada. Is Lou's fire going to straighten out Randy Johnson or motivate Carl Pavano? Can he ressurect Al Leiter or heal Jaret Wright's shoulder?

The answer is not Lou. The answer is getting a little younger in the field, and a little craftier on the mound. Cashman should stay. Stick should have his voice heard more. Torre should only be replaced if you feel the team could use a change of scenery and only if you can get Bobby Cox, Tom Kelly, or if you want to give a young manager like Joe G a chance.

I'm sentimental though....Give Joe another shot.

2005-08-19 06:56:39
2.   Shaun P
Right on, Mike - Piniella would be a disaster for this team. The other problem with Sweet Lou is that he has a terrible time with young pitchers. And, if things work out right, at least Wang will be in the rotation next year, if not Henn as well. I haven't heard anything about problems between Lou and Scott Kazmir, but I can't forget all those other young pitchers, especially in Seattle, who Lou just destroyed.
2005-08-19 07:01:01
3.   Shaun P
Allen St. John's article was very interesting, but I noticed a potentially small flaw. What if a run scores when the reliever records an out? Even though the reliever has done part of his job - the hitter didn't get on-base - he failed at another part - keeping runners already on from scoring. This probably doesn't happen often, but you can bet fans will remember when it does.
2005-08-19 07:23:22
4.   JohnnyC
I'm still sentimental over Stump Merrill. Oh, stop the tears. The tears.
2005-08-19 07:47:48
5.   sam2175
I understand the sentimentality, and do recognize Torre's strength as a manager. If Piniella is going to do all the bad things, then he is not the answer.

However, if sentimentality is the driving force, Bernie Williams should have another few years in pinstripes. Nobody, not even Joe Torre is more deserving than Bernie. But would any reader in this blog advocate that? Not sure.

In fact, sentimentality kills efficiency and is a hindrance at conutinuation of success. So if Torre has to survive, it has to be based on what he can offer, and whether or not a better alternative is available.

And as for young players? I am not so sure that too many young players were given a chance to develop under Torre. Imagine if Torre were managing the Oakland Athletics this year, and they were 15-30 to begin the year?

Just like Yankee fans, I think Torre has been spoilt by the riches of talent that he has had at his disposal over the years. Thus, a 5-strikeout day for Andy Phillips means that he is banished forever to rot in the bench. A bad outing by Alex Graman, or a mediocre outing by Colter Bean means that they do not see a second chance. Wang was immediately effective, and Bernie Williams' decline and injury meant that Cano got a decent enough run to change the course of his season. Otherwise, he would probably have been relegated to the minors in favor of Womack by now.

We need to develop from within. Is Torre the best man for the job? Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano are probably the only rookies that develop full-fledged under Torre and stayed around. But I cant see him in a situation like Atlanta Braves or A's this year and see us successful. Some change is probably needed, although I dont really know who.

2005-08-19 07:55:13
6.   Alex Belth
Over at his pinstriped blog, Steven Goldman addresses the Torre situation nicely. The PB doesn't have permalinks, so at the risk of taking liberties, I'm going to take the liberty to cut-and-paste the entry right here.

According to Goldman:


Thursday was an off day for the Yankees and every columnist in the business, facing a deadline and strapped for a topic, apparently thought of the same thing. This was true for your host as well. My New York Sun column appears Wednesdays and Fridays, so Thursday was a desperate, riding-the-ragged-edge-of-disaster brainstorming day. My editor and I kicked around a number of topics, finally settling on a discussion of Joe Torre's job security.

Across the nation, similar discussions were being held; you could tell by opening the morning papers. In the New York Daily News, Mike Lupica wrote, "It is no longer impossible to imagine a scenario where Torre might have to make it to one more October to keep his job… Do the Yankees have a bunch of nobodies in their bullpen? So does everybody. Welcome to the world. If you're (George) Steinbrenner, you're probably thinking that this is when your manager should really manage."

Joel Sherman of the New York Post said, "When you have a bad bullpen, right moves are hard to come by." Mike Vaccaro of the same paper: "Torre's moves and maneuvers have been scrutinized like never before, mostly because they've backfired worse than a '74 Pinto."

