Thursday, October 18, 2007


"The more things change, the more they stay the same" --- French proverb

The nausea has returned. Oh yes, after twelve years, it has reasserted itself, and with a vengeance.

The pettiness and the effrontery. The insolence and the vindictiveness. The cowardice and the malice. The insanity and the embarassment. Yankeeland has resurrected the age-old revulsion.

The organization that repelled you by hiring and firing Billy Martin 5 times in 13 years. The brass that outraged you by dismissing Dick Hower after he won the AL East. The Boss that disgusted you when he canned Yogi Berra 16 games into a season, and with his son, no less, in the locker room. The leadership that appalled you by dispatching Buck Showalter and Gene Michael after they'd led the Yankees through a fourteen year wildnerness into the post-season. The front-office that disgusted you when it wasted its time courting Gary Sheffield and in the meantime, drove Andy Pettitte away.

Well, yesterday revived the legacy of nausea to connect the Yankees' shameful present with their ignominous past.

Sure, the years may pass. The names and faces may change. The Steinbrenner serfs may supplant the Steinbrenner Lord; and The Boss' courtiers may inherit his Kingdom. But the self-destructive arrogance, the irrational scapegoating, the contempt for their fans' intelligence and the defiance of common sense-- that never ceases. It only goes into remission.

The Yankees never deserved Joe Torre. The last two weeks only proved it.

First came the ingratitude of the Boss' ALDS Ulitmatum after a season in which their manager had resurrected his team from the brink of extinction, despite a pitching staff featuring the likes of Kei Igawa, Chase Wright, Matt DeSalvo, Tyler Clippard, Darryl Rasner, Carl Pavano and a 10-week DL stint for Jason Giambi, the hitter who led them last year in Home Runs.

Then followed the high-handed callousness in which the organization who let a man, who had toiled for them for 12-years and won throughout, a man of of consummate tact, grace and integrity; a man who following his team's elimination shed tears of anguish and devastation; a man they let wallow in misery and dangle in anticipation for ten full days before deciding his fate.

In the meantime, they staged a cyncial and contemptible charade, with all the pomp and circumstance Little Men crave to make themselves feel important. For two days, they convened behind closed doors and locked gates in their Tampa Manse. For two days, they pretended to deliberate, to weigh and to consider. When actually, for two days, they schemed and contrived; they plotted and maneuvered. How do we rid ourselves of this beloved man, these Little Men pondered? How do we dispose of this Mensch who has robbed us of the credit and the praise, the affection and the respect, to which our money entitles us. How do we dispatch him and yet preempt the outrage from our fans and our players that we know ourselves too cowardly to face by simply firing him? So the Little Men combined their collective smallness and this is what they wrought: an offer so insulting they calculated he would refuse. An offer that in ostensibly saving their faces, slapped his harder than if they'd had the decency just to fire him in the first place.

So on the third day, they invited the manager who had led them for twelve years who had won them four championships and reflected upon them only glory and grandeur in the process -- they invited this man to Tampa to dictate to him irrevocable terms for surrender. And with all the duplicity and unctuous innocence that Little Men can contrive this is what they had the gall and the indecency to offer--

  • "For reaching the post-season for an unprecedented twelve consecutive years, for attaining 10 AL East division titles, for earning 6 AL pennants, for winning in 6 years as many World Championships as we had in the previous 35, we offer you one lame duck year at a 30% decrease in salary.

  • "And because the mission statement of this franchise is to win a World Series every year and while we all share responsibility for our failure to do so the past seven years, we wish to hold you, Joe Torre, to a standard we would never impose on ourselves. No, because you, Joe Torre, alone haven't made it past the ALDS in 3 years; because you lost 4 straight games to the Red Sox in the '04 ALCS; because you haven't won a World Championship with the legions of great starting pitchers we've furished you-- from Jeff Weaver, Javier Vasquez, Kevin Brown, Jose Contreras, Carl Pavano, Jared Wright, Hideki Irabu to Kei Igawa: because of all this failure you, alone, Joe Torre have caused the Yankees franchise the past seven years, you, alone, must accept what we like to call a 'performance-based model.' Never mind the effect it may have on your players. No, to reinforce that you, alone, Joe Torre, cost us the Division Series the past three years and to motivate you for the future, you must accept a $1 million incentive for each playoff round you win-- performance-based stipulations, to which we, of course, don't consider ourselves beholden.

