The Red Sox are down 3-2, with an aged warrior and a dead-armed, quasi-rookie pitching the next two games, and I don't think I've ever been happier as a baseball fan. Well, o.k., there was 2004--that was sweet. But this week has been outstanding.
Its all but official, the Yanks are parting ways with Joe Torre. Torre turned down a one year, 5 million dollar contract (with incentives the deal could have been worth 8 million)--a deal that amounts to an insult. Torre is one of the top managers in the history of the game, offering him a one year deal, placing him in another lame-duck situation, amounts to a slap in the face. I don't think the pay cut (Torre earned 7 miilion in 2007) is an insult, but no manager, let alone a certified hall of famer, would accept a pay cut AND a one year deal.
Why am I so happy? Because I can't wait to see the Empire final crumble. Torre might not have been the best X's and 0's coach- his bullpen decisions were sometimes questionable and his lineup cards could draw criticism. But Torre, like Phil Jackson in Chicago, was a perfect fit for everything that happens off the field. As Steve Phillips on ESPN said this morning-- Torre managed the players, the media, and, most important, George Steinbrenner better than anyone. It is hard to explain to anyone who has not lived in either New York, Boston, or Philadelphia how volitile those media markets can be. Sorry Chicago fans, I've lived in your area for five years now, and its just not the same. Torre has operated in arguably the most difficult arena for over a decade, and has always steadied the ship (a ship that has included Giambi and A-Fraud). His presence keeps everyone calm and focused, and if you think that filling out a line up card is more important than maintaining mental health over 162 games, well, your crazy.
Please don't tell me about the 1.3 billion dollars the Yankees have spent. Let me explain:
- Jason Giambi: 7 years, 120 million - Need I comment?
- Carl Pavano: 4 years, 40 million - what does 10 mil a season buy you? 5-6 record with an ERA of 4.77
- Mike Mussina: 2 years, 23 million - demoted to AAA with an ERA over 5.00 this season
- Kyle Farnsworth: 3 years, 17 million - "Flamethrower" put up an ERA of 4.80, allowing 87 baserunners in 60 innings
- Kei Igawa: 5 years, 20 million - 2007 ERA: 6.25
- Jaret Wright: 3 years, 21 million - Yankees agreed to pay half his contract just to get rid of him
- Randy Johnson: 3 years, 48 million - Johnson was 41 and already suffering back problems when the Yanks agreed to this deal
- Javier Vasquez: 4 years, 45 million - Everyone thought this would be a good deal. Oops. They are still paying the majority of this contract
- Jose Contreras: 2 years, 15 million - Before there was the Dice-K bidding war, there was the not-so-great Cuban defector
- Jeff Weaver: 2 years, 10 million dollars - details on the salary are sketchy, but the Yanks had to unload him for...
- Kevin Brown: 7 years, 105 million - The Yanks didn't sign this contract, but they traded for Brown to unload Weaver. Count the yanks for 2 years and about 30 million
- Octavio Dotel: 1 year, 2 million - comparatively, he doesn't even belong on this list
- Bobby Abreu: 1 year, 15 million - While Abreu hit .280 and knocked in 100 runs, one has to wonder if he's worth the 15 plus million a season the Yanks are paying him. He no longer plays right field well, isn't a threat on the basepaths, and hit only 16 homeruns this past season
So, what does that leave us? Let's see: that's about 406 million dollars that have either not produced up to expectation or (in most cases) failed to produce at all. And, notice I didn't put A-Rod on this list, I'll leave it up to you to figure if he's earned the approximately 70 million the Yanks have paid him over the last four years; for my money, since the Rangers pay almost a third of his 25 million annual contract, A-Rod comes at a fair bargin. Productive hitter, social headcase. Well, anyway, instead of talking about how Torre failed to win with a 1.3 billion dollar payroll, let's talk about how Brian Cashman and the Tampa Brain trust squandered a third of that total on terrible, terrible pitching. And, with the exceptions of Vasquez and Contreras, most people knew that these pitchers weren't worth the price.
So let a new manager enter New York. Let him deal with facing players who worshipped Joe Torre. Let him explain to Derek Jeter (and if they are still around, Posada and Rivera) that things need to change. Oh goodness, that will be fun. Let him lose a few games in a row. Let him face the media. The media who helped run Joe out of town and who will, next season, remind the annointed at every turn that Torre never missed the playoffs. And let the new manager respond to Tampa. Yes, the new manager will inherit what is looking like one of the best young pitching cores in baseball (Hughes and Chamerlain). But he also inherits a distgruntled locker room, an old bullpen, an intense media, and an always irrate owner.