The Yankee Years: It’s Just Not That Bad

Let me preface my review of the book with the following:  I am on record here at the site as being anything but a big Joe Torre fan.  I do not and never have bowed at the altar of St. Joe.  I always appreciated Joe and what he had meant to the Yankees, but I never felt like he was the only reason this team was successful.  That being said the book that seemed to set the city and talk radio on fire all week, was really not that bad after all.  It was an easy read.  I read all 477 pages in just about three days.  Most if not all of the quotes released in the papers last week can be attributed to people other than Torre.  The A-Fraud comment, not Torre.  The SWF comment, not Torre.  The most critical comments in the book can be attributed to three people: Mike Borzello, the bullpen catcher for Joe Torre's 12 years with the Yankees, Mike Mussina and Tom Verducci.  Torre walked a fine line between controversial and informative throughout the entire book.  My only advice to curious baseball fans is to read the book for yourself.  There is a ton on information on subjects other than the Yankees and Joe Torre.  The book goes into the development of the current Red Sox dynasty and how focused Theo Epstein was on remaining true to their plan.  There is some really good information on Mark Shapiro, the General Manager of the Indians and how he developed a system for keeping track of all things baseball related called DiamondView. If you love baseball and you like to read, give the book a chance.  I am by no means trying to save Joe's reputation or trying to convince you that this book is something positive for the Yankees, it's just not.  There a ton of details about current and former Yankees that should have never been made public, Joe is certainly guilty there.  Even if the most controversial tidbits didn't come from him, Torre tied his name to a book that went against one of his biggest rules: keep what happens in the locker in the locker room.  My advice, spend the $25 and read the book for yourself. 

Here are a few quotes from the book that I really enjoyed.  They are for the most part nothing you would have read in the papers this week, they are really just funny or interesting quotes that I enjoyed while reading the book.

"Cashman didn't want Lilly.  He preferred Igawa, though Igawa would cost the Yankees more money over four years than what Lilly would cost on the free agent market." – Tom Verducci

"Bullpen catcher Mike Borzello was assigned to catch Igawa's first throwing session in spring training.  Borzello was looking forward to it, especially after Billy Epler, the assistant to Cashman, had raved about Igawa to Borzello."

    "Did you catch Igawa yet?" Eppler asked excitedly.

    "No," Borzello replied.

    "Just wait," Epler said.  "He's got a nasty changeup.  You'll see."

Borzello's response: "I caught Kei Igawa," Borzello said.  "It was awful.  He maybe threw three strikes out of 25 pitches.  The changeup was horrible.  I was reaching all over the place for his pitches." 

"Our problem right now is we have too many pitchers on the 15 day Pavano, Mussina said one day in April.  That's what it's officially called now.  Did you know that?  The Pavano.  His body just shut down from actually pitching for six weeks.  It's like when you get an organ transplant and your body rejects it.  His body rejected pitching.  It's not used to it."  – Mike Mussina

18 comments… add one

  • PS – The final chapter of the book is the best. It gives a ton of insight into Torre’s final days with the Yankees and how poorly he was treated by Hank, Hal and Cashman. Most of the info was already made public, but there’s an exchange between Torre and Cashman that was Torre’s attempt at a last ditch effort to stay that really hammers home the point that Cashman didn’t want him back and wasn’t going out of his way to do anything to help Torre’s cause.

    John - YF January 31, 2009, 10:02 pm
  • Aside from, as my Mom would say, “telling tales out of school”, the third party narrative is what makes this book disingenuous to me. Much of what is written in Verducci’s voice had to come out of Torre’s mouth. Own it if you say it. Instead Torre and Verducci tried to keep Torre’s hands clean and Torre says it’s in the name of history.

    chris February 1, 2009, 1:03 am
  • Call me naive but I don’t believe Joe was Verducci’s only source. It’s too easy to just say Joe is hiding behind the third person narrative format. The details in the book are such that they had to come from other sources. The locker room and front office details are too far removed from Torre’s scope of control that he can’t be “the” source on many of them. Again Joe was wrong. He was angry, he spent the last few years angry. The last chapter really gives you the details on why he deserved to be so angry. He was treated like dog crap in the end. Now that doesn’t excuse bringing the locker room to the world but you can understand what motivated him to do so.

