The Clock Ticks

Is the Torre/Piniella meme a product of the tabloid echo chamber? With every hour, we are left to wonder. Are the rational forces of Yankee management, led by Brian Cashman, working behind the scenes to retain Joe? Will a prideful Torre, after this very public debate over his job, even want to come back. There isn’t much word from camp. Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry have come out in favor of retaining Joe; their Yankee legends surely mean more than that of their former teammate, Sweet Lou Piniella.

The return of Lou, as many have noted, would likely make the Yankees an A-Rod team—an almost unfathomable prospect given recent events. Conversely, it’s hard to imagine Derek Jeter without his mentor and with the hot-headed Piniella. One can only imagine how the Yankee captain would respond to the first base-tossing, Piniella tantrum. A withering look, perhaps. In the clubhouse, he’d surely toe the party line. “Just shows how much he wants to win.” But would he still respect him in the morning?

The clock ticks on the Yankee core. On the Pinstripe Blog, Steve Goldman worries that the Yankees’ great strength up the middle—Posada, Jeter, Damon—is aging. The great Rivera isn’t getting any younger either. Still, he cautions, the Yankees primary objective should be to strenthen the minor league system, and to avoid the signing of mediocre veteran pitching.

Peter Abraham, over on the LoHud blog, suggests the Yankees pass on the options of Moose and Sheff; move Cabrera to center; move Damon to first; move Giambi to the permanent DH slot; and move A-Rod to whomever will take him, preferably for young pitching.

Joe didn’t have a particularly strong playoffs. It looks to me like his bridges are burned with Alex. If he can be transformed into one or more good young arms, that might be a good way to build for the future.

For now, it’s wait and see.

21 comments… add one
  • I think Torre deserves blame for the loss. Why start Wright when Wang or Lidle could have pitched? Why continue with Sheff when Phillips would have been much better with the glove and about the same with the bat? Why use the most sensitive time of the season to jerk around A-Rod, your most sensitive player?
    Torre has his favorites (and Wright is unfathomably one of them) and overuses his bullpen. These are marks against him. I also think that maybe the clubhouse is *too* comfortable with him at the helm – perhaps a change of voice would help?
    That said, I’m not advocating his firing. If nothing else, my only knowledge of Sweet Lou is his time as D-Rays manager, and from what I saw he’s a total wanker.
    And as for A-Rod – I’ll always be in the camp that he’s the type of player a team just doesn’t trade. I think Sheff and Matsui have also disappeared on us the past three postseasons, and maybe there should be a shake-up in the middle order – in which case, release Sheff. But don’t trade A-Rod.
    Question: why would hiring Sweet Lou make the Yanks A-Rod’s team?

    Sam October 9, 2006, 10:56 am
  • Sam, Piniella managed A-Rod on the Mariners and apparently loves him.

    Paul SF October 9, 2006, 11:21 am
  • Sam: I would agree that Torre botched the pitching in the Detroit series, and the lineup shakeup was definitely counterproductive. Leaving Giambi out of the lineup, publicly humiliating A-Rod….I just don’t see those as productive moves. Bob Klapisch is withering today in his attack on Torre, claiming the team has gone soft on him, a bunch of overpaid millionaires who turn yellow when push comes to shove. That Torre’s strength has always been as a communicator and not as a strategist, and that he has apparently now failed as a communicator, is becoming a rallying point for his dismissal.
    I’m not so quick to pull this trigger. As you note, there’s really no manager out there who’s going to be the perfect strategic guy. (Piniella surely isn’t this person, Buck Showalter might be closer, but he’s presumably burned his Yankee bridge). And really, which players has Torre lost? A-Rod? Sheff? Randy? Were they ever there to begin with?
    I’m reminded from a passage from Pat Jordan’s book, A False Spring. Jordan is a struggling pitcher in the Braves’s system, lost in a fog of his own failure, a self-absorbed head case. Torre is the team’s top prospect, clearly on his way to a big career in the majors and with a strong sense of professionalism. It is spring training. Jordan goes to throw BP. Torre catches. Jordan is clearly mailing it in. Torre confronts him and they come to blows. The message, get it together or quit. The book was published in, I believe, 1962.
    Joe Torre is too mature and too frail to go toe-to-toe with A-Rod. Batting him 8th was clearly a sign that he had lost patience with a player stuck in his own personal miasma. Same story.

