By the end of April, the idea of Joe Torre returning as the Yankee’s manager in 2008, even the idea of him surviving the month of May, seemed pretty absurd. After all, the Yankees had come off one of their worst months in recent memory, and thinks were not looking good for the rest of the season.
Boy how times have changed. The Yankees were well above .500 after the All-Star Break, made the playoffs for the 12th straight year, and came within a few games of taking the AL East away from Boston.
Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada are likely to get their contracts renewed and, unless someone comes up with a way to out-bid George Steinbrenner, Alex Rodriguez is likely to be back next year as well.
So, as Peter Abraham asks, why not Joe Torre ?
One George Steinbrenner tirade away from getting fired in April, Torre has turned a badly flawed team into baseball’s best for the last three months. A $200 million payroll brings with it no sympathy. But keep in mind that Torre left spring training with a rotation that included Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa and Darrell Rasner. His first baseman on Opening Day was Josh Phelps.
Alex Rodriguez was still an emotional cripple in spring training, oddly focused on how the fans would treat him and setting the record straight about his relationship with Derek Jeter. The Yankees also had an out-of-shape Johnny Damon in center field and an injured Bobby Abreu in right.
“We had a lot of questions about our pitching in April,” Jeter said. “Looking back, we probably underestimated how much that would hurt us.”
But Torre held the Yankees together, a point made by one player after another when the team celebrated making the playoffs on Wednesday. Even Rodriguez, who Torre needlessly embarrassed by hitting him eighth in the playoffs last October, praised him.
“No way we’re here without him,” Rodriguez said.
Many still believe Torre needs to get the Yankees at least deep into the AL Championship Series to come back next season. But if he doesn’t, does that mean it’s time to try Joe Girardi or Don Mattingly?
Girardi has one year of managerial experience and a personality that would not play well in New York – or on YES. Mattingly has never managed.
The Yankees tried inexperienced managers back in the early 1990s – Buck Showalter, Bucky Dent and Stump Merrill. How did they work out?
Not too well as I recall, which is why bringing back Torre isn’t such a bad idea. Assuming he wants to come back, that is.