Tag Archives: Joe Torre


                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas


It was hard to believe that Joe Torre would actually write a book and throw some of his former players under the bus.  But it certainly seemed that way when the excerpts got out.  Torre and others said wait until you read the book.  Torre did a number of interviews (Larry King, Mike Francesa, Bob Costas) and essentially said “I don’t think I broke the code” of whatever goes on in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, something Torre had accused pitcher David Wells of when he wrote his book.  In Say it Ain’t So, Joe, Part I  (Kallas Remarks, 1/30/09), this writer thought there was little or no difference and that Joe, having already won the battle and the war, decided to keep fighting (by writing a book) and, as a result, lost some ground. 


Well, after reading the book cover to cover, listening to the entirety of the King, Francesa and Costas interviews with Torre (and partially, in Costas’s case, with his (Costas’s) MLB Network colleague, co-author Tom Verducci), it still says here that this was a clear violation (with multiple offenses) of the code and that hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of Yankee fans will always look at Torre in a different light now.  And, yes, this is being written by a life-long Yankee fan who thought (and still thinks) that Torre did a great job and will someday (but no longer soon) have his number retired at the new (but not the same) Yankee Stadium.




The whole “who wrote what part of the book” quickly became a moving target for critics of the book.  When the paperback edition comes out, maybe they can put Torre’s words in red ink and Verducci’s words in blue ink.  When there’s a vivid description of trainer Steve Donahue rubbing hot liniment all over the body of Roger Clemens, including his testicles (p. 132, too much info there?), is it Torre’s insight or Verducci’s?  When talking about the Red Sox, when Grady Little was named manager, Pedro Martinez, according to the book (p. 190), “was so happy he danced naked around the clubhouse, cracking up his teammates by playing with his ‘member’.” (again, too much info).  Presumably, Torre wasn’t there, so (I guess) those are Verducci’s words.


Another suggestion would be to check Joe Torre’s acknowledgements section right after page 477.  Torre has stated numerous times that he read the book over and over and apparently, if he didn’t understand anything (like the Single White Female reference about A-Rod), he “trusted” Tom Verducci.  He wouldn’t change anything in the book and firmly believes that he didn’t cross any lines.  Aside from the absurdity of that position (that’s Joe’s story and he’s sticking with it, almost with a What, Me Worry? tone), the “Acknowledgements” section starts first with a thank you to George Steinbrenner and then he acknowledges Arthur Richman, who suggested to Steinbrenner that Joe would be a good candidate, by writing, in his own book “Arthur Richmond for suggesting to The Boss that he hire me.”


I’ve never seen a name spelled incorrectly in an Acknowledgement.  After all, this might be the most personal part of a book for any author.  Maybe Torre read the book over and over again, but it doesn’t seem that he read his Acknowledgements even once.




“I’ve always tried to respect guys’ privacy” – Joe Torre (p. 182)


About Chuck Knoblauch (pp. 56-57), Torre said “I never realized how fragile he was.”  He then went on to describe conversations with Knoblauch (and with others about Knoblauch) that went on in the clubhouse after Knoblauch walked off the field on June 16, 2000 after having one of his inexplicable I-can’t-throw-from-second-to-first games.  Whatever the content of the conversations, it violates what is said in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse.


About Roger Clemens (pp. 77-78), Clemens asked Torre if he could use the office phone to call his mother (that’s what the book says).  The two men then had a conversation about Clemens fitting in and, when Torre told Clemens, “fit in my ass, you be who you are.  Be Roger Clemens,” Roger replied “That’s what my mom is always telling me.”  Funny?  Yes.  Breaking the code?  Absolutely.        


More on Clemens (p.135):  After the Piazza bat-breaking, Clemens-throws-it-in-his- direction World Series fiasco, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was eating a cheeseburger with George Steinbrenner in Torre’s office (?), found Clemens in the locker room, crying uncontrollably.


On Jason Giambi (p.170):  Torre couldn’t believe that Giambi needed his personal trainer to motivate him. “You need to be self-motivated here.  You don’t need somebody to push you. He [the trainer] had to tell him everything.”  Torre went on to say that Giambi didn’t always work hard enough.  Code?  You be the judge.


It gets worse.  Alex Rodriguez, whether Torre understands it or not, was going to take a lot of grief for A-Fraud, which, as the book states (p. 245): “People in the clubhouse, including teammates and support personnel, were calling him “A-Fraud” behind his back.”  With his now admitted steroid use, A-Fraud might seem mild.  But that misses the point.  When Torre, on the interview circuit, said Larry Bowa called him A-Fraud as a joke, that’s great.  But a) so what?; and b) what page of the book is that on? Answer: it’s not in the book.


