Sunday, October 08, 2006

New York, New York: Let the second guessing begin.

Another Early Exit, Maybe Torre's Last

The New York Yankees, the most feared lineup in all of baseball, were no-hit for 5 2/3 innings yesterday, on their way to an 8-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Tigers advance, Yankees go home. And New York sports writers couldn't be happier.

Sports writers are at their best when they have somebody to criticize. World Series wins make for great pictures, but they don't make for great columns. Losses do.

The New York Daily News (NYC's "picture paper") was the first to report this morning that Joe Torre was on his way out (according to those oft-anonymous "sources"). After winning four World Series for the Bronx faithful, the cries of "yes, but what have you done for me lately?" have grown louder and louder since the Yankees' WS loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. Three (count 'em one {1}, two {2}, three {3},) Daily News columnists all but outright challenged George Steinbrenner to fire Joe Torre in the wake of the Yankees postseason performance, hinting or even blurting out the fact that if they take too much time in deciding Torre's fate, former Yankee manager Lou Pinella might slip through their fingers while finding a job with the Giants, Cubs or Nationals organizations. Expect Torre, like the consummate gentleman he is, to take the blame if asked to. Scapegoats are rarely ever to blame, they're just a public personification of an organization's blame symbolically forced on one individual for both comfort and catharsis. Never mind the fact that if the Yankees were a publicly traded corporation, there'd be calls for CEO George Steinbrenner to step down and find a replacement who can produce results. But, in the end, it's baseball. And that means fire the coach.

The New York Post, however, ran actual columns on real reasons why the Yankees went down so quickly in the playoffs. They're no-brainers to anyone that watched the series, but at least the Post had the common sense to blame the Yankees' piss-poor starting rotation, lack of defensive stalwarts, and an embarrassing hitting "attack" led by number eight hitter and two-time MVP Alex Rodriguez. You can't win games if you don't hit. But if you don't pitch or play the field either, well, expect to get schooled.

GM Brian Cashman is already on record saying he doesn't expect to make any changes at manager and third base for next season. Torre is under contract for one more year at $7 million, which the Yankees would still be obligated to pay if they fired him. And A-Rod's monster contract and no-trade clause will make it tough to move him even if they wanted to. But none of that means shit to Steinbrenner. He's already subsidizing payrolls (through revenue sharing) in markets like Kansas City and Tampa, so picking up the tab for Torre and A-Rod's exits while hiring replacements isn't out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if George's past behavior is any indicator, it's pretty damn likely.

And Lou Pinnella's not a bad choice for a replacement. He's a great manger with a quality mind for the game. But the Yankees need more than just a scapegoat. They need an organizational sea-change that starts at the lowest levels and works its way up. They need to take some of the millions of dollars they hand out to free agents every year and pour it into scouting and developmental leagues. They need a GM with a head for getting the most out of a budgeted payroll. They need a front office that understands that baseball is won by rosters with smart pitching, solid defenders, and situational hitters. They need, to be honest, the 1996 New York Yankees.

But most of all, they need an owner with the patience to build these things from the ground up. Unfortunately, that's the one thing George Steinbrenner can't buy. Well, that and another World Series ring.

1 comment:

Jeff BBz said...

man, all you do is talk about baseball and tv, two things i almost officially hate, excluding going to live baseball games which is fun and delicious, and maybe curb your enthusiasm and arrested development, both which cannot really be seen on tv (cancellation and hbo, same thing for poories) and so i must watch my copies burnt from the library's copies on my computer and therefore am not watching tv, almost.

talk about something new!!!!