And so the Joe Torre era is over. There are two immediate responses to this. The first is to honor Torre and his twelve years as the Yankee skipper, the third most successful managerial term in Yankee history:
McCarthy, Stengel, and Huggins all made the Hall of Fame based on their success in pinstripes. Joe Torre, whose number 6 will join Stengel's 37 in whatever version of Monument Park exists in the new Yankee Stadium, will join them in Cooperstown largely because of the last twelve years.
The second response is to ask what effect Torre's departure will have on the 2008 New York Yankees. That's a much more difficult question to answer, in part because it depends on both whom the Yankees chose to replace Torre as manager, and on how that choice impacts the contract decisions made by Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez. Only those four men know the answer to the latter. As for whom the Yankees might hire to replace Torre, here's a look at a some likely (and far less likely) candidates.
Ever since Don Mattingly was named bench coach last winter it has been assumed that Mattingly would be Joe Torre's successor. Nothing's really changed about that. A recent report in the Star-Ledger that Mattingly didn't want the job was refuted by Mattingly's agent. The only real snag here is that Mattingly has zero managing experience.
Pros: Has Yankee bonafides, spent last three years as a coach on the team, worked closely with the team's hitters, was Yankee captain when Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte made their major league debuts. His calm demeanor, reputation as one of the game's good guys, and experience during the worst of the Steinbrenner years make him likely to pick up where Torre left off as a highly respected calm amidst any possible storm that might develop around the team.
Cons: Based on his short stints managing games when Torre was ejected or suspended this past year, he seems a bit too fond of small-ball tactics and his inexperience could result in overmanaging, at least in the early going. The Mattingly Curse: the 14 years between the Yankees' World Series appearances in 1981 and 1996 coincided exactly with Mattingly's major league career. In his first year as a Yankee coach the team coughed up a 3-0 ALCS lead to the Red Sox and they haven't won a postseason series since.
My take: Donnie needs to go manage in the minors for a few years and come back after Girardi has worn out his welcome.
Experience: Marlins manager 2006 (NL Manager of the Year), Yankees bench coach 2005.
Girardi was born to manage and was something of an on-field coach during his stint with the team from 1996-1999. Put in what looked like a no-win situation with the Marlins, who traded away nearly their entire team soon after hiring Girardi as manager, Girardi rallied a young team expected to stumble to triple-digit loses to a .526 second-half performance and a run at the Wild Card.
Pros: Based on his commentary on the YES Network, he's integrated progressive analysis in to his old-school mentality. Despite a reputation to the contrary (based on a game in which he left starter Josh Johnson in the game after an hour-and-twenty-two-minute rain delay and the rash of injuries and poor performances that have befallen the Marlins' young pitching staff), he was actually quite careful with the Marlins' pitchers, pushing only Dontrelle Willis past 200 innings or 120 pitches in a given start (and even Dontrelle never threw more than 125 pitches in a game and finished the season with fewer innings pitched than the year before). Caught Pettitte and Rivera during their best seasons and was a mentor to Jorge Posada as Jorge grew into the catching position at the major league level. As bench coach in 2005, fixed Posada's reluctance to block the plate.
Cons: Fought with the front office in Florida. A taskmaster by reputation. That may have been exactly what that young Marlins' team needed, but it could go over like a lead balloon in a clubhouse of highly-paid veterans, which, despite the influx of youth, is still what the Yankees' are.
My take: Should be the leading candidate and be given strict instructions on how to use Hughes, Chamberlain, and Kennedy in the rotation if given the job (you know, just in case).
Tony La Russa
Experience: 29 consecutive years as major league manager, 4 Manager of the Year awards (most recent: 2002), five pennants, two world championships; White Sox 1979-1986, A's 1986-1995 (1989 Champs), Cardinals 1996-2007 (2006 Champs), third all-time in games and wins as manager.
