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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.