    John - YF February 1, 2009, 8:25 am
  • Most of the info was already made public, but there’s an exchange between Torre and Cashman that was Torre’s attempt at a last ditch effort to stay that really hammers home the point that Cashman didn’t want him back and wasn’t going out of his way to do anything to help Torre’s cause.
    You seem to be forgetting that that perspective is highly slanted by Torre’s opinion. We have no idea, from him, if there was going to be no effort to bring Torre back and Cashman talked his superiors into the (generous) one-year offer. Furthermore, he always had incentives in his contracts. But does he point that out?
    That said, Torre seems to be really interested in casting blame elsewhere. He wants all the credit for the championships but none of the blame for the losses. That said are any of the following answered?:
    a) From the accounts, Torre had lost all faith in Weaver. He concluded that he just didn’t have what it takes to succeed in NY. But yet, he pitches him at a crucial point in the World Series while Mo rides pine? Why was Weaver even on the post-season roster? And, if so, why not restrict him to garbage time? If Verducci doesn’t question that basic contradiction then I have little doubt he was merely transcribing from Torre.
    b) Bubba Crosby in CF during a deciding playoff game? If Torre had decided that Bernie couldn’t play CF productively any more, why did it take him 116+ games to realize it? Then Bernie plays 28 games in CF during 2006? And Torre is shocked that the GM won’t trust him if they bring back Bernie for 2007? The manager decided he couldn’t trust the player, over a AAA scrub, in a deciding playoff game. But he still continued to rely on him in other games?
    c) The 2006 Verducci cover piece on A-Rod and his lack of a place in the clubhouse? What was Torre’s role especially since there was reporting from the manager’s office? Then Torre follows up by batting A-Rod eighth? It’s obvious now that Torre was trying to embarrass his best player and run him out of town. Somehow I don’t think they discuss that angle.
    See, for as much as you want to say this is a book by Verducci, a true journalist wouldn’t let the quotes affect the analysis. Problem is, the tag team of the two is far beyond the point of critical study (for history, if you will) and would rather spin a one-sided, and mutally benefi$ial, tale.
    Worse, Torre has violated the sanctity of the clubhouse and for profit. Where was it previously reported that Damon or Brown were about to quit baseball? Or that Weaver had a breakdown? The basic fact is that this book is completely self-serving without the critical analysis. Problem is, we weren’t going to get that with Torre’s name on the cover, his veto power, or his long-standing collaboration with Verducci. So now the only way the book will be seen by history is as a self-serving, money-making, jilted response to his former employers.
    As least we finally know the real Torre.