La Russa succeeded Torre in St. Louis and guided the Cards to six postseason appearances in 12 seasons, that after four postseason appearances (in the pre-Wild Card days) and three World Series appearances in eight full seasons with the A's (not counting the strike year). La Russa, like Torre, is at the end of his most recent contract, but has yet to announce whether or not he intends to return to the Cardinals, a matter complicated by the departure of General Manager Walt Jocketty. That said, he's given indications he'd like to remain in St. Louis.
Pros: His record speaks for itself. As a future Hall-of-Fame manager, he'd have very little problem earning the respect of the veterans, and it would keep up appearances if the Yankees replaced Torre with a manager of similar stature. Would likely bring along pitching coach Dave Duncan, Shelley's dad, who has worked wonders throughout his career with good-for-nothing veterans, even turning Jeff Weaver into a World Series hero in 2006. Is not afraid to skirt convention if he believes it will give him an advantage (for example, he hit his pitchers eighth for the last two months of the 2007 season in order to have more men on base when number-three hitter Albert Pujols came to the plate). Likes the squeeze play.
Cons: Is prickly and has a tendency to over-manage. It's damning that Scott Rolen and he weren't even speaking during the Cardinals' championship run in 2006, but then Rolen was a problem in Philadelphia, too, so maybe that's on Rolen. Has a great deal of blood on his hands in baseball's steroid scandal both from his time with the Bash Brother Oakland A's and as Mark McGwire's manager in St. Louis and also has a recent DUI arrest on his record.
My take: Looks good on paper, but could be too jarring a change for the team as La Russa's ego knows no bounds at this stage. I don't think he's leaving St. Louis.
It's extremely common for teams to replace hot-blooded managers with cooler customers and vice versa. The fiery Bowa would thus be the perfect change of pace after the never-let-them-see-you-sweat Torre. Torre has come under fire for his excessively calm demeanor in the past (a burden he passed on to Willie Randolph, who took similar heat for refusing to panic as the Mets ship sank this September), and that might have been part of why the organization wanted to make a change.
Pros: Beloved by the Yankee players after two years as third-base coach. Helped turn Robinson Cano into one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball. Though his managerial record is unspectacular, he managed the Phillies to winning seasons in three of his four years with the team.
Cons: Though a popular and colorful character that invigorates the team as a coach, could become overbearing given more power. Would rob the Yankees of one heck of a third base coach.
My take: He's not a long-term solution. He's become a Zimmer-like figure to the team as a coach and would make a good adviser to a younger manager. Better to leave well enough alone.
Peña is sure to be interviewed so that the Yankees will have fulfilled their minority-hiring requirements, but that only exposes the charade of that program, which does as much to patronize minority candidates as it does to force teams to actually consider them.
Pros: In 2003, managed the Royals to their only winning season since the strike-shortened 1994 season and won the Manager of the Year award. Another high-energy coach who is popular among the Yankee players. Has done wonders for Jorge Posada's defense. Playing for a Latin-American manager could hold a special appeal for Posada, Rivera, and Rodriguez as well as for other Latino free agents. Mustache.
Cons: The rest of his time with the Royals consisted of the usual 100-loss-pace futility. Resigned the Royals job amid a small scandal involving an affair he was allegedly having with a neighbor which came to light because he was subpoenaed in her divorce proceedings.
My take: Peña is 12 years Bowa's junior and the team is coalescing around it's Latin American stars. The Kansas City "scandal" was overblown. He should be given more than a token interview.
Experience: Reds manager 2003-2005, Yankees triple-A manager 2006-2007, minor league manager 1988-1992, 1995-2003.
Pros: My preference for NL Manager of the Year in 2004 when he won 76 games with a terrible Reds team, keeping them in first place as late as June 8 (he didn't win the award). Has managed several of the team's young stars on their way up to the majors. Could be joined by Scranton pitching coach Dave Eiland, who has shepherded the team's exciting young arms through the minor leagues having coached in Trenton in 2005 and 2006 and in short-season A-ball the two years before that. Worked with hitting coach Kevin Long in Columbus in 2006. Has a career .566 winning percentage in 16 seasons in the minors, with only two losing seasons on his minor league record. Managed Scranton to a .587 record in 2007.
