Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
What possibly could have gotten into Joe Torre that allowed him in his mind to even think about (let alone write, with Tom Verducci) a book called “The Yankee Years”? Who could have given him such bad advice as to take a wonderful reputation and, at a minimum, have thousands (tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?) of Yankee fans shaking their heads in disbelief or disgust or shock. What could he have possibly been thinking?
WHY EVEN BOTHER TO WRITE IT?
In a five-season span (1996-2000) doing a job that very few (if any) people thought he could do, Torre went from mediocre (at best) manager to Hall of Fame manager. And he certainly deserved all of the accolades. However, his last four years as Yankee manager were, from a post-season perspective, probably the worst four-year stretch in baseball history (the epic 2004, up 3-0 collapse against the Red Sox followed by three first round exits).
But Torre left town viewed, at least publicly (and certainly by this life-long Yankee fan), as the victim, as the guy who was wronged by the Yankees, who “only’ offered him a one-year, $5 million deal (plus those famous incentives). While that was a 33% pay cut, it also still made him the highest paid manager in baseball, not a bad deal for a guy with a stunningly poor, recent post-season record.
Most thought Torre was wronged by the Yankees. He certainly had won the PR race. He left town for L.A. (and must have found out that, despite winning, L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home). The final feather in his cap was that the 2008 Yankees didn’t make the playoffs and the 2008 Dodgers (a poor team that hovered around .500 until Manny showed up) did make the playoffs. Short of staying in New York and winning, Torre couldn’t have scripted it any better.
So we have a borderline legendary figure who won the public relations battle and the on-the-field 2008 war. So what did Joe Torre do? He kept playing after he had won the game (by writing a book) and, now, is on the precipice of a big loss.
Why did he write it? Hard to believe it was for the money, because he’s made millions and millions more than he could ever have thought he would make in even his wildest dreams. While people say Joe loves a buck as much as (or even more than) the next guy, he’s got to have tons of money. Hard to believe it was to “get the truth out,” because the overwhelming majority of people believed he was right (when leaving) and was great (when managing). Maybe it’s just sheer pettiness because the claims he makes (especially the anti-Cashman claims, killing his biggest supporter of his (Torre’s) prior three-year mega-contract) seem to be petty and, of course, unbelievably hypocritical.
TORRE’S MADE HIS BED AND NOW HE GETS TO SLEEP IN IT
Hard to believe a man would knock his players and his general manager just one year removed from a storied managing career in New York. Remember when David Wells wrote his book and Torre slaughtered him with the now famous “what goes on in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse”? Torre does essentially what Wells did by airing some of the dirty laundry in the Yankee clubhouse and the Yankee boardroom. He’s playing the part of David Wells, the why-would-you-write-a-book author?
Oh, the hypocrisy of it all!
It’s going to be hard for Torre to save face and wiggle out of this one. He’s already gone with “my name’s on the book” (exactly what he said to David Wells about Wells’s book when Wells tried to back away from it) so I have to deal with it. Tom Verducci said, essentially, that some of Torre’s words were taken out of context in the New York media but that he stands by the book.
And what would you do if you were a player on the Los Angeles Dodgers? Would you be worried about what you say to your manager? Absolutely. The next book might be “The Manny Year” or “The Dodger Years.” Unlikely, you say? Maybe true, but who thought Torre would ever write a book like this? You get the point.
COULD JOE TORRE, MASTER OF THE MEDIA, BE NAÏVE?
Much of the Torre criticism of Brian Cashman comes from the idea that Torre needed security, that he wanted a two-year deal and that Cashman failed to notify (until the very end) the deciding group of Yankee execs of Torre’s proposal – two years, if you don’t fire me in the first a buy-out for the second or two years, if you do fire me in the first I get paid for both years.
Assuming, for now, the truth of that statement, and aside from the absurdity of going into a season on an unbelievably negative note with an almost negative contract (fire me, fire me – the second option has an almost Marbury-like quality to it), could Torre have read the tea leaves (no Bigelow pun intended here) so poorly as to think the Yankees would go for that on any fact pattern? On the one hand, he strongly believes that the Yankees didn’t want him back. Yet on the other hand, he wants some kind of conditional payment if (when?) he gets fired. It’s both naïve and bizarre.
WHAT, IF ANYTHING, CAN TORRE SAY TO BAIL HIMSELF OUT?
It’s clear from his first comments that Torre knows he’s in a bind. The joke (sad part?) is that he put himself in this bind. He can come out and say that he was just stating what others said about A-Rod (A-Fraud, immaturity, etc.), he can say he was just trying to tell the truth, he can say that, for the most part, he and Cashman worked well together until the (now, apparently) bitter end.
But whatever the average Yankee fan views the hit on Torre’s rep to be (large, medium or small), it says here that Joe Torre hit himself in the head with a hammer and, whatever he says, it will be virtually impossible to get back to where he was, reputation-wise, prior to his own book coming out.
It still all seems so surreal, so inexplicable. Does he have the right to write such a book and say what he wants? Absolutely. But you’d like to think that someone with a brain who had Joe Torre’s ear would have said: “Joe, what could you possibly be thinking? This book can’t possibly do you any good. In fact, it will damage your reputation. Please think long and hard before you write it.”
Apparently, that never happened or, if it did, that person was ignored.
SO, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Well, Joe Torre has a book signing in New York City next week. He is supposed to appear on Larry King Live on CNN and with Mike Francesa next week on WFAN. If he says “I was just trying to set the record straight,” hopefully somebody (Mike Francesa?) will say “the record was in your favor during and after your managerial success (at a Hall of Fame level) in New York. What exactly was wrong with the record the way it was? How could you possibly write this book?”
If it finally dawns on Joe Torre that he’s made a huge mistake, it’s hard to believe that he’ll take responsibility for it. Remember, this is a manager whose baseball decision-making skills went down once Don Zimmer and, later, Mel Stottlemyre, left town. In fact, in his book, Joe claims that his great error in the 2007 playoffs was not pulling his team off the field in game 2 against the Indians (forever known as “the bug game”). Of course, the far greater mistake (and, essentially, season-ending one) was a baseball one – not bringing in the greatest closer on earth when your rookie reliever was clearly having problems (see Kallas Remarks, 3/29/08, A Torre Error Ended The Torre Era).
Maybe someone can ask him about that, as well.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.