Sunday, October 23, 2005

Torre's Coming Back To The Yankees, Where He Belongs

My dear Uncle Nick received his copy of Motor City Sports (MCS) Magazine the other day, and after pronouncing how proud he was of his nephew, he quickly went on to other things.

"Make sure you write about the Yankees," Uncle Nick said. I guess he didn’t get the MCS part of the magazine’s title, but that’s okay -- Nick is retired now and even though he migrates to Florida, there is still a lot of New Jersey in him. And you can’t take the Yankees out of his blood. Lord knows Aunt Irma -- another one of my supporters -- has probably tried and failed in that regard.

Not that the Yankees need any more publicity, but I actually should thank Uncle Nick, because there is indeed something about the Yankees that I need to bring up.

Joe Torre will be back managing the team, and if the Yanks don’t make one other move before the 2006 season begins, they’ve already had a succesful offseason, as far as I’m concerned -- Lou Piniella be damned.

Torre belongs in the dugout, in pinstripes

The truth is, there probably isn’t anyone on this planet better suited to manage the Yankees right now than Joe Torre. That’s because to pilot that team, it’s not enough to possess a keen baseball mind, to know when to hit-and-run, or when to pull the starter and bring in the relief guy. It’s not enough to prepare for every game as if it was a collegiate final exam. It’s not enough to know the league inside and out. It’s not even enough to get the best of the Red Sox most of the time.

No, you have to have all that, and then some. You have to know how to coax Alex Rodriguez, prod Jason Giambi, communicate with Hideki Matsui, stroke Bernie Williams, please Derek Jeter, keep a pitching staff together with glue and paper clips, and oh yeah -- balance the enormity of George Steinbrenner on your shoulders, while trying to keep him from sliding onto your back.

If you can name someone who can do all that better than Joe Torre has for the past 10 seasons, then you win a kewpie doll.

Lou Piniella is available now, I see, having been freed from the purgatory that is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- a franchise that is fittingly close, geographically, to the Bermuda Triangle. And some Yankee backers would like to see Sweet Lou back in pinstripes. Forget that they tried that once, with marginal success. I know Piniella is older now, and presumably more mellow and maybe even wiser, but gee whiz, why in the world would you switch from the steady hand of Joe Torre to the potentially loose cannon that Lou Piniella, I believe, continues to be?

Look, under Torre, the Yankees have won and won and won, and while there haven’t been any World Series wins since 2000 -- heaven forbid five seasons go by in the Bronx without champagne -- there were four in five seasons between 1996 and 2000, including the trifecta of ‘98-’00. While all hell was breaking loose around him -- that goes with the territory when you manage the Yankees, you know -- Joe Torre kept his composure, his mouth mostly shut, and his wits about him. And he did it all while adding divisional titles and pennants and World Series trophies to his resume like you and I would add eggs and milk to our grocery lists.

Ironically, the choice to return to the Yankees was Torre’s, not Steinbrenner’s, according to recent reports. That’s usually not the case with George’s managers. But the fact that Torre has achieved that kind of status with The Boss is testament already that this particular manager is now in rarified air in the House That Ruth Built. Torre admitted that he wasn’t sure, at age 65, that he wanted to return to "As The Pinstripe Turns" for another season as a leading player.

"It was a waffle. It was going back and forth," he said during a news conference at Yankee Stadium. "It certainly came to mind: Do I want to continue to do this?" He said he spent several days with his family thinking over his future.

"I realize I still want to do this thing. I still want to manage," he said. "There's only one place to manage in my estimation. It's been the best time I've ever had, these 10 years."

It’s also been some of the best times Yankees fans have had, too -- these past 10 years. Joe Torre says there’s
only one place to manage, in his estimation. It’s a reciprocal thing, really, because there is only one person to manage the Yankees, in my estimation, at this point and time.

Thanks, Uncle Nick -- I guess I needed to get that off my chest, after all.
P.S. I understand my little cousin Stephanie -- Nick's granddaughter, just 5 -- has been under the weather lately with a nasty tummy virus. Here's wishing the little one back to good health, and also a prayer for peace of mind for her parents, Robert and Anna.

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