  • And finally to reaffirm, that we only welcome managers who win World Series here-- albeit from our President and our GM we, evidently, accept far less- we will only guarantee you, Joe Torre, a second-year only if you reach the World Series. (Note how generous we are because we don't even demand that you win it.)"

And of course, what ensued was the ending the Little Men had spent ten days scripting.

The Manager who loved his job and in turn, inspired the love and loyalty of his players and his fans, demonstrated in vivid fashion why the ungrateful and devious Little Men and the organization they lead never really deserved him.

And in doing so, he exposed the Little Men for who they are.

Joe Torre forsook the job he coveted because he has too much pride and self-respect to accept the humiliating and degrading terms in which the Little Men couched it. Joe Torre declined the offer because he would not play their scapegoat. Joe Torre spurned the opportunity because he would not accept sole responsibility for the success the Little Men portray as failure. Joe Torre rejected them because he could not abide the abject insult their incentive clauses implied.

No, predictably, Joe Torre would not debase himself for $5 million; not for the prestige of his title; not for the roar of the crowd; not for proximity to dignitaries and celebrities; not to prolong his moment in the limelight. Joe Torre would not grovel and scrape and dive for the Blood Money the Little Men threw on the floor.

No, Joe Torre thanked them and he walked away without protest or rancor. And never more did his class, his dignity, his magnanimity throw the pettiness, the baseness, the cowardice of the Yankees' Little Men into lower relief.

One marvels at the smugness and the self-delusion of these Little Men. So worried were they of enraging and alienating their customer, they compounded their insolence and their dishonesty by professing surprise-- Renaultian shock, even-- that Joe Torre would decline their degrading offer-- and in staging their charade did nothing but insult our intelligence. Do they really think so little of their fans that they think we would buy the transparent chicanery they purveyed?

More worrisome, do these Little Men so devoid of courage and honesty really believe that the free agents players they were loath to antagonize by firing their manager outright will not see right through their duplicity?

Four years after the tepid, disingenuous, eleventh-hour offer to Andy Pettitte that drove him to Houston; one year after refusing to extend the contract of their indispensable catcher, after declining to renew the contract of their immortal closer, after waiting until Spring Training to vouchsafe their still productive 16-year center-fielder a demeaning, non-guaranteed minor-league contract: Do these Little Men, after their affront to the manager Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte consider a father figure, really believe their free agents will re-sign after the way they treated him-- will re-sign simply because the Little Men are prepared to offer them prodigious sums of money. No, even after Andy Pettitte himself fled to Houston in 2003 for much less because the Yankees' disrespected him, the Little Men upstairs, evidently, still haven't learned their lesson.

They don't understand why the $300 million they spend annually has bought neither the players' loyalty nor the fans' love only their manager could inspire. How stubbornly obtuse, how self-satsified these Little Men reveal themselves to be. Such is the entitlement of sons who inherit money and think they earned it. Such is the vice of opportunists who usurp power and think they merited it.

So, for now, the Little Men have gotten what they for long contrived. They can have their ordinary and pliable manager whose celebrity and stature will not overshadow them. They can obtain all the credit and plaudits Joe Torre's prestige denied them. They can have their opportunity to demonstrate that anyone can manage a team with a $230 million payroll and deliver it to the post-season. They can prove their cyncial belief in the power of the all-mighty dollar. And they can show their fans that their free agents who threatened to follow their beloved father-confessor out the door, unlike their manager, possess a loyalty that extends no farther than money.

So concludes the Golden Torre interregnum in the sordid, everlasting reign of the Bronx's Little Men.

Let them know however, if they prove wrong and all their money can't save them from their pettiness and insolence, their self-destructive malice and unreason, and Posada and Rivera and Pettite, for the second time, leave and A-Rod, seeing only adversity ahead, follows, and the Yankees return to a third-rate, mediocrity behind Toronto and Boston: let them know their prodigious attendance records, their prolific network revenues, the reservoir of affection and respect and loyalty Joe Torre's class brought and the well of rancor, and duplicity and effrontery his nobility shielded -- all will desert them.

And then, may the Little Men see themselves for who they are.

And may they suffer the Peoples' Wrath.


"Oh, how wretched is the poor man that hangs on prince's favor"-- Henry VIII

If their squalid purge of Joe Torre hadn't already revealed King George's Court for all its imperial condescension, its abject pettiness, and consummate obtuseness (See above), then Prince Hank's comments on Sunday flaunted it for us all to see.

