Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Don't Fire This Man

Since no soul lacks an opinion on this matter, I’ll keep it succinct: the Yankees would be remiss to fire Joe Torre as manager. I spent the entire day yesterday trawling through various views on the subject, and after all the, “if he got all the credit, he deserves all the blame,” and, “he makes terrible managerial decisions like his bullpen usage and batting A-Rod 8th” arguments, I’ve realized that one point is absent. Who would manage the team?

The mainstream media wants you to believe Lou Piniella is the man for the job, but I don’t see how this would work at all. He knows plenty of baseball and has had success as a manger, but does anyone honestly thing he’s better than Joe Torre is? Other than A-Rod, who would welcome Lou with open arms? How would he get through to all of the egos in the clubhouse, before the start of the season? Remember that this isn’t Little League, where tossing a chair will get you the team’s attention. Lou would have to enter a clubhouse filled with egos the likes of which he’s never seen, and I don’t think he’d be able to handle the situation.

In fact, I don’t think many, if any, managers could handle that kind of situation. Except, of course, for Joe Torre. Not only would a newcomer need to learn the team and earn their respect, but he’d also have to learn the ropes of the New York media, which would be frenzied upon his hiring. Maybe Joe Girardi could fill these shoes, but it would be tough even for him. And much as I admire Don Mattingly, this wouldn’t be the proper circumstance for his promotion.

This all leads back to one point: why fire him with just one year left on his deal? It’s not like the base of this organization is going to change. Cashman will still be the GM, Jeter will still be the Captain, and for the most part, due to contractual obligations, most of the team will remain the same over the off-season. What’s the harm in allowing Torre to finish out his contract and work with these players who are so familiar to him? Or, more accurately, does Steinbrenner honestly think that a new manager will be the solution to his team’s (relative) woes?

The best solution, as I see it, is to allow Torre to manage in 2007 and hand the reins to Mattingly in 2008. I sense some more roster shaking this off-season, but not enough to really makeover the team. In 2008, however, there should be plenty of new faces in the crowd, the proud result of Damon Oppenheimer’s scouting regime. That is when you’ll begin seeing the guys currently playing in Trenton, Tampa, Charleston, and Staten Island. And, since there should be an influx of talent from the minor leagues, why not promote the manager from within as well?

Most of all, I don’t think Steinbrenner truly wants to fire Torre. It was a knee-jerk reaction perpetuated by the New York media for lack of anything better to write. Yeah, there was the whole A-Rod story, but after Games One through Three, there was little left to say on the matter. The whole team stunk (apologies to Jeter, Matsui, and Posada) in the final two games, and it’s tough to lay blame on nine All-Stars. So the next natural step is the manager, and look, Torre’s been at the helm far longer than any manager has in the Steinbrenner era. The Boss had a bout with his old self after the game, ready to fire Torre on the spot. Of course, logic, reason, and old age kicked in later on, and I’m sure George realizes that firing Torre accomplishes absolutely nothing.

It would be far more productive to simply bring on a bench coach who is strategically savvy. Forget Lee Mazilli, who ostensibly did very little this season (you heard praise heaped on the entire coaching staff, but not a word on Maz). Find Torre a recently retired catcher to sit next to him on the bench, and I think you’ve found a much better solution than firing the man.

It’s easy to make someone the scapegoat. The loss wasn’t Torre’s fault, but as they say, you can’t fire the players. Let’s hope Steinbrenner decides not to taint Torre’s legacy with an unnecessary firing. There are, after all, plenty of more important issues at hand.

It's just a report, but the word on the street now is that Torre will keep his job. I'll wait for his press conference at 1 p.m. to see if how he addresses the issue.

Final Update: He stays. I am happy.