Sports picksNovember 2, 2007

The Real Joe Torre Story

Let me start out by saying, I have been a Yankee fan my entire life. Let me also add that I think Joe Torre did a tremendous job in the clubhouse for the Yankees, and is a very likeable person. He dealt with the New York media with class, and served as a first-rate citizen as the Yankee leader. He brought intangibles to the table that will be hard to duplicate, let alone replace.

His departure leaves a lot of questions among fans, and his classy act and enviable charm will often be referenced in the aftermath.

Then there is the “apparent” legacy he leaves behind as he packs his bags for LA. In twelve seasons Torre accumulated six World Series, four championships and never missed the playoffs. It is here that I begin to make separation from the wealth of compliments bestowed on what many feel is an already Hall of Fame coaching career. He built so much dignity, loyalty, and trust along the path he carved the past 12 years, but in an instant, forgot where it all came from.

I don’t hear any mention, how Torre accumulated a less-than Hall of Fame managerial resume before the Yankees gave him a $200 million plus payroll. The fact is that Joe Torre had a disastrous managerial resume before King George put him on the map and made him what he is today.

Torre’s first MLB managerial stop was on the other side of town as he directed the Mets from 1977-81. His record there? A 286-420 mark – a modern day Kansas City Royal-like winning percentage of .405. The year before his arrival the Mets were 86-76. In his first year at the Mets’ helm they slipped to 64-98 and a last place finish. By his third year, the attendance had slipped to 788,000. Lowest in Met history, but he out did himself in his last season the Mets drew what is still a franchise low 704,000.

His six years, included four last-place finishes and two fifth-place finishes. He proceeded to get fired, and was given the job in Atlanta, where to his credit the Braves won the NL East in year one, and were swept out of the playoffs by STL. But by the time he reached year three, a familiar story was taking place as the Braves had slipped to a sub-.500 team.

His next stop was St. Louis. He proceeded to take the helm of a team that was 86-76 in ‘89, that tanked in ‘90. Torre was brought in late to right the ship, but they did no better, finishing 24-34 under his leadership and attendance dwindled by 500,000. He never finished higher than second in STL. By his last year attendance had reached a 13-year low.

His resume before NY? Not a single World Series appearance, only one division Championship in 14 years, five last-place finishes. Overall record: 894-1103 .471. He took the helm of three teams and in each instance left them in disarray, went backwards, and the attendance decline in all cases positioned each franchise in the worst financial condition they had been in for years.

This all seems to get swept under the rug, because the biggest spotlights shine in Yankeeland. What Mr. Torre doesn’t remember is how King George brought him to NY and with an All-Star at every position, a pitching staff of #1’s and #2’s in the rotation, a bullpen that shortened games to six innings, and a bench of starters on any other team, he ran off championship after championship.

To me Joe Torre lost all the respect, dignity, charm, and humbleness that made him so popular in NY. He did this by saying he was insulted that the Yankees offered him incentives to win in a one-year $5 million deal. INSULTED? Yes, insulted that they felt he needed incentives to win. Well, Mr. Torre must have forgotten that his previous contracts contained incentives to win. Mr. Torre must have forgotten that it was King George that made him, not the other way around. If George never brought Mr. Torre to the Mecca of the baseball world, he would have drifted off into the sunset of managerial failure. The door of gratitude swings both ways, and this door, MR. Torre has bumped you in the backside on the way out.

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