Torre was definitely below-average as a field manager. I liked him in '96 because he brought over an NL style of managing. There was a lot more running and bunting than there had been during the Showalter era. And he did a great job in the World Series; instead of doing like Francona and keeping slumping veterans in the lineup, he shook things up and it worked really well.
After that, I can't say he made any impact moves that helped the team win. '98-'00 was just a steamroll through the rest of the league. It was all about having the best players and the highest payroll.
And all those division titles? Same thing. When you have the highest payroll in the game, anything less is a big flop. If you can't beat the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays in over 55 games a year, you're awful.
In the postseason, Torre stunk. The Jeff Weaver incident in '03? Bad. Blowing out every reliever's arm, so they couldn't do a thing come October? Stupid. Torre did a terrible job there, capped off with the Joba rules this year. To me, that was the beginning of the end for Joe.
What did Torre do best? He kept a sense of calm around the team, no matter what happened. You can talk about the pressure in '96 after losing the first two games to Atlanta, October '98 after 114 wins and the Knoblauch incident, all the tragedies in '99, and even the way he handled the choke in '04. Even the way Torre has handled the muddled front office situation this year. Torre kept his cool almost all the time
Torre has been the anti-Ozzie Guillen, always saying the right thing. Always. In the age of 24/7 media and blogging, it's a great skill to have. No wonder some people think he'd make a great mayor or CEO. I don't know if you'd get results, but you'd get lots of banal soundbites.
But as I said last week, being a manager of the highest payroll means you have to win it all every year. Torre started his Yankee tenure with a bang, but ended it with seven years of big disappointment. And in terms of strategy, Torre is not even close to legends like Weaver, Herzog, and LaRussa. Or even possible successor Bobby Valentine.
- Now that he's left the team, the place is in chaos. The Yanks will have a hard time finding another manager who can be such a good politician; maybe Mattingly can. But the front office handled the whole incident terribly, you have Cashman, Levine, and two Steinbrenners all fighting for power, and a team with a very uncertain future.