As for your genial host: "The 2005 edition's weaknesses have forced him to manage. That sounds like a shot, but it isn't; the vast majority of managers avoid in-game tactics like the plague. Nothing has the potential to leave a skipper with egg on his face like having to make decisions… Deprived of both the strong starting staff that he has traditionally enjoyed and a bullpen with reliable late-inning relievers, he has been forced to guess which pitchers to use on a nightly basis and has often failed."

So there are no original thoughts in the world. Off days are like that. If we have all passed judgment, the question unanswered is, what manager would have been able to "really manage" as Lupica put it, in such a way as to transcend the house of horrors bullpen and the patchwork starting rotation? What manager would have had the guts to use Mariano Rivera whenever he was needed instead of saving him for situations that might never occur? That manager may not exist. You hear that Lou Piniella may be welcomed back, that Bobby Valentine (who somehow you always knew would get a shot at this job one day) might be lured in. Neither has shown that kind of insight in the past.

The fact is, any manager who believes in departing from standard operating procedure probably wouldn't survive long enough to make the majors. We have established ways of doing these things, you know. They're as old as last year and they work.

In Mr. Sherman's column, he talks about 1995, how Torre's mellow nature was seen as the perfect antidote to Buck Showalter, who was wound so tightly he went Captain Queeg in the playoffs that year. Now that same unflappability is being looked at as a detriment. That's why Piniella is attractive. Besides being a fan favorite, he'll heave second base into the outfield every once in awhile.

It is true that teams seem to respond to shifts of managerial temperament. That is, in any case, the invisible hand that guides managerial changes. The Yankees go from Billy Martin (Type A) to Bob Lemon (Type Z) and back again. This year, the Phillies went from Larry Bowa (chronic insomniac) to Charley Manuel (somnambulist). Yet, the Yankees have an elderly roster, veterans who have seen it all, done it all. How much are they really get out of being yelled at?

The real paradigm shift the Yankees need is one that tries to promote aggressively everyone in the minor league system that might help the team next year. The 2005-2006 free agent class isn't going to be very deep; salvation will not come from the flesh markets. Next year could be more difficult than this one if the team doesn't take a new tack… A.J. Burnett on his own won't do it.

2005-08-19 08:07:50
7.   JohnnyC
Alex, I will only say this: the paradigm shift you seek will only happen if Torre is not the manager next year. While he doesn't have the Angels' system behind him as Mike Sciosia does, it is telling that numerous times this season alone you hear Sciosia speaking with knowledge about who he has down on the farm. He pays attention in Spring Training instead of scheduling his next nine holes of golf or hitting the racetrack with Zimmer. Sciosia's familiarity with his minor league system means he can make informed judgements about his pitching staff and his bench before imploring his GM to get Sierra, get Mondesi, get Nomo, etc. It was Cashman who forced Cano and Wang on him. How many times this year has Torre said: I know nothing about this guy except what the FO tells me. When given the option of pitching DePaula he opts to start Proctor instead because he couldn't get his first choice Nomo. Is that someone who wants to re-load from within? Sadly, no.
2005-08-19 08:36:25
8.   Alvaro Espinoza
"Alex, I will only say this: the paradigm shift you seek will only happen if Torre is not the manager next year." - Johnny C

I second that one, Mr. C. I differ a bit on the reasoning though your point about the farm system is a cogent one. Plain and simple, Torre is a mediocre in-game tactitian. And it's not a recent phenomenon. To this day I staunchly maintain that he blew 2002 when he left El Duque in to start the 8th against Garret Anderson. Me and my buddy turned to each other in the bar and before we could get the words out, Anderson deposited the ball in the bleachers. Yanks split the 2 games at home and we know the rest of the story.

Won't chronicle all the examples but to put it succinctly: Torre's act (cap perched way up on his forehead, a bit to the side, while explaining another tough loss in his office during the post-game) is tired. More importantly, it no longer works. Nothing can take away his success during the last 10 years and he deserves every bit of credit. But it's time to turn the page (cue Bob Seger... or Metallica... whichever suits you).

