Yankee stadium is buzzing right now as the 2010 Yankees lead George Steinbrenner’s family toward center field to unveil a new monument. It is an emotional time for all of them, I’m sure, as Steinbrenner will finally be immortalized as one of the all-time greats.
Wait a second…what is this? Is that who I think it is?
Is that Don Mattingly stepping out of the dugout?
And wait! Who is that older Italian gentlemen? No, it’s not. No way.
As if they had almost popped out of nowhere, both Joe Torre and Don Mattingly begin walking the trail of the warning track, simultaneously waving to the Yankee Stadium crowd who hadn’t seen them in New York for nearly three years.
Although it was an emotional moment all around, this moment continues to bring up a number of questions that still haven’t been answered. For example:
1. Is Torre's Yankees resume still worth all the hype?
2. Should we still like him, even though he wrote a book almost degrading the Yankee teams he managed?
3. Will he end up in the same location as Mr. Steinbrenner?
The answer for the first two is easy: YES!!!
When “The Yankee Years” first came out, a good percentage of the Yankees crowd--both fans and former players--turned against Torre. Not only was it hatred over some of the comments regarding active and non-active players, such as the A-Rod “Single white female” comment, but the legitimacy of his managing credentials came under fire.
Message boards from both yesterday's news and today's, continue to debate this question. Was Torre actually a good manager? Or was it the fact that he was already managing a tremendous team put together by Buck Showalter and Gene Michael that made him great?
Here’s where the question gets answered with ease.
You know the man who was immortalized in bronze last night in Monument Park? George Steinbrenner?
Joe Torre had to work for him.
And not only did he work for him, but he SUCCEEDED year after year.
While reading Joel Sherman’s “Birth of a Dynasty,” I came across a phrase that I think describes Joe Torre’s demeanor better than anything else can.
At any time, Torre can hit somebody with a “calm bomb.”
Unlike other managers during the Steinbrenner era, most notably Billy Martin, Joe Torre did not confront his boss or players; he made his point, and reassured him that things will work out. By doing this, Torre would get his way, and in an even more positive trend, he would help calm his players down.
One of the better Torre-Steinbrenner stories I’ve read about was one from the 1996 World Series going into Game 2. After losing the first game, Torre told Steinbrenner that they probably won't win Game 2 at home (Greg Maddux was pitching that night for the Braves), but they will sweep Atlanta on the road.
They did exactly that, then won Game 6 at home to clinch Steinbrenner’s first Championship since 1978.
Torre, in that case, did not promise Mr. Steinbrenner anything he did not believe himself, which was one of his better attributes during his reign as manager.
At the same time, I think Yankee fans can all agree that after 2004 Joe Torre was over the hill as manager. He was dealing with a bunch of players (see: Gary Sheffield, Kenny Lofton) who were of a different breed (I don’t mean black, like they want you to believe in reference to a Torre comment they made a few years back), and didn’t really work too well under his guidance.
Being the calm and somewhat laid back manager that he was, he wasn’t able to give Robinson Cano or Melky Cabrera the kick-start that Joe Girardi was/has been able to under his term as manager.
As he said yesterday regarding his last few seasons as manager, “you had two parties not knowing how to say goodbye.”
The Yankees needed to move on, but it was impossible to move on from somebody who is easily put into the top four of best Yankees managers of all-time, a list including Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, and Casey Stengel.
But that poses the third question: Will Joe Torre have his number retired?
Many columnists, including the Daily News’ Mike Lupica, say it very matter-of-factly that he will be enshrined in Monument Park, as if there is no question to it.
You look at the two most recent “great” managers, Stengel and Billy Martin, and both of their numbers are retired.
I personally have no opinion about this, because I admit I was one of the people a few years ago who hated Latroy Hawkins for wearing Paul O'Neill's #21 (And still do; but then again, I also believe that if Mark Teixeira took that number, I would be more than happy with it).
The only thing I can say is that if Joe Torre does, in fact, retire after this season, his chances are very good of having his number retired very soon.
There’s that and the fact that besides the number 6, the only single digit Yankee number left is already set to be retired, and that player still has a few years left before he'll call it quits…