I’ve been plowing through “The Yankee Years” this week. The cover says it’s by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci (whom I recall was the high school sports reporter at Newsday way back when). I doubt if Joe Torre had anything to do with writing it, but it’s about his 12 years managing the New York Yankees. The awkward metaphors and lockerroom gossip scream “sports writer”.
Verducci’s analysis of the Yankees’ decline mostly jives with my own. He puts the Torre era (1996-2007) in context with useful chapters about steroids, revenue-sharing, scientific management another other changes in Major League Baseball. He mentions but doesn’t offer much opinion about one of my pet peeves: pitch counts and the decline of starting pitching.
I could go on and on about this book and its subject. It boils down to this: Joe Torre may not have been an innovative tactical manager but he was a sensible and consistent leader who got the most out of his players. He brought them to the playoffs every year for 12 years, even as decrepit and insecure superstars replaced the can-do gamers of the World Championship teams.
Verducci’s portrait of the present-day Yankees is not encouraging. Poorer clubs have had to run smarter operations to reach the high bar the Yankees set in the 1990s, now the Yankees are trying to catch up. The Yankees’ huge piles of money may be all they have going for them right now. By the way, Opening Day is in 10 days. I’ll see your innovative management techniques and raise you a C.C. Sabathia, an A.J. Burnett, and a Mark Teixera.