2005-08-19 08:39:18
9.   unpopster
A.J. Burnett on his own may not do it. But isn't BJ Ryan a FA after this season as well?

The addition of a top-of-the-rotation, young arm AND a stud lefty reliever can make a huge impact. That is, of course, if Ryan would be willing to give up his closer role and settle for the #1 mid-inning option out of the bullpen role.

Since we're now on that subject, the Yanks will rid their payrolls of Bernie, Brown, Embree, Leiter and maybe even Posada this offseason. My guess is that Womack is not here in '06 either.

I don't have a problem with a Johnson, Burnett, Mussina, Povano and Wright/Chacon rotation.

2005-08-19 09:15:41
10.   Mattpat11
Johnny, it seems that as much criticism as Torre gets, Sciosia seems to fly under the radar. Everyone of Torre's mistakes get magnified, but people seem to overlook how Mike almost singlehandedly pissed away the Angels playoffs last year by removing the best pitcher on his team so he can throw Jarrod frigging Washburn against Ortiz, soley because the mediocre Washburn happened to throw with his left hand.
2005-08-19 09:41:41
11.   Rich
If the Yankees are foolish enough to bring Torre back, signing Wagner or at least B.J. Ryan is mandatory. It would negate Torre's obsession with handedness over ability in using a reliever.

I fear that the Yankees will overpay for Juan Pierre (Erid Duncan? UGH!) and his .316 OBP, not to mention his merely average CF defense.

Sadly, Cashman is almost irrelevant, since Bill Emslie is apparently the de facto GM.

Obviously, Stick, who built the teams that won the four rings, should be the person in the organization who makes player personnel decisions.

2005-08-19 09:58:13
12.   unpopster
I wouldn't be opposed to a 2006 Yankee squad sans Torre, but who would take his place -- besided the maniacal Lou P., of course?

There was a time when I thought that Randolph's tenure at Shea would only serve as hands-on, New York City managerial training for a future slot as the Yankee skipper...but his ineptitude as the Mets manager has had many a Mets fans upset too.

Could it possibly be Giradi? I'd like that, but I fear that his time here as Torre's bench coat may ruin whatever chance he may have to become a good manager.

Look, I don't dislike Joe. In fact, I LOVE him for what he's done for this Yankee squad over the last decade. But, his managerial deficiencies are starting to show now that 1) he doesn't have Zimmer by his side to help him make decisions, and 2) he has a flawed team to manage.

2005-08-19 10:42:37
13.   JohnnyC
Mattpat11, I'm not a Mike Sciosia lover. In fact, I find him in many ways an insufferable bore and I would not advise ever having him in pinstripes. But, he does not manage a team that has put $700 million worth of talent on the field in the last 5 years. He has gotten the most out of an offense that a) does not work counts, b) does not have high OBP hitters, c) does not have (except for Glaus and Vlad)home run hitters up and down his line-up but d)does execute the plays he puts on, whether it's hit-and-runs, straight steals, or bunt plays. He has built a great bullpen by stressing plus arms regardless of whether they are veterans with "experience." And, outside of Colon, who wasn't that good in 2004, he's never had an ace, much less 3 or 4 at the same time(Cone, Clemens, Wells, Pettitte, Duque, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, etc.). He works with his entire 40 man roster not just "his guys." He's not perfect. He's not even as good as Bobby Cox but he's a much better manager than Joe Torre.
2005-08-19 10:57:14
14.   brockdc
Some very interesting points have been made here, and I normally don't like reiterating what others have said, but I'm in agreement that:

1.Torre was the ideal man for the ideal situation.

2.Both the time and situation have past.

3.It's easy to say Torre must go, but if not him...who?

4.Proficient ML managers are rare, ones that are proficient and don't wear out their welcome even more so (Cox, Kelly). Love Sweet Lou, but Mikeplugh's (post #1) right on the money about him.

5.How many ML managers have good reputations that are preserved by - or even due to - a lack of hardball media scrutiny? Without a doubt, Pinella is a beneficiary of Yankee fan nostalgia and a soft Tampa press.

