End of the Torre Era

No, it’s not Mets news (necessarily), but it’s the biggest news in baseball … and sports for that matter.

Proof? The Cleveland Indians might clinch their first World Series appearance in 60 years tonight, but not one sports columnist, talkradio jockey, or other pundit is mentioning their potential elimination game tonight against the Red Sox. So I guess it’s OK to give the un-rehiring of Joe Torre some play on MetsToday.

Though, we’ve already glossed over the potential domino effect of Joe Torre not returning to pinstripes in 2008. Now that it’s reality, and after having thought about it for about a week, I’m not so sure that a new Yankee manager will affect the decisions of Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. The way I see it, both players may be upset that Torre’s not returning, but in a few weeks any disgruntlement will likely wear off. Plus, after losing Torre, I can’t imagine that Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners would allow either Posada or Rivera walk away as well.

First, there is public opinion — to which George Steinbrenner is sensitive. He knows that the majority of Yankee fandom is not happy with the Torre decision, but also knows that there are enough ambivalence to get through the situation. Steinbrenner is justified, after all, by the $225M payroll — as much as anyone loves Joe Torre, a logically thinking individual has to know that the Yankees’ success over the last dozen years was more due to the willingness to spend money than the “genius” of Torre.

But if Torre leaves AND Mo Rivera and Jorge Posada also walk away? That’s not going to fly with Yankee supporters. If anything, Rivera MUST be retained — he is after all the greatest closer in the history of baseball, and god forbid Boston gets their dirty paws on their beloved, legendary icon. Further, I believe the Yankees will do just about everything necessary to retain Posada as well — partially because he’s nearly as beloved as Rivera, and partially because, as we’ve seen, there isn’t a suitable replacement on the market. For the Mets to obtain either of these Yankees, they would likely have to make an unbelievable, fiscally unsound offer — and that’s not the Wilpons’ style.

Now, what about the vacancy in the Yankees dugout? I’d thought that Don Mattingly was a foregone conclusion, but the words of Brian Cashman suggests otherwise:

“There may be some surprising names that show up of people expressing interest that you wouldn’t even think about. To be quite candid, we have not started a process of looking for a new manager.”

Hmm … surprising names, eh? Well what the hey … if it’s NOT going to be Mattingly, then who? And if they are serious about the position being one that has to be incentive-driven, then whomever they hire to replace Torre MUST also have the postseason bonus bucks written in — otherwise the Yankees are true scoundrels. It’ll be a few weeks before the “official” list of candidates surfaces. In the meantime, here is my wildly uninformed prediction of potential successors (if it’s not Donnie Baseball):

Bobby Valentine
Yes, he’ll wear out his welcome — and most of his players — within two years, but he’s the closest thing to Billy Martin available. And whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit he’s one of the best in-game strategists on the planet. Any doubts (or short memory)? Simply take a look at the 2000 Mets team he guided into the World Series. And yes he’ll be a media nightmare from the Yankees brass’ perspective, but his hogging of the spotlight will take the pressure off the players.

Bobby Cox
Here’s a crazy idea if you ever saw one, huh? Bear with me … first, Braves GM John Schuerholz has stepped down, which could affect what Cox does. Cox only played two years in the Majors — with the New York Yankees, so there’s a tie-in of sorts. The Yankees have the money and the wherewithal to get “the best” of everything, so why not try to pry away arguably the best manager in baseball of the last 15 years? And hey, why not bring in the “best” pitching coach in baseball, old pal Leo Mazzone, while you’re at it? The 67-year-old Cox probably will only manage another 2 or 3 years, and would be the ideal tutor for bench coach Mattingly. It makes great sense: Mattingly, with no managerial experience, would have an immense task to a) follow Torre’s legacy; b) be expected to get to the World Series; and c) do a & b as a first-year manager. Better to groom him another year or two under a genius, and let the legend of Torre fade away, before pushing him into the fire.

Joe Girardi
A lot of Yankee beat writers seem to be high on Girardi leading the Bronx Bombers. I’m not seeing it any more than Tony Pena. I get the feeling the Yanks want to bring in a BIG name, and though Girardi is known, he’s not “big”. For this exact reason, I don’t buy into the notion that Trey Hillman is a serious candidate.

Larry Bowa
His managerial review is mixed; critics feel his Phillies underachieved, supporters say he wrung everything out of them. He’s a candidate because he’s been around the Yankees for two years and gained the respect of players and management, and because his fiery disposition is the exact opposite of the calm Torre — and maybe the Yankee brass wants an “excitable boy” to put the pressure on their perhaps too-relaxed players. And before you dismiss his .522 winning percentage and second-place finishes, consider that Torre had a similar resume before donning the pinstripes.

Tony Pena
He has previous managerial experience, and though his career .410 winning percentage is abysmal, he put together an unbelievable 83-79 record for the 2003 Kansas City Royals — which was essentially a collection of trash. I think he’ll be considered to satisfy the Yankees’ need to interview one or more minority candidates. Along that line of thinking …

Don Baylor

A former Yankee, though hardly a legend and not . His record as a manager was very “eh” — under .500. But he does have a very nice-looking visual presence — what with those broad shoulders and chiseled facial features — and could fit right into the do-nothing, monotonous, stoic role that Torre made famous.

Cito Gaston
He was widely heralded as one of the best managers in baseball after winning back-to-back World Series Championships with the Blue Jays in the early 1990s. But after a 72-87 season in 1997, he never got another job. Why? Maybe ten years is too long to be out of the hot seat, but he could be a long, long, longshot.

Any other wild ideas to throw out there, before the “official” search begins? Post your candidates below.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Micalpalyn October 19, 2007 at 11:21 am
    Sorry Joe;

    I erred in NOT being more brazen earlier when I was one to open the Yankee domino debate. Now that the first domino has fallen, let me be the one to test the deeper waters.

