Didja hear the one about the guy who had it all, but sold his legacy to whoever would pony up the most bread?
No, I’m not talking about now former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his attempts to sell a vacant senate seat (oops)…I’m talking about former New York Yankees skipper Joe Torre. It seems like you can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing about or seeing one of them.
And let’s face it…their hairlines aside, it’s becoming harder and harder to tell the two of them apart.
Their motives were simple. Blago was looking for sympathy on the eve of his eventual impeachment, while Torre is peddling his book. Both are in the midst of massive media tours and both of them seem to be completely oblivious to the damage they are causing each time they open their mouths.
Blagojevich is clearly crazy as he appears to not have a clue about the ramifications of what he did. His defense is that his actions were done as part of his duty to serve the citizens of Illinois.
Torre’s latest antics are harder to define.
By penning The Yankee Years, Torre pretty much ended any and all relationships he had with the Bronx Bombers by calling out owner George Steinbrenner, GM Brian Cashman and a gaggle of current and former players.
This guy won four World Series titles in New York and spent 12 years (the longest tenure for a Yankees skipper since Casey Stengel was at the helm) as the field general for baseball’s most celebrated franchise.
To understand how tough it is to remain employed by Steinbrenner, consider this…Billy Martin (941) managed HALF the games Torre (1942) did for the Yankees. And that was spread out over FIVE different stints in the Big Apple!
To say Torre’s place as a Yankee great wasn’t already reserved in Monument Park would be like saying Blagojevich isn’t foul-mouthed. Even in Los Angeles, all Torre needs to do is collect paychecks and when it is all said and done…go back to New York and secure his spot as the greatest manager they’ve ever seen.
You’re as much of a New York icon as Rudy Giuliani and Cooperstown has the space set aside for you, Joe…don’t mess it up!
But what if he already did? What if selling out the Yankees overshadows his twelve straight playoff appearances with that very club, a .605 winning percentage and two Manager of the Year awards?
What if The Yankee Years is just what the Dodgers need to decide to NOT pay attention to their skipper? I mean, if Torre is going to go public about his run-ins with Kevin Brown or David Wells…what possibly could a full season of Manny being Manny bring?
It doesn’t matter.
That’s right, I said it…it doesn’t matter. And no, not for the reasons you think.
For me, Torre’s managerial career is the icing on the cake of an already terrific career. Yeah…I said it. I think the Veteran’s Committee is getting it wrong by not inducting Torre into their exclusive club.
Why wait until he hangs it up? Put the guy in now.
His career .297 batting average, 2342 hits, MVP award and nine All-Star games (at three different positions, I might add) is impressive given his peers at the time. Take away their home runs and Torre stacks right up there with Orlando Cepeda (whom he was traded for prior to the 1969 season) and the Willies McCovey and Stargell.
All three are in Cooperstown.
His numbers are better than Ron Santo and yearly, for some reason, people bang THAT Hall of Fame drum. And if it wasn’t for one Johnny Bench and the Big Red Machine…it’s possible that people would be calling Torre the best catcher of the 1960s.
He certainly was the best hitting catcher…that’s for sure! I’d even argue that the best hitting third baseman of the 1970s ain't “This Old Cub”…it’s Joe Torre!
From 1961 to 1968 (before the move to third base), Torre hit .294…twice over .315. Post 1968…Torre hit .301 and during his MVP season of 1971, he torched National League pitching to the tune of a .363 batting average and 137 RBI.
The one bit of the puzzle that is lacking for Torre as a player, ironically, is the fact that he never suited up for a post season game. I mean, here’s a guy who has taken three different teams to the playoffs and he had nothing to show for it as a player.
The playoffs without Joe Torre is kinda like the playoffs without, unfortunately, Frank Caliendo!
So why wait until the aftermath of this book debacle to see where the Joe Torre chips fall. As the only manager with both 2000 wins (2151) and 200 hits (2342)…the guy deserves his place in Cooperstown.
Then, and maybe then, we can start getting back to normalcy where baseball players and managers are interviewed on SportsCenter and not Larry King and governors are interviewed on CNN and not The View.
And there you have it, gang…a post Super Bowl post with no mention of Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner or Bruce Springsteen going all “The Grind” on a TV camera.