This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … Joe Torre.
Just what the hell is this man’s problem? I believe the rule regarding Major League locker rooms reads: “What you see here, what you hear here … Let it stay here when you leave here.” Yet this craggy old douche, who is still managing a Major League baseball team (yet again loaded with talent), contributes a few heaping handfuls of clubhouse dirt to an upcoming book by Tom Verducci. I’m sure his current crop of Dodgers are thrilled to know that their locker room and personal life high jinx are now possible fodder for the next no-doubt-boring-as-hell Torre tome.
Joe Torre has gotten entirely too much press and public love since he started managing the stacked and ready-to-roll-for-a-decade New York Yankees. Before he came to New York, Joe Torre’s unremarkable, 15-year managerial career consisted of the following:
- Three 90 loss seasons.
- Not one 90 win season.
- 10 sub .500 seasons.
- One division title (promptly swept in the playoffs) and just three second-place finishes.
- Four cellar finishes
- That rank garlic breath (I’m just assuming from the looks of him).
- No Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera or Andy Petitte.
That’s right, genius Joe didn’t become managerial Mensa material until he found his lucky ass sitting in a dugout steeped in future Hall of Famers and a slew of other assorted superstars who will barely miss out on a Cooperstown bust.
I’m know there’s more to managing than just penciling in each night’s lineup, but I believe the rest of Torre’s job got a lot easier after filling out his lineup card night after night with names like Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Paul O’Neill. Hell, he had a second baseman throwing routine grounders 12 rows deep into the stands, but because Chuck Knoblauch could hit better than most team’s leftfielders, it didn’t matter. Every time Torre would lose his Series winning third baseman at the end of the season, his G.M. Brian Cashman would simply replace him with a Wade Boggs or a Scott Brosius.
When it came time to fill in the pitching slot, all he had to do was remember who was next in the rotation that night. “Let’s see, is it Clemens, Petitte, Wells or Cone? What’s that? Wells is gone? Then I guess I’ll go with Mussina. We got him now, right? Wake me up around the 7th inning. If we’re winning, and odds are we will be, I’ll dial up one of those stellar bullpen hold specialists to keep things in line until it’s time to bring in Mr. Lights Out Rivera so that I can doze through the ninth inning.”
For this, Joe Torre was seen as some sort of dugout Edison, only instead of creating the incandescent light bulb, he pulled off the big brain coups of coaxing a string of playoff appearances out of a clubhouse that had more baseball royalty than Rod Blagojevich has chutzpah. (That crazy Blags fucker even yukked it up on The View yesterday. He might be my favorite infamous real life character since Colin Ferguson, the Long Island Railway shooter, put on that dazzling display as his own attorney during his trial. Governor Blags has a way to go to surpass the “Is this guy for real?” jaw-dropper that was watching Colin Ferguson viciously cross-examine the very people he’d shot.)
I know, I know. Managing the New York Yankees is one of the most stressful jobs in sports. It’s also one of the most highly paid, which means that poor rich Joe could afford of a lot of Valium to fend off that crushing anxiety of coffee-breathed sportswriters combined with his mega-million dollar contract.
I know, I know. He had to deal daily with the most ferocious, merciless baseball press corps in the game. Sure, that might be a tough task if you’re managing a team of journeymen in the Big Apple, but how much explaining did he have to do when they were winning 90-plus games every year? Even an idiot press corps who will be satisfied only with a 162-0 season can be handled pretty easily when two out of three post-game press conferences entail explaining why you won by four runs instead of five.
I know, I know. He had to deal with King George Steinbrenner’s batshit crazy mood swings, idiotic press comments and incessant meddling every time a losing streak reached three games. But King George paid Torre a king’s ransom, so I’m sure St. Joe could laugh off the Boss’s blathering every time he collected that fat-as-David-Wells paycheck.
And yes, I know I know I know. The biggest part of managing a team of superstars is managing the gargantuan egos that threaten to blow the seams out of the locker room. Sure, if you’re managing a team of stars in Cincinnati, you better make sure all the bigshots are happy and want to stick around and perform. But if Gary Sheffield ain’t happy with things in the Bronx? You can send him packing for less greener pastures while Brian Cashman goes out and signs another big stick to take over right field.
So spare me the Joe Torre worship. I’m sure he’s got a keen baseball mind. He’s good at schmoozing the press and keeping egotistical owners appeased. God knows he mastered the art of calling the bullpen to have Mariano Rivera come in and close games.
But he comes up a bit short in the class department by dishing on A-Rod, who did nothing but hit the shit out of the baseball in the years he played for Torre. Maybe A-Rod did provide a bit of clubhouse cancer. Maybe his too large presence did have an adverse affect on the Yankees the last few years. If so, you know what moves the best team in baseball past all that bullshit and has them back on top come late October? A truly great manager.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.