Cons: The Reds stunk in the second half of 2004 and in 2005 and Miley was fired after just 70 games in the latter season. Scranton lost in the first round of the playoffs this year.
My take: Miley is almost a year younger than Mattingly and has managed 2,530 more games. I'm just sayin' . . .
Experience: Diamondbacks manager 2001-2004, 2001 World Championship
The Boss has a habit of going after players who have beaten his team. I still believe that's why the Yankees signed 2001 Diamondback Tony Womack three years ago. So why not Womack's manager? Brenley's only 54 and is still highly visible as a color man for TBS this postseason. Then again, he's perhaps best remembered for throwing Byun-Hyung Kim to the wolves in the 2001 World Series, a series his team won largely despite Brenley.
Pros: Two postseason appearances and one World Championship in four years as a major league manager. Mustache.
Cons: It's telling that he's not landed somewhere else since being fired half-way through the 2004 season.
Narron's only on this list because he's an out-of-work major league manager with a Yankee connection. It was Narron who replaced Thurman Munson behind the plate after the Yankee captain's death in 1979. Narron's managerial track record is awful. Only two of his five seasons lasted all 162 games and every year that he returned with the same team, that team did worse than the previous year.
My take: No chance.
Experience: Interim Indians manager for 75 games in 2002, minor league manager 1995-2000, current Indians' third-base coach.
I mention Skinner both because he was seriously considered for the Indians job prior to Eric Wedge's hiring. He also has a Yankee connection as he was the Yankee backup catcher from 1986-1988.
Pros: A well-respected part of the Indians organization which is currently the go-to source for front office management, so why not on-field management as well? Has a .574 career winning percentage as a minor league manager (all in the Indians' organization). Made the playoffs in five of his six seasons. Won minor league manager of the year awards in 1998 and 2000.
Cons: Whatever reason the Indians had to pass over him in favor of Wedge.
My take: Skinner seems unlikely to leave the Indians organization, where he finished his major league career from 1989-1991. That said, here's another guy who's essentially Mattingly's age (he's about a month older) and has 856 more games of managerial experience.
Experience: Nippon Ham Fighters manager 2003-2007, Yankee minor league manager 1990-2001, Rangers director of player development 2002, Indians scout 1988.
Pros: His Fighters won the Japanese championship in 2006 and just beat Bobby Valentine's Marines for this year's Pacific League Championship. A highly-regarded tactical manager, he's frequently considered for major league positions, but as of yet has not been hired by an MLB team. Yet another guy Mattingly's age with a ton of managerial experience who's looking for his first major league job.
Cons: Has been on the other side of the world for the last five seasons.
My take: Hillman's already being considered for the Royals' vacancy, but he was up for the Rangers and A's jobs last year and got neither. He's a long shot for sure, but the Yankee connection is there and could matter to Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera, all of whom came up through the system while Hillman was a part of it.
Experience: minor league manager 2004-present
Pros: Another product of the Indians organization (he's currently their triple-A manager) and a former Yankee (22 games at third base in 1991). Won Manager of the Year awards in A-ball in 2004 and double-A in 2005. A popular candidate who has yet to land his first major league job, but has been managing in triple-A for the last two years.
Cons: Uhm, small fish in a big pond? That's about all I've got.
My take: A solid candidate (one more than four year's younger than Mattingly), but so far down the Yankees' list that he might as well not even be on it.
Experience: Yankee manager for 89 games in 1989 and 1990, Yankee minor league manager 1985-1989, 2003-2005, Royals triple-A manager 2002, Reds bench coach under Narron 2006-2007, Rangers coach 1995-2001, Cardinals third-base coach under Torre 1991-1994.
Though some of us still cringe at the horrors of Bucky's first stint as Yankee manager (Stump Merrill replaced him mid-1990), he was briefly the man assumed to be Torre's successor after the disastrous 2004 playoffs.