    A. Preface: buster was on ESPN this morning. His comments included the fact Mattingly
    has NO experience (‘has never made a pitching change’), and giradi has question marks in his ability to deal with yankee vets.
    THEN Buster dipped to Randolph….inadvertently? he proceeds to say (on Torre’s future), that IF randolph were ‘let go’ Torre would be an option for the Mets.

    B. What Olney does not say is cashman might consider Randolph. BUT he says the Yanks must honor MLB by interviewing a minority candidate…..hmmmm.

    C. on Metsblog, Willie will not be allowed to finalize his staff…..(something about Jaramillo)

    i. So I suspect Willie WILL be granted an oppurtunity to interview. I also think he might be a final candidate AND I think he might be hired depending on a compensation package.
    ii. That way Omar looks like gold!
    iii. I think Willie is the BEST candiidate for the Yank job having been a boss for three years now, in NY, and is 3 yrs displaced from the failures attached to Torre AND more analogous to the 4 WS rings!
    iv. I point to the way he treated Miggy Cairo as a Met, not giving Kepp an oppurtunity to play when Kaz was out. that leads me to believe he will rally the Yank veterans who know him and his ways.
    v. Also Willie could be re-acquainted with Rick Down, hire Mattingly and probably Cairo to his staff.

    Who then would Omar hire? …that is another post.

  2. isuzudude October 19, 2007 at 11:51 am
    The way I see it, the Yankees are too high and mighty to turn to the Mets organization to fill their holes, especially when it comes to management. Even if Randolph is a good fit for the job (which I don’t think he is), I just can’t see the all-powerful Yankees ripping away the “lowly” Mets manager who has only one postseason series victory under his belt in 3 seasons and is coming off one of the all-time worst late-season collapses in history. Perhaps I’m alone in this thought process, but time will tell.

    Also, I don’t think the Mets, nor would I condone, hiring Torre as the Mets manager. If it were to happen, it would be after 2008, as I can’t see Torre taking over a Mets team during the season nor do I think Willie will be fired until after the season is over. Additionally, Willie is an “AL” style manager with strong ties to the Yankee organization. If we replaced him with Torre, wouldn’t it be like replacing him with the same guy, just older? Furthermore, I’m confident Torre will land another managing gig, probably in time for the start of ’08, which would leave him unavailable if/when Willie gets the boot. I can see Torre as a Mets bench coach, but that’s about it, and I don’t think Torre would accept that position.

    But hey, speculate away. If Willie takes the Yankee job, my vote for new manager would go to either Carter, HoJo, or Manuel. Let’s keep it in-house.

  3. joe October 19, 2007 at 12:34 pm
    Olney is a clown. The Yankee job will be either Mattingly’s or a big name’s.

    Willie won’t get interviewed because he’s under contract with the Mets and they won’t grant permission.

    I agree with Isuzudude — the Mets would never consider Torre as manager (again). And if by chance they let Willie go, I also prefer someone in-house.

  4. Micalpalyn October 19, 2007 at 1:28 pm
    Your personal thoughts aside, Olney as I was quoting was similar to Tim Kurkijan, in that he felt it was time forr Torre to steop aside.

    Outcomes aside, I still think what I proposed makes sense EVEN IF Randolph does not move. If he INTERVIEWS it sends a message that he CAN go elsewhere. Personally I feel Omar cant fire him (now), but he CAN encourage/facilitate his leaving.

    I agree (as you know from previous posts) on Torre. I strongly favor Carter, Oberkfell, and HoJo. But I also like Giradi. easpecially with Jaramillo as hitting coach.

    The reason I like Giradi is: He was a catcher, did a great job in Fla, p&&*&d off Luria, and can be counted on for very non-randolph quotes

    Pinella just sarted in Chi and is a candidate already so your ‘contract obstacle’ is irrelevant.

    Wilpon i GUARANTEE would pay off Willie’s contract in small bills, hand delivered by Tony Soprano.

  5. joe October 19, 2007 at 1:35 pm
    I strongly disagree with the idea that Willie could be a candidate, and I don’t know that Piniella is a candidate — sounds more like conjecture from one of the paid pundit clowns (I’m an UNpaid pundit clown).

    If the Mets do give Willie permission, and if Willie grants an interview, he pretty damn well better be sure he’s getting and taking the job. Because I cannot imagine Willie interviewing with the Yankees, not getting the job, and then coming back to manage the Mets. What kind of message is that to the players and the organization?

    If the timing were different … i.e., if the Mets were still hemming and hawing about firing Willie, then OK, I can see it. But ownership got behind Willie, showed their support publicly. If Willie turns on them, his character is questionable and he knows it. Doesn’t smell to me like a Willie move. We may not all like him as a manager but I think he’s an upstanding, loyal guy — and likes others to think of him that way.

  6. Micalpalyn October 19, 2007 at 1:58 pm
    1. Willie is under contract. But would he be the first to move while under contract…no.

    2. Yes, he did receive ‘the vote of confidence’ but i think it was hollow, and ala BV in 2001 it was just a statement of shortened leash.

    3. Omar got behind Willie (?) and issued the statement. But why was there a question? It is because Jeff wilpon wanted to fire him, and one printed statement said Wilpon felt Willie got too much credit for the 2006 team (and I agree).

    4. Bottom line: I think this situation creates a route by which BOTH Willie and Omar can partt and remain friends. Whether it happens or not is another question.

    5. Omar HAS given Willie a short leash. It is wghat upper management does when there is a perceived failure.
    So what do vice presidents do when the leash is short. Look for the best face saving exit. I cant think of a good example. Jon Gruden from LA Raiders to Tampa is a vague one.