Monday, January 26, 2009

Is Joe Torre the real 'Single White Female' when it comes to Alex Rodriguez?

It's all Joe Torre, all the time, in the sports media world (and in Subway Squawkers!), thanks to the revelations about his and Tom Verducci's new book, "The Yankee Years."

While co-writer Verducci tried to downplay those newspaper accounts, saying that the book "is not a first-person book by Joe Torre, it's a third-person narrative based on 12 years of knowing the Yankees," it doesn't make the slams and smears in the book any less unseemly. Andrew Morton did the same thing as Verducci with his Monica Lewinsky and Princess Diana books, but it didn't mean that they didn't orchestrate everything that made it into those tomes. Besides, Torre got paid millions for the book, and his name is on the cover. Of course he's responsible for everything that's in the book.

Verducci also said that "smart people will judge the book upon actually reading it and not reading preliminary reports prior to its publication." Given that Verducci is peddling a book whose own publisher's materials describe the bug game as happening in September, and not October, I think he's the last person who should be decribing what "smart people" should do.

Besides, I don't need to read 500 pages to get the idea that Torre is violating the clubhouse code that he once upheld. All I had to do was read that publisher's description of the book on, where it talks about "the high-priced ace who broke down in tears and refused to go back to the mound in the middle of a game."

Despite that allegation, Verducci still claimed that Torre didn't "rip anybody," and that "The Yankee Years" needed to "be read in context." But in exactly what context is this sentence about A-Rod anything but a rip job?
“Whether hitting 450-foot home runs or sunbathing shirtless in Central Park or squiring strippers, Rodriguez was like nothing ever seen before on the championship teams of the Torre Era: an ambitious superstar impressed and motivated by stature and status, particularly when those qualities pertained to himself.”
I mean, really. You don't even have to like A-Rod to raise your eyebrows about pretty much every part of that sentence, especially given that Roger Clemens, to name just one "ambitious superstar," was a big part of the Torre era. And given that Torre himself is about as image-obsessed as anybody in baseball. And given that ballplayers and strippers go together like peanut butter and jelly - or is Joe insinuating that Alex is the only guy on the Yankees who ever spent time in the champagne room?

Speaking of peanut butter and jelly, here's another tidbit from the book, courtesy of the New York Times:
“One time, in Detroit, where his personal attendant was not available, Rodriguez was jogging off the field after batting practice, saw a Comerica Park visiting clubhouse attendant, a young kid in his first months on the job, and simply barked, ‘Peanut butter and jelly.’ ”
After reading that, I half-expected the next breathless A-Rod revelation to be something like, "One time, in Detroit, when he thought nobody was looking, Alex used the bathroom and didn't wash his hands afterwards. He was like nothing ever seen before on the championship teams of the Torre Era: an ambitious superstar who didn't understand the importance of good hygiene."

Joe's been in this game for 50 years, and he's acting like a hothouse flower over seeing a ballplayer barking orders at a clubhouse flunky. Who does he think he's fooling here?

And this isn't the only time Torre obsesses in the book over the way A-Rod talks to clubhouse attendants. The New York Post reports this quote from Torre in "The Yankee Years":
"I said to him, 'Alex, do me a favor, at least go get a cup of coffee by yourself instead of sending someone to get you a cup of coffee.' A little while later, he goes out of his way to find me. He's carrying a cup of coffee. 'Look, Skip,' he said. 'I got my own cup of coffee!' That wasn't even the point. It was just an example. The point was just be one of the guys. He didn't get it."
Two things about that anecdote:

* Torre himself had a clubhouse attendant make up his green tea every day, so it's more than a little hypocritical to criticize Alex for having a clubhouse attendant bring him a cup of coffee,

* And while the anecdote is supposed to illustrate how A-Rod just wasn't one of the guys, what comes across in that coffee story is just how much Alex seemed to crave Torre's approval. It's kind of sad and pathetic, actually.

Here's the thing. I don't doubt that A-Rod was difficult to manage, and needy, and egotistical, and an attention magnet. Heck, I've been ticked off at him myself for the opting-out drama, and for the Madonna shenanigans. But he also had two MVP seasons for Torre, and as I noted yesterday, the Yanks would have completely missed the playoffs in 2005 and 2007 if it weren't for Alex.

And for all the negative things Torre had to say about Rodriguez, he still openly courted A-Rod in the media to join the Dodgers when A-Rod opted out last season. So while the book claims that Alex Rodriguez had a so-called "Single White Female" fixation on teammate Derek Jeter, it looks more like Torre was the one with the fixation - on Alex!

But what do you think? Leave us a comment!


Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

The years 2002 to 2007 were run by Torre like he was a dad running a little league club and playing mostly his favorite players.

Also, seems to me like Posada, Jeter, Petitte and Mariano didn't took well the change of managers.

Hope now that they realize that this "father figure" is so immature that he can have a tell all about everybody else and take no accountability whatsoever about the failures of 2002 to 2007.

Clueless Joe is now Classless Joe.

Lisa Swan said...

Alvaro, I agree with you. And as Squawker readers know, I have thought for years that Joe was too cliquish about his guys, but even I didn't think he would be this petty.

Tanya said...

Great post Lisa. While everyone sees this as Joe Torre being petty, I don't see it that way.

He's stayed quiet for years while with the Yankees. He defended his guys when they were in trouble with the media. He put his reputation on the line defending A-Rod.

I see it as just letting off some steam. He's letting people know what really went on. The media is always assuming what happens in the clubhouse. Torre is just telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

"or is Joe insinuating that Alex is the only guy on the Yankees who ever spent time in the champagne room?"