    YF October 9, 2006, 11:38 am
  • Fair enough, YF.
    But if Torre stays does that mean A-Rod goes? Does it have to be one or the other?
    Maybe Joe just needs a new bench coach.
    I do agree with Peter Abrahms when he says that perhaps Matsui and Sheff coming back was actually a bad thing for the Yanks. The Aug/early Sept team clearly had something going, and Craig Wilson, Melky and Guiel were contributing in their own ways. All of a sudden, those two come back, there are a couple of monster performances from the new lineup and we all start thinking World Series, when in fact the lineup that won us the division had been changed.
    Oh, and we need starting pitchingin the worst way. Wright should never start a playoff game again, and Randy in a year’s time will undoubtedly be crappier than Randy now; a scary thought.

    Sam October 9, 2006, 12:01 pm
  • I also like this post, which lays it out pretty starkly what a Torre firing would mean. None of these things is appealing to me.

    Sam October 9, 2006, 12:01 pm
  • Simple question: is there someone in the Yankee organization (besides the players, obviously) who is accountable for the Yankees’ failure? I am not asking this snidely, but am seriously curious where YFs stand on this issue. And I don’t mean “accountable” as in “should be fired”, but “accountable” as in “did someone devise a failed plan for this team’s makeup”. I for one don’t really think the Yankees should fire anyone (though I would welcome a return of Piniella, for many reasons beyond just his acidic presence; it would point to massive disarray in the FO and probably personnel-move idiocy as well). I wonder where YFs point the finger, if they are willing to point a finger at all. I say this because I imagine if the Sox were reasonably heavy favorites against a team, went out with a whimper, and we SFs just chalked it up to “hey, short series, anything can happen”, we’d be accused of burying our heads in the sands and reflexively defending our beloved GM.
    Any serious thoughts from our YF readers?

    SF October 9, 2006, 2:18 pm
  • SFs were certainly accused of burying their collective heads in the sand when some said injuries were the prinipal culprit to the Lost Season, and that Epstein’s plan was still a sound one.
    I believe phrases involving Kool-Aid were used.

    Paul SF October 9, 2006, 2:36 pm
  • SF: I don’t think anyone here is exhibiting any head-in-sand behavior. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Start from the top down:
    -George and his Tampa cronies, who love the experienced but expensive toy and then blame everyone but themselves when said toy breaks down.
    -Torre and his coaches, for some dubious lineup decisions that clearly backfired, and for allowing the A-Rod situation to degenerate.
    -The players who failed to produce or “cohere,” whatever that means.
    The team obviously needs new blood, because the simple fact is that it’s almost impossible to bash your way through the playoff against teams that have solid pitching and can hit a bit themselves.

    YF October 9, 2006, 2:52 pm
  • You can add Cashman to that list, for some dubious personnel decisions in the past. Still, we must credit him for doing an overall fine job this year. Creating a top staff out of thin air without sacrificing the future is a difficult, difficult challenge, as Theo Epstein can attest.

    YF October 9, 2006, 2:55 pm
  • Move Johnny Damon to first? That makes no sense. If the Yanks are eager to move JD out of center, then why not move Matsui to right (where he played 5 games in 2005) and put JD in left (where he played many games prior to joining the Sox)?

    Adam October 9, 2006, 3:00 pm
  • SF – I’d blame George and his cronies most of all. Sheff and Randy were both his calls – the latter cost us a chance at Beltran, the former at Vlad, to boot. I also blame Joe for, as I said, his decision to start Wright, Sheff and Bernie and the way he treated A-Rod.
    Cashman has made missteps in the past, but he seemed to do a pretty great job this year – Wilson, Geuil, Abreu, Lidle, Bruney – and held on to the young kids and prospects, so he gets a free pass from me.
    As for the players themselves – my feelings on RJ are pretty clear by now, but I think both he and Wright pitched poorly. The Yanks hitting wasn’t the best – they were far too impatient – and Cano needs to learn some plate discipline in a hurry. But I think against a good pitching team in a five-game series, bats can go cold. Trouble is, when you’re pitching is also crappy.

    Sam October 9, 2006, 3:09 pm
  • Also, I think hitting is far more variable than pitching in a short series. I guess you could blame Cash for signing Wright (and I do), but again his moves this year make up for it in my mind.

    Sam October 9, 2006, 3:10 pm
  • When does Jeter get his share of blame for letting the A-Rod situation deteriorate when he certainly had a chance or two to at least try to contain it? He is the captain, after all. He bears some responsibility for things that happen and don’t happen in the clubhouse.
    I’m not saying he could have changed anything — but it looks like he didn’t even try, and the Yankees suffered for it.