The whole get-your-own-cup-of-coffee statement by Torre to A-Rod (pp. 249-50, so A-Rod would seem more like a member of the team) is both funny and sad.  It’s funny, because A-Rod actually goes and gets his own cup of coffee and tells Joe Torre about it.  Torre, of course, uses that as one example to show that Alex “just didn’t get it.”  It’s sad because it also makes A-Rod appear to be a simpleton.  Code violation?  Of course.


There are plenty more examples, but we’ll just give you the page numbers for Kevin Brown (p. 323, “curled up on the floor after getting hammered by Tampa Bay; Torre: “I think he had some emotional issues”) and Kyle Farnsworth (p.425, Torre found Farnsworth on the floor in the Shea Stadium trainer’s room, crying).


Carl Pavano, there’s not enough space to write about him.  But suffice it to say that when Mike Mussina criticized Pavano to reporters during spring training, Torre is quoted in his book (p.320) as saying that “Moose didn’t do the right thing, the way he went about it.”  Code?  What code?  Is there one or not?  Even Bernie Williams was made to look like an idiot (pp. 352-53). 




Well, clearly it became more difficult to operate with the Yankee front office as that group got bigger and bigger and bigger.  Did Brian Cashman and others make a lot of bad moves?  Of course they did.  Did Brian Cashman get the Yankees to the playoffs (and, to some degree, a World Series victory) in 2000 by acquiring David Justice (20 HR, 60 RBI in 78 games)?  Of course he did.  Now, I’m no fan of the Yankee hierarchy (not mentioning Torre at the final Yankee game at the Stadium was an everlasting disgrace), but you shouldn’t slaughter a guy publicly for plenty of bad moves without mentioning David Justice.  Or does the code not apply to non-players?


And I guess we’ll never know what George Steinbrenner thought when Joe Torre told him that, in 1996, the Yankees were going to sweep Atlanta in Atlanta and come back to win the World Series in Game 6 at the Stadium.  We had all heard that famous story for years.  But I never heard (until now) that down, 1-0 in games, Torre told Steinbrenner, just prior to Game 2 (p. 16), “You should be prepared for us to lose again tonight, but then we’re going to Atlanta.  Atlanta’s my town.  We’ll take three games and win it back here on Saturday.”  Yikes!  Presumably, Verducci (not Torre) goes on to write, “Sure enough, the Yankees lost to Maddux, 4-0.”


I’ve never heard of such a thing – a manager tells an owner we’re going to lose tonight?  In the World Series?  That’s bizarre.  This whole prophet thing is right out of Kreskin.  Joe Torre, the magician.  Could he really have told the owner that we’ll lose tonight?  Well, that’s what the book says. 


As for Cashman never telling the hierarchy at the final meeting that Torre wanted a two-year deal for one year of security, well, that’s also bizarre.  Assuming it to be true, if you were looking for a new contract and you asked for a meeting and you flew down to Tampa and you sat in the room to discuss your future, wouldn’t you be intelligent enough to bring it up at the meeting?  According to Torre, he forgot about it until he saw Cashman after the meeting at the elevator.  Could you, in Joe Torre’s shoes, actually forget your own idea for your own security (or, at least, your perceived view of your own security)?  That’s Brian Cashman’s fault?  Come on.    




Apparently not.  I can’t find one in the book, unless you count this:  At one point, Torre said he wanted to tell Mariano Rivera to be aggressive against Bill Mueller in Game 4 of the 2004 playoffs with the Yankees about to sweep the Red Sox.  He decided not to because Rivera had easily struck out Mueller earlier in the series.  Mueller, of course, walked and started the beginning of the greatest collapse (by the Yankees) in the history of baseball.


What?  I’m sorry, but you have to tell the greatest relief pitcher ever to be aggressive?  Come on.


There’s no discussion of pitching out to get Dave Roberts (who pinch ran for Mueller).  There’s no discussion of trying to steal on Tim Wakefield later in the series when Jason Varitek was catching.  How about bunting on Curt Schilling in Game 6?  Bringing in Jeff Weaver in the 2003 World Series for two innings (with Rivera in the bullpen as the game ended — one inning was a huge gamble but two was ridiculous)?  Torre (or Verducci) tries to explain some of these blunders away.  But to no avail.