The vindictive little Prince poked his head out of the royal bunker to kick his fallen manager once more.
Joe Torre is an ingrate, Prince Henry declared, "Where was Joe's career in '95 when my dad... [gave] him that opportunity-- and the great team he was handed."

"Handed?" What a mordant irony! The entitled Prince rebukes the man who rose from a violent, working-class home through talent, intelligence, and self-deprecating charm for not genuflecting in appreciation for the status and success allegedly "handed" him on a silver platter.

"Handed"! Handed, as though the Yankees managerial job were some sinecure, an act of patronage King George, in his infinite generosity, vouchsafes on some select, undeserving peon. Is their any more piquant illustration of how little regard the Steinbrenner clan has for their managers' work, in general, and Joe Torre's contribution, in particular?

Yes, in 1996, they “handed” Joe Torre a closer John Wetteland whose confidence his predecessor had decimated. They “handed” Joe Torre a middle-reliever, Mariano Rivera, whose talent and promise no one else in the organization seemed to have noticed. They “handed” Joe Torre a pitching staff devoid of an ace because a 146-pitch game in the '05 ALDS sidelined David Cone all-season with an aneurysm. They “handed” Joe Torre a first-baseman whose slow start incited a jeering crowd. They “handed” Joe Torre a hole at second-base that he plugged with a utility man who responded with a career best season. They “handed” Joe Torre a Texan pitcher the pressure of New York so unnerved he would vomit before his starts. They “handed” Joe Torre the first World Series the franchise had won in 18 years. Yes, they handed it all to him, says the King's entitled heir. Joe Torre, in his own right, evidently, made no contribution worth mentioning.

What's remarkable, however, is that in the same breath Prince Hal cannot fathom why Torre would construe the Prince's patronage-- a one-year irrevocable offer at 30% pay-cut, with "motivation"-based performance incentives besides-- as a reproach, an insult, a symbolic expression of just how expendable they viewed their manager. A perceived dispensability that Prince Hank's own comments, now, explicitly affirm.

Perhaps, then, we should take Prince Hank at his word, then, when expresses shock at the universal opprobrium the King's Court has since received. Perhaps, we should believe him too when he says, "[he] sincerely wanted Joe to accept that offer." Perhaps, the offer he and the rest of King George's Court devised was not the ruthless, Machiavellian ploy with which their critics have credited them. No, the King's Court, evidently, is too arrogant to resort to low cunning. And what's more, their too obtuse to comprehend why a 12-year employee tendered an irrevocable, non-negotiable pay cut and “bonuses” that would task him alone with recent failures would signal to him disapproval of his work and contempt for his record.

No, the King's Court subjected Joe Torre to far worse than a ploy. They proffered him a mea culpa to sign, an offer tantamount to terms of surrender. For to accept them, Joe Torre would have had to admit to their implication that he alone is to blame for the Yankees’ last three ALDS defeats; that he alone bear responsibility for an entire organization’s failures and to forces beyond his control. And more odious still, the King’s Court is so smug and arrogant they profess incomprehension that Joe Torre was neither so contrite nor so desperate as to submit to their terms.

Alas, here in all its unabashed sordidness stands the smallness of All King George's Men.

Pity them their blind insolence. And pity us Yankee fans for loving the Kingdom they rule.


Amblinman said...

One of the most pathetic, illogical, reason-proof rants I've seen on the subject. They're the New York Yankees, not the New York Torres. He is not entitled to a lifetime pass as manager. He is not entitled to guarantees after failing in the postseason year after year. He is not bigger than the team, and he is not responsible for the dynasty run. Gene Michael and Buck Showalter had more to do with those teams than Joe Torre did. Torre was just the ultimate right time, right place guy.

What a pathetic display this fan base is showing over this whole thing. The 90's are over, let go of it already. Time for a change. Thank God the FO had the nutsack to do what was right by fir---oh right, they didn't fire him - they offered to make him the highest paid manager in the sport! The insult! THE HUMANITY!!!

Please. Get a grip.

Matthew S Schweber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew S Schweber said...

No one is suggesting Joe Torre is entitled to anything other than the dignity of an honest and grateful good-bye.

And by the way, Joe Torre hasn't failed in the post-season for 7 straight years, the Yankees have-- their players, their manager, their front-office, their owner. All of them.