    Paul SF October 9, 2006, 3:28 pm
  • I think it’s hard to place blame on any one person considering the state of the meltdown in the last 23 innings of Yankee baseball. Our pitching wasn’t very good but we knew that a long long time ago and the idea that Cory Lidle or Wang could have matched a perfect outing for 6 innings is silly. Torre’s handling of A Rod in the deciding game (if he wanted to push Rodriguez down in the lineup he should have done it months ago when Alex was in the strikeout slump) was poor. His decision to play Giambi against the lefty and Sheffield against the righty and then not make any subsequent changes, during either of those games, when it had become obvious to all that the players playing weren’t able to read the pitchers was bad.
    Pavano and Wright are on either Cashman or George (or both, or one for one and one for the other…).
    Randy’s on George and yet, who should we have gotten for big money instead? Beckett? Burnett? Schmidt? I don’t know if there is anyone out of the big time guys out in the league right now that would have provided any of us YFs with a sense of security this past week.
    Mattingly has to take some of the blame in that it seemed pretty obvious in the last two games that all of the guys coming up to bat had no “plan” whatsoever to deal with the pitchers; or if they did, hat plan was very very dumb. They waited on first two pitch strikes against Rogers and then came out and swung away at first pitches from a completely different pitcher THE NEXT DAY. It was almost as if they decided to attribute the pitching performances to Ivan Rodriguez instead of the actual pitchers on the mound.
    Finally. I think some of the blame should go to SFs everywhere for their collective ill-will towards the players on the Yankees. Our guys makes lots of money but they’re gentle souls and obvously couldn’t handle such emotional adversity.
    By the way, Mike and the Mad Dog just had Cory Lidle call in to defend himself against the comments made today about “not being prepared” like the Tigers were for the playoffs. As usual, M & M sounded insane and Lidle came across like Bishop Desmond Tutu.

    walein October 9, 2006, 3:40 pm
  • when does varitek get his share of the blame for the sox missing the playoffs? for letting manny sit idly by?
    the captain’s role is to serve as the example. it isn’t to babysit the roster. they try to rally the troops, they pick other guys up when they can, [insert tired cliche here]…
    let’s face it: most of these guys are grown men. if they can’t find the motivation to get up for these big games (with or without the assistance of elevex), you cannot blame one person.
    not the manager.
    not the captain.
    not even the man with the salary the size of some nations’ GDP.
    the yankees were outplayed. end of story.
    hopefully they’ll get some young pitching someplace.
    (a guy can dream.)
    regardless, the rest of the playoffs should be pretty exciting. i am still looking forward to it.

    Yankee Fan In Boston October 9, 2006, 3:42 pm
  • It’s a nice attempt at a comparison YFiB, but it fails. It seems pretty apparent that Manny was hurt, like Varitek and much of the rest of the roster during August/September. Yet the clubhouse did not tear apart. We saw no (or at least very little that I can recall)anonymous sniping, certainly no quotes appearing in SI articles throwing various players under the bus.
    I suppose the closest comparison is Varitek not sticking up for Manny like Jeter doesn’t stick up for A-Rod. But unlike A-Rod, Manny couldn’t care less about media and fan pressure and thrives no matter what. Media criticism of Manny dosn’t hurt the team of which Varitek is the captain; clearly, it does with A-Rod.
    Anyway, this is a discussion we’ve had already. I just thought it was worth throwing into the blame game.
    I agree though. It’s sad if someone needs to be mentally babysat just to perform well in the playoffs, and that’s certainly not Jeter’s responsibility.

    Paul SF October 9, 2006, 4:29 pm
  • It is all the game two rain out’s fault. If it weren’t for that, I could have watched the game on TV like I had originally planned and “willed” the Yankees to victory, complete with my typically brilliant couch-coaching, and brutal umpire berating. Believe me, I would have been inside Laz Diaz’s head; no way would he have called Posada out on strikes in the ninth. Instead I was stuck with delayed internet broadcasts and AM radio. Totally messed up my mojonating, trying to exert my psychic power while driving at 65mph.
    Seriously though, I did read a couple of quotes saying it was really hard to pick up the Verlander and Zumaya bullets in daylight, so Detroit was quite possibly helped by the delay.
    I agree that no one person can be assigned blame, but I am most disappointed in Yankee hitters in game three for forgetting they were playing the Roaster, or maybe the Roaster for forgetting who he was. Five hits, 8ks, no runs? Come on.
    After that, it falls on Torre. It’s his job as point man to take the heat, and he knows it. He’s also man enough to take the valid criticism (not the trite second guessing) while giving proper respect to Leyland and the Tigers. It’s why he would be my first choice to try again next year, if he still would want the job.