But without question, the biggest blunder took place in the 2007 “bug” game against Cleveland.  It’s impossible to believe that, if either Don Zimmer or Mel Stottlemyre had still been around (Torre’s in-game decision-making suffered greatly when these guys left), Joba Chamberlain would have been left in the game to give up the tying run in Game 2 (after the Yankees had lost Game 1) of the best-of-five playoff series (see Kallas Remarks, 3/29/08, A Torre Error Ended the Torre Era) with the greatest reliever ever in the bullpen.


The chapter in the book devoted to the game (chapter 15), entitled “Attack of the Midges,” should have been entitled “Where’s Mariano?”  It’s hard to believe that a top baseball writer like Tom Verducci didn’t realize the mistake (then or now) because he sure wrote in the book what virtually every Yankee fan knew:  that the rookie Chamberlain, in his first playoff appearance, was quickly in trouble for whatever reason.  Verducci (I assume) writes (p. 438):  “It was quickly evident how badly Chamberlain was compromised [due to the bugs].  He walked the leadoff batter, Grady Sizemore, on four pitches.  Chamberlain had faced 91 batters during the season and only twice even went so far as a 3-and-0 count.”


Well, that should have been enough to get Mariano in the game.  Virtually every Yankee fan knew that.  But, apparently, not Joe Torre.  It was all downhill from there with Mariano (later) pitching two scoreless innings in a tie game.  The Yankees would eventually lose and, in the next two games, Torre would bring Mariano in in the eighth inning (too little, too late).  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that, if Torre had brought Mariano in after the four-pitch walk by Chamberlain, there would be a good chance that he’d still be managing the Yankees.  A stunning mistake, never discussed in the book.


Of course, to this day, Torre says his big mistake was not taking his team off the field.  That, of course, would be a non-baseball mistake.  Not putting in the greatest closer ever (in the eighth inning), as he had done dozens of times before, ended the Joe Torre era.




It is still a mystery.  The party line (Torre and Verducci) is that this is a “piece of history” for your bookshelf.  But it’s a piece of history, according to Joe Torre, like David Wells’s book is a piece of history according to David Wells or Jose Canseco’s books are a piece of history according to Jose Canseco (and his books ring truer every day). 


If Brian Cashman ever wrote a book that blamed all of the Yankee problems on managerial decisions and none on his (or the front office’s) player moves, it would be a piece of history according to Brian Cashman.  Of course, Cashman, to date, has elected to take the high road, but the point is he’d be laughed out of town if he took that position.  Torre’s reputation has been hurt because of the breaking of the code and the one-sided nature of the book (let me know if you find any on-the-field managerial mistakes), but it says here he still is a Hall of Fame manager who simply made a big post-Yankee mistake (you don’t think some Dodgers are worried? – even Larry Bowa said recently that it could be a problem for a few guys this year in the Dodgers clubhouse).


Maybe he wrote it for the money.  Maybe he is mean-spirited (Yankee announcer Michael Kay recently said that he is).  But this book and the decision to write it was not made by the guy we knew and loved as Yankee manager for 12 playoff-bound years.  After all of the attempted explanations (wasn’t anyone around to give him some good advice?), it’s still inexplicable.




After doing the Torre and/or Verducci interview on TV, Costas did a spot on New York radio.  While he did say that Torre “broke the code” (although he was quick to point out that it was “only by degree” (whatever that means)), here’s what Costas had to say:  “There are scars there that are going to take a long time to heal, if ever.”  Later, he said, “The hurt feelings take a long time to heal.”


Finally, maybe not even knowing that he was speaking for hundreds of thousands or even millions of Yankee fans, Bob Costas said, talking about Joe Torre writing a book:  “Does Joe Torre need this?  How big is the upside to Joe Torre? That’s what has me scratching my head.”


We’re all scratching our heads, Bob.  


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                               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?




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.




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.




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.




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. 




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.


                                         Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas


How did the Joe Torre era end with the New York Yankees?  Why did the Joe Torre era end with the New York Yankees?  Before looking forward to the 2008 season, let’s look back at, arguably, Joe Torre’s biggest mistake as Yankee manager.


It was Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, forever to be known as the “bug” game.  Cleveland had won the first game of the (ridiculous) best-of-five series.  If you go down 2-0, the series is pretty much over, except in rare instances (the 2001 ALDS against Oakland comes to mind but, as Derek Jeter has pointed out, these Yankees aren’t to be confused with those championship-winning Yankees).



So what did Joe Torre do or, even better, what did he not do?


With the Yankees leading Game 2 (1-0) in the bottom of the seventh, Torre brought in rookie sensation Joba Chamberlain to relieve Andy Pettitte with men on first and second and one out.  Chamberlain, making his first post-season major league relief appearance ever, got the next two batters to protect the one-run lead.