2005-08-19 10:59:21
15.   Ramone
The great thing about Torre is that he doesn't create problems a la Bobby V. Unfortunately he has these glaring weaknesses: Over-reliance on his relievers, a lack of intuition for making substitutions, and an inability to spark a fire in on the bench.

Torre may have done a great job in getting the Yanks to the ALCS, but he was probably the worst guy to have in the dugout as the team was melting down. I can guarantee you that the Yanks would never have dropped 4 straight with Pinella at the helm (of course they might very well have not been up 3-0 in the first place).

What I'd really like to see is Stick be GM until he wants to hang it up and the Yanks to bring in Leo Mazzone as pitching coach. With those two moves, I don't really care who is manager.

2005-08-19 11:03:50
16.   Joe in NYC
unpopster, what are you thinking? why do you not have a problem with "a Johnson, Burnett, Mussina, Pavano and Wright/Chacon rotation"? there is no reason to sign Burnett, for Wang has proved to be well above average and will be far less expensive. why do you slot Chacon in as the 6th pitcher? he has shown himself to be HIGHLY effective now out of the denver air. he seems to be the steal of this year's trade deadline, and you toss him in as a pitcher of little value.

just because the Yankees are unloading at least $43M (Matsui $8M, Brown $15.7M, Embree $3M, Gordon $3.75, Williams $12.4M, and other odd relievers -- I think Posada is due $15M next year, Mussina $18M, both in their last years -- plus Clemens will be completely off the books) doesn't mean that have to turn around and spend it on somebody no better than who they have in their system.

let's take a breath and wait until a solid player coming out of a small market, someone who is worth the money, becomes available: Cabrera (FL), Peavy (SD), Zito (OAK), Young vs. Blalock vs. Texeira (will they sign them all?), or so on.

2005-08-19 11:04:12
17.   brockdc
My question is, how does Girardi all of a sudden possess managerial credibility? Has he ever actually managed a professional baseball franchise? Does he have any decision-making purview on this current squad? Seriously, what evidence is there to suggest that he's ready to manage a big league franchise when there are hundreds of other guys toiling in the minors, developing their managerial chops?
2005-08-19 11:51:43
18.   Simone
I simply don't see the point of George firing Joe when there is no viable alternative available. The FO just needs to focus on improving the arms in the bullpen, getting the starting pitching on track and finding a quality centerfielder. Hopefully, George can see the errors of his ways and turn to Stick for advice.
2005-08-19 11:52:06
19.   Yanks in NH
Joe in NYC - why would you mention Matsui in the "unloading at least $43M (Matsui $8M..."? Do you know something I don't? We would have to be crazy to get rid of Matsui!
2005-08-19 11:54:30
20.   rbj
Joe in NYC,
why are you off-loading Matsui? He is a serviceable leftfielder, if a bit streaky.

And I want six starters, that's how the Yankees did it 1998-00, when someone went down there

In no particular order: Johnson, Moose, Wang, Burnett, Pavano, Wright. Henn?

Torre is very good at managing New York. By that I mean he manages the clubhouse well--not allowing issues to boil over, not letting friction build when Steinbrenner erupts; he manages media issues well (avoiding having Clemens pitch to Piazza during the season-and taking the heat for it rather than letting any of it fall on the Rocket.) That is why th 1998 team did so well and went on to win the WS. Most hyperwinning baseball teams lose in the playoffs. Torre keeps things on an even keel.
He's not the best in game manager, but every manager is going to make some moves that do not pan out. Leaving a pitcher in, taking him out, having a hit & run vs. swing away; at times they all will backfire on Martin, Pinella, LaRussa, or even Tommy LaSorda.

Still, it might be time for a different dynamic.

2005-08-19 12:05:02
21.   unpopster
Joe in NYC, I actually completely forgot about Wang when I cam up with that rotation. However, I wouldn't suddenly consider Wang a stalwart in the 2006 rotation just yet and ignore Burnett's FA value.

Keep in mind that this is Wang's second SERIOUS arm issue in the last three years. And with Wright's arm injury history, it would just be idiotic (see the 2004-2005 offseason) to rely on pitchers with questionable health.

