Thursday, May 05, 2005
Four World Series titles since 1996
may not be enough to save Torre
When the Tigers fired Billy Martin in 1973, the Texas Rangers hired him within a week. When Martin was canned by the Rangers in 1975, the Yankees came calling days later.
If the Yankees are foolish/smart enough to axe Joe Torre (whichever adjective you choose to use is okay by me), he may set a new record for Shortest Time Between Managers Jobs.
Of course, if Torre were let go, he may not want to so much as sniff a baseball stadium, let alone manage again, at least not right away. Joe will be 65 this summer, and after 9+ seasons managing in the biggest fish bowl in sports, he might want to finally draw his blinds.
But if he is willing, there are a couple handfuls of teams that would be placing calls to his agent, should Torre indeed be fired. The Yankees are a very un-Yankee-like 11-17, and are looking more and more pedestrian every day. They just gave up 11 runs on successive nights to the -- cough, cough -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Firing Torre would be the ultimate act of desperation, though, even for someone as impetuous as George Steinbrenner. The team is simply not playing anywhere near their abilities, and though some of it can be attributed to age, it's mostly a case of everyone underachieving at once. But hasn't Torre earned the opportunity to get it fixed after more than just 27 games?
Proponents of the idea of cashiering Torre say it would be just the shakeup the team needs. But it's funny how folks who want a coach or manager fired hardly ever have someone in mind as a replacement. I haven't heard too many names bantied about, mainly because there aren't too many names out there who could thrive under such circumstances. Besides, Torre can manage a bit, too, and how many guys possess a combination of his skills and aura and resume? Tell me, who would you hire to replace Joe Torre?
That's not to say that Torre is irreplaceable, of course. But at this juncture, barely in May, the team still not all that far from first place (or even a Wild Card spot) --is this really the time for someone to hop onto The Steinbrenner Express? If Torre is to go, perhaps it should be at the end of the season, after 2005 plays out, or sometime during the final month, if the Yankees are hopelessly far behind a playoff spot.
Yes, the Yankees imploded during last year's ALCS, blowing a 3-0 series lead. Yes, the team hasn't won a World Series since 2000, despite having the highest payroll in the universe year after year. Yes, the Torre magic might be wearing off. These days, to manage or coach some place for nine years in a row is like the 50 years Connie Mack put in with his Philadelphia A's in the early 20th century. But a managerial move now would be terribly premature and, frankly, probably wouldn't produce the desired results anyway. Don't expect another Bob Lemon this time.
Lemon (left) was like night and day
compared to the fiery Martin
For those who don't know, don't care, or who were born after 1975, Lemon was the man Steinbrenner hired to replace Martin in June 1978, the club 11 or 12 games behind the Red Sox. Lemon brought with him a calming presence, and the team caught fire, catching the Red Sox and beating them in the infamous Bucky Dent playoff for the divisional title.
But Lemon was a former manager himself, steeped in baseball knowledge and experience, presented with a win/win situation. Nobody expected much that late in the season, with the Yankees that far behind the lead. Besides, Lemon was a breath of fresh air for the players after the stormy Martin. Everyone relaxed, the pressure off, and it showed on the field.
The situation this time is far different.
Steinbrenner, and Yankees fans, should pull their fingers as far away from the panic button as possible. There are still 135 games to play. Actually, if you ask me, maybe some players should be canned instead.
Now you know why there is no such thing as a guaranteed contract for a manager.