    attackgerbil October 9, 2006, 4:57 pm
  • ag- i just want you to know, you are my favorite yf. you’re both level headed and grounded by reality. it is appreciated.
    that said… come everyone overlooks the curse of donny baseball? it’s for real. the guy is a total bad luck schleprock.

    sf rod October 9, 2006, 6:03 pm
  • I know Torre gets paid a lot to put up with his Boss, but at some point doesn’t he have enough money in the bank to not have to take the BS he does from Steinbrenner? Torre seems amazingly able to sublimate his own ego, which is probably why he’s been such a good manager for the Yankees. But at some point it does make you wonder if he’s going to get sick of having his abilities questioned and tampered with. He may never be able to manage such a deep set of great players if he left the Bombers, but is that worth the crap that he has to take?
    Steinbrenner owns the team. He and Cashman put it together. The players play. And Torre does a damn good job of getting them to play well in almost every conceivable situation. For this he’s left to twist in the wind, with dumb tabloid scribes calling for his head (yeah, that means you, Lupica) and worse, they are asking for a red-faced blowhard who has proven to be nothing but a sideshow these last ten years to be installed in his place, as if that’s the solution to the Yankees problems, which at last check were mainly located in the weak, aging rotation. Maybe Steinbrenner should start the bloodletting with a symbolic sacrifice of his toady-esque GM and then finish it off with his $51M-extended lefty “ace” of choice, and not his class-act of a manager. If Torre gets fired, Cashman should have the decency to resign right after; otherwise he will show himself to have been completely emasculated.
    (How’s that for a rant from the other side?)

    SF October 9, 2006, 6:07 pm
  • sf rod: Thanks. And thanks to the all SF’s such as yourself who keep me trying to be honest, or at least help me extract my head from my ass as needed.
    Re: Donnie Baseball, I honestly don’t know what his reputation is as a hitting coach. I doubt anyone will every say much one way or the other on that topic. I was surprised to learn that he was potentially in line for manager. I thought I remembered reading something years ago (15 or so) that he had no interest in being a manager for the Yankees. I also think I remember a few disputes regarding his contracts as a player in that the Yankees made him wait to get paid after having a couple really good seasons being part of the source of that, and that players really did not like playing in New York except for the money. Old stuff.
    SF: That about sums up my feelings regarding firing Joe, and hiring Lou. Well said.

    attackgerbil October 9, 2006, 6:36 pm
  • …good discussion folks…i agree ag is the most together yf on the site [no offense to anyone else, please]…
    paul: everything in ny seems to be magnified to the point of being overblown…the lupica’s of the world tend to screech about the negative “issues” of sports, real or imagined, because they’re sexier than talking about wins and losses…i once said that it seemed veritek was given a pass on manny while jeter got hammered about arod…you correctly point out that manny doesn’t let it get to him like arod does…i don’t buy the manny injury part though, because historically he tends to get injured at times that are convenient for him…
    …when you say: “When does Jeter get his share of blame for letting the A-Rod situation deteriorate when he certainly had a chance or two to at least try to contain it?…I’m not saying he could have changed anything — but it looks like he didn’t even try, and the Yankees suffered for it.”, in one post, then you say in a subsequent post: “It’s sad if someone needs to be mentally babysat just to perform well in the playoffs, and that’s certainly not Jeter’s responsibility.”, i’m not sure what you’re looking for jeter to do?…how could he “contain the situation” for a guy that appears to need the “mental babysitting” you say jeter is not responsible for?…yankee fan in boston summed it up: “i think the captain’s role is to serve as the example”…to which i’ll add, anyone who doesn’t think jeter sets the right example by playing the game the way it should be [i.e. hustle, team-first] isn’t paying attention or has a jeter-hater complex, and further discussion is pointless…
    …you guys got the yankees’ problems well summed up…changing the coaching is too easy and knee jerk….the problem is the current makeup of the team…they need to examine why the 98 team was so successful, and why teams like the marlins, tigers, and others have handled them so easily in recent post-seasons: pitching, defense, and youth…my head is pulled firmly from the sand…

    dc October 9, 2006, 8:37 pm

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