Pros: Couldn't possibly be as bad as the '89 and '90 Yankees made him look. Has a ton of experience including three recent seasons with the Clippers (2003-2005). His mere presence would taunt Boston fans.
Cons: Playing second banana to Jerry Narron and getting canned along with him rather than promoted as an interim manager in the wake of his firing doesn't look s'good. He's been around a long time and it's been 17 years since his last (and only) stint as a major league manager.
My take: His second shot at becoming the Yankee manager passed in 2004.
Pros: Worked under Torre, has established relationship with the team and most of the players. Got a raw deal in Baltimore as the Rafael Palmeiro drug scandal clouded the improvements the team was making on the field under Maz, who remains the most successful Orioles skipper of the decade (faint praise that may be).
Con: Maz was dumped to make room for Mattingly on the bench this year.
My Take: The Con says it all.
Experience: Rangers pitching coach 2002-2005, four months in the Rangers front office in 2006.
Pros: He's brilliant, organized, detailed, and you know he's stat friendly. Plus, if he's back in the dugout I'll never have to watch Baseball Tonight again.
Cons: He's like a nerdier Mattingly. No managerial experience, but well respected, even-keeled, and extremely dedicated.
My take: Please, please, please offer him the pitching coach job.
Experience: Yankee manager 1992-1995, Diamondbacks manager 1998-2000, Rangers manager 2003-2006, Yankees minor league manager 1985-1989, Yankee coach 1990-1991, current senior advisor to baseball operations for the Indians.
Pros: Oversaw the emergence of the last Yankee dynasty. Generally considered an excellent manager. Extremely dedicated. Every team he managed improved by a dozen games or more in his second year at the helm.
Cons: Too dedicated and detail oriented, has a tendency to burn out his teams and himself. Had a bad relationship with Alex Rodriguez in Texas. Replacing Torre with the man who proceeded him, even if it's 12 years later, is unlikely to sit well with the Steinbrenners.
Pros: Won NL pennant in 2000, led the Marines to the Japanese championship in 2005.
Cons: The new Billy Martin, only with the alcoholic neurosis inverted into an almost uncontrollable ego. Also in 13 full seasons as a major league manager never once won a division.
My take: Likely more trouble than he's worth. He's a sensation in Japan, which is where he'll stay.
Experience: Mets manager 1984-1990, 1986 World Champions, Reds manager 1993-1995, Orioles manager 1996-1997, 1997 AL Manager of the Year, Dodgers manager 1999-2000.
Johnson hasn't managed in seven years and will be 65 in January, but I list him here because he did nothing but win as a manager (11 winning seasons in his 12 full seasons as a major league skipper and a career .564 winning percentage), and he's younger than Whitey Herzog and Earl Weaver, my other pipe dream/time machine dream picks. That said, Johnson managed Team USA in the 2005 Baseball World Cup, was the bench coach for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic last year, is working with Team USA with an eye toward the 2008 Olympics, and took an advisory position with the Nationals last year, so there's reason to think he might come back to the game.
Pros: Never finished worse than second with the Mets or Orioles, finished first in his only two full seasons with the Reds (though that includes the strike year), was the only man other than Terry Francona this year to win the AL East during Torre's tenure with the Yankees. Improved the Dodgers by nine games in his second season in L.A. Stat-friendly.
Cons: The Mets imploded on his watch as he turned a blind eye to the off-field problems of his young stars. He pitched Dwight Gooden's arm off, having him throw 276 2/3 innings at age 20 and then 250 more the next year. The Yankee job is probably the worst position Johnson could take after being out of the game for seven years, though the manager of the 1986 Mets might still get some slack in this town.
My take: During the Yankees' conference call to announce Joe Torre's departure yesterday, Brian Cashman said that some of the men on his list of candidates for the open managers job might surprise us. Johnson wouldn't surprise me quite as much as Showalter, but it would be close.
So that's my list. Got any other ideas while we all wait for them to announce Mattingly as the new skipper?