But the Front-Office and the Ownership responsible for the players and personnel, in particular their wretched starting pitching, evidently, are too spineless, too cowardly, too duplicitious, too smug and too arrogant to accept their share of responsibility. Instead, they prefer to scapegoat Joe Torre.

Why are the Yankees 4-13 in their last seventeen post-season games?
Well, the answer is not Joe Torre.

No, in their last seventeen post-season games, Yankees starting pitchers have gone 2-8 with a 6.36 ERA. And what's more, in elimination games since Game 7 of the '04 ALCS, their starting pitchers are 0-4 with 12.22 ERA and have averaged 2.8 innings a start.

And Joe Torre, incidentally, wasn't responsible for acquiring them-- for adding the the likes of Kevin Brown, Javier Vasquez, Randy Johnson, Jared Wright Joe Torre was only constrained to pitch in those games. Neither was Joe Torre responsible, in contrast, for not having Andy Pettitte (and with him, Roger Clemens) who had instrumental roles in their championships and erstwhile post-season success.

No, your beloved Front Office made those decisions. I hope you're proud of them.

Amblinman said...

So let me see if I understand you correctly - Yankee players are responsible when they lose,yes? Well, I agree. Which means Yankee players are responsible when they win. Not Joe Torre. But this point seems to be lost on folks like you and the author of this blog. Logic dictates that if it's the players fault when they lose, then it ain't the manager's credit when they win. Yet all I keep reading is how everything this franchise was over the last 12 years belongs to Joe Torre. It's sickening.

This is ultimately the point. The New York Yankees were not successful because of Joe Torre. Their talent will carry them as far as they will go.

Who cares about the goodbye? No goodbye that ended with Torre out of a job was going to be good. He wanted to come back, the media wanted him back, fans wanted him back. The organization didn't, or at least they didn't want to be contractually tied to him for another two or three years. He decided it was an "insult" to be the highest paid manager in the game. Then his sycophants in the media picked up on this and are running with it.

By the way, you're damn right they're "my" FO, know why? Because I'm a Yankee fan first, foremost, last. I root for Cashman and the FO to give us the best team possible, not to make Joe Torre the most celebrated BS artist in sports. He had his run, it was great, and it was time to end. It probably should have ended after 2004, quite frankly.

The hypocrisy dripping from the media is disgusting. The Mike Lupicas of the world have been insisting that unless they win a WS, the money spent isn't justified. So it's the media that has decided the benchmark is a WS. But of course, it's not Joe's fault they haven't won one in years. Nope. He gets all the credit for 96-2001, but once the subject of the last few years come up you guys start shaking your fists at the FO and the starting pitching.

Give me a break. Try to stay consistent, even if just for five minutes.

Matthew S Schweber said...

"My Yankees Right or Wrong: Love it or Leave It!!"

Feel free to point out a logical inconsistency in my position, if you feel so impelled. I, certainly, don't detect one however. The tenor is really quite clear: the Yankees Front-Office scapegoated Torre for the wretched personnel decisions they rendered over the last five years, especially about starting pitching. Fiasco followed fiasco from Hideki Irabu to Jeff Weaver to letting Andy Pettitte leave, to Javier Vasquez, Kevin Brown, Jose Contreras, Carl Pavano to Jared Wright.

Since 2003, Torre has made the best of the inferior starting pitching provided him. Because marshalling his talent, happens to be one among many of his virtues.

As for your straw-man: I never argued that Torre was EXCLUSIVELY responsible for the Yankees World Series Championships from '96-'00. The players always deserve primary credit when a team wins and primary credit when it loses. And derivatively, the Front Office for drafting, acquiring, and signing that personnel.

And that Front Office's record, before Hughes, Chamberlain, Kennedy, et. al. had been nothing short of delinquent. Before Philip Hughes the last time the Yankees produced a starting pitcher from their farm system was 1995- yes, 1995. A guy by the name of Andy Pettitte that for some reason that astute Front Office of your did seem too interested in re-signing in 2003.

Now, as for your point: I'm afraid I don't discern much of one at all. Other than the obvious one that you particularly don't like Joe Torre very much. It's certainly your prerogative.

However, this isn't the most ideal forum to vent about Mike Lupica or to revile what you describe as "the media". I don't belong to the latter, and generally, don't care much for the opinions of the former.

Perhaps your McCarthyite conception of team loyalty implies I'm guilty by association somehow.

As for your complaint about the consistency you prefer not to see, I would remind you of something Emerson once wrote: "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

In any case, as Emerson, once