    Rob February 1, 2009, 9:06 am
  • “a true journalist wouldn’t let the quotes affect the analysis”
    You’ve got the wrong one. I am a baseball coach that writes for this blog. A journalist I am not.
    To answer your Cashman/Torre question there Joe presented Cashman with an idea well before the final sit down was ever arranged. It was for one year and a buyout, Joe presented it to Cash and waited for him to get back to him. Cashman never did. So in a last ditch effort on his way out of the building Torre asked Cashman about his proposal and Cashman said “Uh, I really didn’t understand it, remind me, what it was again?” Torre said “Two year contract, whatever the number.” Cashman said “I’ll see.” Not 30 seconds later after Cashman left Torre, he came walking back “No, they have no interest in doing that.”
    As for the incentives he does point that out. Torre said “I’ve always had a $1 million bonus for winning the World Series. His point for saying the incentives were insulting was “The only bonus I want you to put in there is the World Series.” It seems like the other incentives were insulting to him because he expected to get that far and believed that winning the WS was his and everyone else ultimate goal.
    A)His explanation for Weaver: Torre needed a pitcher in the bottom the 11th, the first four hitters due up were all righthanded. There were only two righthanded options in the bullpen: Jeff Weaver and Mariano Rivera.
    “Using Rivera in a tie game on the road, Torre figured, did not make much sense. Weaver could cover more innings. With Rivera available for the maximum of only 2 innings, that gave the Yankees only one at bat, one chance, to hand Rivera a lead to protect. Otherwise who would close the game after that? Weaver?”
    “I had no options, Torre said. It was an extra inning game on the road. There was never any consideration of other options.”
    B) There is very little discussion on his decision to play Crosby.
    C) The angle you speak of was brought up many times. Torre was trying to push guys like Jeter and other Yankee leaders to help ease the pressure on Alex, but to a man they all said there’s really nothing we can do Joe. He says that Alex wanted to be a leader, but found it difficult with Jeter already in that role. Again, maybe he’s a great BS’er, but you don’t get the sense from this book that Torre was the one who didn’t like Alex. Alex’s BFF Mike Borzello rips Alex consistently throughout the book. Bowa in his last season told him his goal was to be “Vanilla Rodriguez” stop saying “Stupid Shit.” It could be passing the buck or a whole lot of BS, but Torre makes it pretty clear he didn’t have issues with Alex. Weaver, Yes. Kevin Brown, Yes. Randy Johnson, Yes and so on.
    D) As for D you are 100% right, as I mentioned above. He was wrong for that, I made that clear. I called him a hypocrite for that actually. The beginning of the book he rips I believe Wells for doing the same thing. There is nothing that I can remember about Weaver having a breakdown, the other issues were made public.
    Again, that’s your opinion. You won’t read it, so I won’t tell you to, but it’s really the only way you can sit there and have the comments you are making carry weight. You make some very good points, but most of your answers are in the book. The book is much more than Torre being pissed off, but you need to read it to see that.
    I understand why people are angry, I am not foolish. I understand why you feel the way you do, you have legit basis for that. But take it from a guy who doesn’t like Torre, never really did…There’s more to the book than a giant F*CK YOU Yankees. Just my opinion.

    John - YF February 1, 2009, 9:52 am
  • I was talking about Verducci, not you. My questions were for Verducci, if he was truly interested in getting an unvarnished view. He wasn’t.
    That recollection about Cashman does nothing to suggest, for instance, that Cashman wasn’t going behind the scenes to help him keep his job – exactly like he did after 2004 and 2005 and 2006 – three seasons when Torre should have been fired, if not 2003.
    Weaver could cover more innings.
    Why is he even on the roster if Torre had already lost faith in him? There’s a huge contradiction there. Furthermore, why wasn’t he restricted to garbage time? For instance, the night before the Yanks had taken a five run lead going in to the bottom of the ninth.
    “I had no options, Torre said. It was an extra inning game on the road. There was never any consideration of other options.”
    You could pitch your best pitcher, moron. Zim knew the folly.
    There is very little discussion on his decision to play Crosby.
    Shocking! But how many pages on how he wanted Bernie back? Luckily, the GM is thinking – “Wait, he wouldn’t play him in CF during a deciding playoff game, but 28 games the next season?”
    Again, maybe he’s a great BS’er, but you don’t get the sense from this book that Torre was the one who didn’t like Alex.
    Of course not. It’s his book and he controls the propaganda, ur, story. Where’s the mention of the Verducci-Torre collaboration during that season? Or how it affected A-Rod having his manager – to use Goldman’s phrase “cut his knees” THEN bat him eighth.
    Even if the book is much more than Torre being pissed off, I’m much more interested in a a critical analysis of his decisions and his thinking that went into them. It doesn’t sound like this book has even close to that. It’s a pissing contest on top of dead horses mixed in with some non-Yankee stories even as the title is “The Yankee Years”.
    Quite simply, this book is a fucking mess. It’s not clear what it’s supposed to be about, who wrote it, and what the point is. I mean, a high school teach could right ask of a student: “What’s the thesis?”.

    Rob February 1, 2009, 10:35 am
  • Of course, a high school English teacher also demands proper grammar and spelling.

    Rob February 1, 2009, 11:14 am
  • Says the man who hasn’t read the book. It’s your opinion.
    As for Bernie, there is not a lot on that topic. Your making statements and accusations without reading the book. You have your opinion I have mine. I respect that enough not to go any further.