And as for Chacon, I am loving what he is doing right now for us...but, let's get a grip on the situation. He's only had 4 starts. Let's see him pitch like this for at least 1/2 a season before we annoint him as a front-of-the-rotation member of the 2006 pitching staff.

The thing about Chacon and Small is that, as great as they have pitched for us so far, it could all go down hill very quickly if each suddenly has 2 or 3 three subpar outings.

I'd still rather pick up a known commodity like AJ Burnett. Especially since we aren't even sure if Carl Pavano is the second coming of Javy Vasquez.

2005-08-19 12:38:39
22.   Yanks in NH
The performance of both Chacon and Small would be overwhelming in the spring training let's take a look mode, and these guys have done it in games that matter (more and more matter every day now), so I say that at least we look at Chacon in the starting rotation and maybe Small for long relief and spot starts. As far as going downhill quickly with 2 or 3 subpar outings, sounds like our proven veterans!
2005-08-19 12:57:57
23.   Joe in NYC
I wasn't dropping Matsui, only pointing out that his salary is coming off the books since he'll be a FA at the end of the year.

Still, rbj drops Chacon from his/her list of 6 starters, while unpopster is discussing his 4 starts as if he was a rookie. Chacon has pitched in the majors since 2001. Although he's never pitched >200 innings, he made 20+ starts from 2001-2003 before being moved to the bullpen, putting together a WHIP of 1.46, a GB/FB of 1.11, and ERA+'s of 103, 85, and 103. In Colorado!

This guy is better than Pavano, Burnett, Wright, Lowe, Ortiz, Zambrano, Perez, Benson, Milton, Lieber, Redman, Miller, and all the other crappy FA pitchers available last winter and this coming winter.

Let's stop comparing him to rookies and minor league lifers.

2005-08-19 14:47:38
24.   rbj
I've got no problem with Chacon getting a shot at the rotation. I'm sure he couldn't be worse than Brown. Or Nomo.

I think Matsui will get another 3 year, $24 mil contract, or thereabouts.

2005-08-19 16:35:10
25.   marc
they'd be insane to let Matsui go. He's put up great and improved numbers since he's been here and has been big in the clutch. Most important he seems to kill Boston more consistently than anyone else. It's possible Grady Little would have managed the Bosox this year and leaving Pedro in would not be fabled history if not for Matsui's clutch hitting. Besides, the Yankees probably make a ton of money off Japan where I believe every Yankee game is televised even with the bizarre hours. I frankly don't know why they haven't resigned him yet but doesn't he have that agent that the Boss hates?
2005-08-19 16:51:48
26.   singledd
You know, if Torre was the main problem or the only problem, I would say dump him. But this team has failed in many, many respects, or which Torre's bad decisions have been a part of. Getting a new CF will not upset this team. Trading Pavano for someone healthy will not upset this team. Cleaning up the pen, sans Rivera, from top to bottom, will not upset this team. Having RJ look for Jimmy Hoffa will not upset this team. But losing Torre and (possibly) bringing on the wrong guy might very well upset the team. Jetes ad a number of players are very loyal to "Mr. Torre".

As much as Torre has made mistakes, our Team ERA, RJs crappy performance, injured pitching staff, our record against TB and KC, and those two 1 run loses to the White Sox, fall on the shoulders of the other 25 guys.

I'm a Torre fan, but even I see he has made many mistakes. But he also has important strengths that are needed by this NY team.

Every fan has many disagreements with their Team's manager. This is not only a Torre thing. (Again, I see Francona's moves everyday... I certainly don't want him).

Also... and Cliff and Alex, I hope you weight in on this one.

We all want to see better minor-league promotions and better working with the young guys. Is this really Torre's call? We got the Boss, ManOfCash, the Tampa 'Brain Trust' and other foot-in-mouth opionions running this team. How much of the 'Veterans Only.. One strike for Kids and You're Out' philosophy is Torre's, and how much is mandated by the FO?

2005-08-19 16:53:02
27.   singledd
In next years thin market, 8 mil will NOT get Matsui. I say it will take 10-11 mil/year for 4-5 years.

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