Tuesday, October 09, 2007

All Good Things...

The Yankees 2007 season came to an end last night and with it, probably the Joe Torre era as well. They were done in by the timely hitting of the Indians who hit a remarkable .500 with 2 outs and men in scoring position. They scored the majority of their runs when the Yankee pitchers were pitch away from ending an inning. In the end, the Yankees vaunted lineup failed to produce in the clutch and their pitching was unable to hold the Indians in check. Outside of a three run home run by Johnny Damon and an error by Trot Nixon that allowed three runs to score, the Yankees offense failed to show up for the second year in a row. George Steinbrenner had already said that Joe's job was on the line if the Yankees failed to win this series, so there doesn't seem to be much hope that Torre will be given a new contract.

So how should we remember this season (I'll get to Torre a little bit later)? Should we remember how it ended (with a whimper rather than a bang)? Should we remember how impotent the highest scoring offense in the majors looked? Should we remember the Yankees best starter producing two forgettable starts? Should we remember Jeter, Arod, Matsui and Abreu failing in one clutch situation after another? You could chose to recollect those things when you think about this season, but I'd rather thing about the drama and the glory of the six months that precededed the ALDS. I'll remember the Yankees fighting back from a deficit of 14-1/2 games. I'll remember every major sports writer saying that this was the season that the Yankees finally fell apart. I'll remember a season for the ages put together by Alex Rodriquez. I'll remember Joba Chamberlin, Phillip Hughes and Ian Kennedy proving that the Yankees future is very bright indeed. I'll remember Jorge Posada who, despite catching over 130 games for what seemed like the 20th year in a row, had the best season of his career. I'll remember Andy Pettite coming back to Bronx after a three year sabbatical in Houston showcasing his usual second half brilliance. I'll remember Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera bringing their youthful exuberance and helping the Yankees remember that baseball is indeed just a game. I'll remember Mo Rivera overcoming a rough start and showing everybody that he is the greatest closer baseball has ever seen. I'll remember the seemingly unflappable Chien Ming Wang going out the mound and inducing grounder after grounder for his infield to handle. I'll remember a team at 21-29 and dead in the water suddenly remembering that they were the NEW YORK YANKEES and reminding all of baseball that they were a force to be reckoned with. To quote the Chairman of the Board,


"From the brim to the dregs, it poured sweet and clear, it was a very good year."


But the thing that I'll remember most of all is Joe Torre breaking down in the clubhouse after the Yankees clinched the wild card. One the reporters asked him about his team and Joe just couldn't hold back his emotions. That's what the Yankees will lose when Joe Torre leaves. They'll lose their heart. They'll lose the man who has kept them on the right path in good times and bad. Joe never wore his emotions on his sleeve during games or in the clubhouse. He was the one person who kept his head while all those around him were losing theirs. Joe came to town as a manager who hadn't won anything (well, he did lead Atlanta to a division title once) and leaves as a hall of famer having led the Yankees to 12 straight post season appearances, 6 AL championships and 4 World Series titles. In this age of parity in baseball (the Yankees were the only repeat team from last years playoffs), we may just have witnessed the last dynasty in baseball and Joe Torre was at the helm.

I know people will talk about the Yankees payroll and how they bought those victories, but for those who would say that, I would direct your attention across town to the team with the highest payroll in the National League. Did having more money than anyone else help the Mets avoid a late season collapse? Money doesn't guarantee anything and it certainly doesn't guarantee a trip to the playoffs every year. Joe brought stability and class to an organization that was lacking those things before his arrival. He never engaged in a shouting match in the press with his boss or one of his players, even when unkind things were said about him. He never threw fits on the field when a call went against him. He never raised his voice in a post game press conference, regardless of the ridiculous questions that were directed at him. Through good times and bad, he was (at least publicly) the same Joe. There are those that would say that the a more emotive manager would have been able to get the Yankees to play better. I have to respectfully disagree. The Yankees players could not have responded to any better to another manager than they have to Joe. They all universally speak of him with such respect and genuine affection that I can't imagine that they would performed any better than they have. Joe was simply the right man at the right time for the right team.

And now it's all over (presumably). I have a hard time believing that Joe would want to manage again (although the St. Louis Cardinals need a manager and Joe did have his best seasons as a player there (hmmm)). I think that the Cardinals may be the only team that could tempt Joe back into the managers seat. St. Louis is considered the best baseball city in the country and the pressure certainly would be a lot less than it was here in NY. I prefer to think that Joe won't take another job. That he'll always be remembered as the manager of the last dynasty in baseball and that he'll always be remembered as a NEW YORK YANKEE. There's a spot in monument park waiting for him and of course his number (6) will be retired on Joe Torre day and there's not a lot more that a baseball man can ask for. I just wish that Joe would have been able to go out on his own terms. I wished for the Yankees to win this year, not so much for me, but for Joe. I don't know if he would have quit if they had won it all, but that was my hope. This isn't quite the glorious ending I foresaw, but it doesn't change the picture of Joe Torre that I'll always carry in my mind, which is the players carrying him off the field as his eyes fill with tears.

Thanks, Joe. For everything.

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