    John - YF February 1, 2009, 11:16 am
  • Can you tell me the thesis then?
    The Amazon page makes it seem like it’s written by Torre about his “Yankee Years”.
    The NY Times review says it’s a bitter remembrance of those years.
    The excerpts say it’s about exposing clubhouse matters.
    You say it’s about baseball during that time from a third person view.
    Seriously, what is this book about?

    Rob February 1, 2009, 11:24 am
  • I can’t believe Torre didn’t own up to screwing up with Weaver.
    You know what gives you a better chance to win the game? HAVING A CHANCE TO GET THE LEAD IN THE FIRST PLACE. The law of never using your closer in a tie game on the road is a dumb one, but it’s absolutely unforgivable in the playoffs.

    AndrewYF February 1, 2009, 12:21 pm
  • What he said.
    Worse, the scumbag said “no regrets”. He’s been shown to be stupid and arrogant from a guy that was never considered either. That’s quite a feat for a book with no thesis. Even Canseco couldn’t pull that off.

    Rob February 1, 2009, 12:33 pm
  • “No thesis.”
    Since when does a book need a “thesis?” Playing Bernie 28 games the following season means absolutely nothing. what. so. ever.
    Who played center field last year under Gerardi? The options in Center for the Yankees have been slim to none since Bernie’s decline as a productive player.
    I don’t get your rancor towards Torre. At all.
    Unless Brian Cashman comes out and says otherwise…you can damn be sure that what Torre explained to Verducci is EXACTLY what happened.
    That’s business. It sucks. You can say the Yankees and/or Torre could have handled things better but it is clear that the Yankees really didn’t want Torre back for more than a Year and Torre really wanted to coach for much longer.

    walein February 1, 2009, 1:02 pm
  • I don’t see how Torre’s refusal to say “I f#@$-up with Weaver” makes him arrogant. Though, like many people on this site, I do not believe in the archaic notion of not using your closer in tie games on the road, I also realize that ALOT of managers (possibly all but a handful) believe in that “preventative” strategy.
    Though you and I might believe it to be wrong-headed thinking, I don’t believe it is necessarily “pig-headed” thinking.
    Joe Gerardi used Olendorf (worse than Weaver) just this past year in a similar circumstance (with a similar result I might add) and backed up his reasoning the same way.

    walein February 1, 2009, 1:34 pm
  • Sorry to threadjack.
    Yahoo! posted its 50 worst announcers:
    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/post/Turn-it-off-The-50-worst-announcers-in-sports-?urn=top,137612&cp=12
    Among them are John Sterling (No. 17) and Michael Kay (No. 49).
    (Billy Packer, Chris Berman, Joe Morgan, Tony Kornheiser and Dick Vitale make up the top 5. or Bottom five.)
    Sterling I can see. But Kay isn’t THAT bad.
    Oddly, Yahoo!’s Top 50 contains many of the same names:
    http://sports.yahoo.com/top/news;_ylt=AphbHeuegXtGR_fZ_e.knPE5nYcB?slug=ys-top50announcers013009&prov=yhoo&type=lgns
    Anyway, someone has a Top 50 list for everything.

    I'mBillMcNeal February 1, 2009, 5:27 pm
  • Heh. I am still waiting for a post on John Henry getting married to a 30-year old woman, less than a year after divorcing his wife.

    SoxFan February 2, 2009, 6:35 pm
  • Only if John Henry is Drew Peterson in disguise.

    I'mBillMcNeal February 2, 2009, 10:12 pm
  • SOrry to thread-jack, but apparently the Sox have signed Brad Wilkerson to a minor-league contract.

    Atheose February 3, 2009, 7:41 am
  • Don’t shoot the messenger, but this is starting to feel like 2005 for the Sox. All risky plays (Smoltz, Penny, Baldelli, Saito, Varitek, now Wilkerson) without one true upgrade. That might be enough if everything breaks their way. But something tells me they’re leaving too much to chance in an off-season that has seen both of their division rivals get significantly, and clearly, better.

    Rob February 3, 2009, 11:19 am

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