Fall of the House of Torre

Jen and I had a quick, late lunch at Jackson Hole and then met Jason back at the apartment just in time to watch game 4 of the ALDS, Yankees vs. Tigers. As you know by now, the Yankees lost badly and were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round. Chronologically, this all took place Saturday evening, but I write this on Monday evening, when all of the sports writers and commentators have once again released a barage of babble on the New York Yankees. So let me take this opportunity to say a few things about the Yankees loss to Detroit.

Almost every sports writer and commentator has said that they Yankees deserved to lose because they played so badly. To me, this is nonsense. Saying that the Yankees deserved to lose takes away from Detroit any credit for winning the series. The fact is, with the exception of Game 1, Detroit did a great job both offensively and especially their pitching. An unusually good performance from an aging Kenny Rogers on Friday night, followed by 6 perfect innings on Saturday says a lot more about Detroit’s skill then it does the Yankees lack thereof. Detroit earned the win by out-pitching and out-hitting the Yankees.

Next in line, is the fact that every commentator jumps on the fact that a nearly $200 million salary could not get the Yankees to the Championship. I have already discussed this at length, but I am annoyed by the fact that commentators don’t do their homework when it comes to the mathematics and economics of the game. On the otherhand, I admit that the Yankees goal of trying to win a World Championship every year is proposterous. The game would get boring after a while.

Should A-Rod be traded? Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that he has a no-trade clause in his contract. It seems to me that A-Rod is one of two scapegoats taking blame for what was otherwise a pretty remarkable season, considering the injuries they Yankees suffered through. But if a .290 batting average, 30+ home runs, and 110+ RBI’s are not good enough for New York City, then maybe A-Rod needs to go elsewhere. I would caution commentators and sports writers that, based on these statistics and comparable salaries, Derek Jeter might also have to be traded. Yes, he his .343, but he hit under 20 home runs and had under 100 RBI’s. This year, Jeter made about $1 million less than A-Rod. He didn’t make quite as many errors, but he’s also playing the same position he’s always played, whereas A-Rod has had to change up. I’m fine with bashing a player who deserves it. But like it or not, A-Rod is not one of them. He’s the player scapegoat of 2006.

The manager scapegoat of 2006, on the otherhand, is Joe Torre. Reports this morning are that Joe Torre is out and Lou Pinella is in. To me, this just shows the insanity of it all. Since Torre arrived in 1996, the Yankees have made it to the post season every year: 11 consecutive seasons. They have won a World Championship 4 times in those 11 years. Show me another team that comes close to that record. What has been consistent in all of that time is Joe Torre’s leadership. This season especially, Joe Torre demonstrated just how great a manager he was by getting the Yankees to a run-away division win, while navigating injuries to marque players throughout the year. The Red Sox had injuries too but didn’t make it to the post season. The difference, in my mind, was in large part due to the manager.

Finally, credit needs to be given to those players who played consistently well throughout the season. Derek Jeter is at the top of that list. Not only did Jeter have an MVP quality season, he hit over .500 in the post season and played his usual excellent defense. Jorge Posada was another player who had a good season, although somewhat under the radar. In the post season, he too stepped it up a notch, hitting almost .500. Bernie Williams had a great season, especially considering his was supposed to be a bench player. And of course Mariano Rivera turned in another stellar year. It’s more than a coincidence that these four guys, plus Joe Torre, have spent the last 11 years together. If the Yankees are going to rebuild, they should hold onto this group, and build around it.

Congratulations to the Detroit Tigers. At this point, I’m looking forward to a Tigers/Mets World Series, with the unlikely Tigers winning in 6.