So what would happen in the eighth inning?  Wouldn’t Torre have the world’s greatest closer ever, Mariano Rivera, ready to start the eighth?  Wouldn’t Torre at least have the greatest closer ever ready in case Chamberlain got into trouble early in the inning?  After all, Rivera had pitched more than one inning in about 40 playoff games with rare failures.  Few doubt that he’s the biggest reason the Yankees have had the playoff/World Series roll that they’ve had, easily the best since baseball went the divisions route and added the losers-can-win team(s), the wild card(s).


The first sign to Torre, bugs aside, should have been the four-pitch walk to Grady Sizemore.  In the past, that would have been enough to go right to Mariano.  If that wasn’t a sign, the (first) wild pitch of the inning should have been.  Then, with Sizemore on third and one out, Travis Hafner lined out to first, hitting the ball about as hard as you can hit a ball.  Throw in the lunacy of the bugs, the delay that occurred, the seeming confusion from Joe Torre (he later said his mistake was not asking the umps to stop the game).  But that mistake would be a non-baseball one – the bigger mistake was not bringing in Mariano.



With three clear signs (four-pitch walk, wild pitch number one, rocket line drive to first) that Chamberlain was losing it, nervous, bugged-out, you pick the best one (or add your own), Torre nonetheless left his man in.  Eventually, they would all go down with the ship.  Where was the pitching coach? (Where have you gone, Mel Stottlemyre? – you know he would have said something).


Chamberlain stays in, throws another wild pitch (number 2), hits a batter, walks another batter (good grief) and finally ends the inning with a strikeout.  It was all inexplicable.


Or maybe it wasn’t.  It’s bizarre how sports are covered in the 21st Century.  A few announcers don’t know, some writers miss the obvious and the talk show hosts don’t get it (my two favorites are:  “It was Joba’s inning to finish” and one I heard recently on WFAN:  “he didn’t give up a hit in that inning.”).  Yikes!! 


Finally, and too late, as it turned out, Rivera came in and pitched his two lights-out innings (0 hits, 3 Ks, 1 BB), but it eventually didn’t matter as the Yankees would lose in 11, 2-1.


While the Yankees would win Game 3, since these aren’t the championship Yankees, they would go down to defeat in Game 4 (with Rivera entering the game in the middle of an inning and pitching an inning-and-two-thirds while trailing).



Could the end of the Torre era simply have been a mistake in judgment?  You betcha.  The decision-making in the Yankee dugout had gone down in recent years since Don Zimmer left; it only got worse when Mel Stottlemyre left after the 2006 season.


If Rivera comes in at virtually any point in that inning, it’s almost a sure bet that the Yankees win Game 2.  With the win in Game 3 (obviously much could have changed), they certainly would have been set-up to win their first playoff series since 2004.


Yet, virtually everyone seemed mesmerized by Chamberlain’s regular-season performance.  He simply didn’t pitch well in the post-season (he would give up one run and three hits the next game), bugs or no bugs (while they were terrible when Chamberlain was out there, they were problematic for other pitchers as well).



What this did was put the nail-in-the-coffin of the Joe Torre era.  While he deservedly attained Hall-of-Fame status during his four World Championships in his first five years (1996-2000), from 2004-2007, he had arguably the worst post-season run ever – he presided over the greatest collapse in baseball post-season history in 2004 to the Boston Red Sox (up 3-0, then losing four in a row) and then was knocked out three years in a row in the first round.  A mediocre manager (much like Casey Stengel before he came to the Yankees and won five World Series in a row) prior to his Yankee run, Torre deserves his superstardom.


But it really makes you wonder what could have happened if he only had done what he did dozens of times before in the post-season –bring the greatest closer ever into the eighth inning in the biggest game of the year.  As it turned out, he didn’t, and the ensuing events (the “insulting” contract offer, the rejection, the move to the Dodgers, the beginning of the Joe Girardi era) all fell into line over the next couple of months.



Both franchises (Yankees and Dodgers) then tried to lower expectations – just in case.  Virtually everybody laughed at Hank Steinbrenner’s “be patient with this young team” comments – they were laugh-out-loud funny (after all, these ARE the Yankees).  Torre was a little more subtle, with his “yes, we want to win, but more important is putting in place a culture of winning” comments.  Neither will fly.  Either you make the playoffs (at least) or you’ve failed.  That’s how it is with the Yankees and that’s how it will be this year with the Dodgers.  We’ll see how it all shakes out in 2008.       


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.