Do strippers dressed like certain player's momma after a postseason series loss count? :)

I'm always glad to read comments from people who get it.

This isn't about whether the comments made about Alex is true. Its not about how he performs, his insecurities or his abandoned father issues. Its not about Bernie leaving his kid at the stadium after a night game.

There is only one issue here. Whether it is appropriate for Joe to discuss or be associated with a book that discusses what goes on in the clubhouse. My answer is no.

We have a sliding scale of what is wrong and right, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable. And its based on who does the act.

When we like the person we justify their actions. And its an added bonus when we don't like the guy on the other end.

If this had been A-Rod, Terrell Owens, Barry Bonds or even Jose Canseco people who crucify them for running their mouths. Why? Because "we" don't like them.

Joe Torre's name is on this book that he read, re-read and re-read. So he has to take the criticism and it can't be brushed off on others. Just like we ripped A-Rod for his agent's actions. Joe doesn't get to hide behind Verducci just like we wouldn't let Alex stand behind Boras.

This isn't about Alex. And this isn't about how truthful it was. This is about whether or not its okay to break this unwritten rule. If its okay for Joe to do then its okay for all to do it.

Lets not have separate standards.

Anonymous said...

Well how do we know some of the unflattering things Sheffield said about Joe wasn't true? And I hardly think Joe put his reputation on the line for A-Rod.

Anonymous said...

It is all about money. Some fans will discuss all this crap for months while, Torre and the Yankee organization continue to rake in the cash. Who cares what Torre thinks now, he was paid well for his time in NY and are all the players some real and some make believe. The yankee organization has a history of treating some like kings and some like crap but the bottom line is they all got paid better than anywhere else. Look at what Boston offered Variteck and what Posada got from NY.

JeanneB said...

Finally, the halo above Saint Joe has slipped. It is about time his real colors were revealed. It is all about the money. No contract, write a tell-all.
He should at least have had the decency to write this after retirement. Will the players continue trust him or is he taking notes for volume II the Dodger years?

I never understood the fan reaction to his contract not being renewed when the previous year fans were ready to hang him in centerfield.
He is a old washer woman gossip. I hope the Dodgers are watching their backsides. I wonder what Joe really thinks about Manny. I guess we have to wait for Vol. II.

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

People with issues like resentment and anger tend to mellow down as they grow older. This guy is 68 years old, so I'm ruling out senility.
Maybe he is just a smooth operator who can pretend very well. When the Dodgers realize what a mistake they made, I'm pretty sure this will his very last job in baseball.
But he can become a very successful actor or politician.

NAM said...

I get the criticims of Torre for not keeping quiet, but calling him clueless seems wrong. One year on this blog, it's all about keep Joe, he is the best and get rid of A-Rod, he's a distraction. Last year, without Torre, the Yankees missed the playoffs and with Torre, the Dodgers made the playoffs. He must have some clue of what he is doing. If I were a Yankee fan I would be more upset with the Joe that's running the team now. The whole team seemed clueless last year.

Lisa Swan said...

Symphony, you raise an excellent point on Gary Sheffield. When he slammed Torre in his book he was roundly criticized. I don't remember anybody saying that we hade to read the whole thing in context, or that we had to understand that he was angry about the way things ended for the Yankees, or anything else. No, Shef was seen as a malcontent who slammed Joe to make a buck.

And NAM, while I have fluctuated on A-Rod (I didn't like him opting out, hooking up with Madonna, and leaving the All-Star Game, but I also do think that Torre gave him a raw deal), I was very consistent - to the point of ticking off some of our readers, that I wanted Joe gone a long time ago!

And yes, Joe did make the playoffs this year, but he had another prima donna superstar who got him to that promised land - Manny Ramirez. I'm guessing he'll be featured in "The Dodger Years" book!

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

Lisa, may I add also that NL West is the worst division in ML.

Maybe that is why Andy Petitte decided to sign today with the Yankees, maybe there is something he doesn't want to get known in Torre's next book "How I lost all my friends."

She-Fan said...

Lisa, that was a great post. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

On ESPN's web site: Cashman offers support to A-Rod

"I have never one time heard of the term 'A-Fraud' until I saw that rolling on the TV, I guess this morning or whenever they started reporting it," said [Andy] Pettitte, who rejoined the Yankees for the 2007 season. "If it did go on, it went on before I was there."

[Brian] Cashman said that when Rodriguez became a free agent after the 2007 season, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Pettitte all urged him to re-sign A-Rod.

"That was real," Cashman said. "It was offered up."

NAM said...

You have absolutely been consistent and, as I recall, fair in your criticisme of Torre. I was referring to the clueless moniker used by other bloggers. But as for the playoffs, I still think if I were a Yankee fan I would be more upset that we have tons of talent and can't make the playoffs and all the Dodgers needed was Manny and Torre. And lets face facts, sometimes the Yankees made the playoffs when the rest of their division was horrible and I don't recall any Yankee fans pointing that out. And again, some of these comments are directed at what other bloggers said. But still, I think Torre should have kept his mouth shut. The best revenge is living well, or in his case, managing well.

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

I guess I'm the guilty one of using Clueless and Classless.
I've been following the Yankees since '76. I suffered thru the '80s. Are you aware that the Yankees were the franchise that most regular season games won in that decade? And what do we have to show for it? AL East champions in '80 and AL champions in '81.
I was elated to have the Yankees reach the playoffs in '95, specially for Don Mattingly.
And not to mention the run from 1996 up to 2001. And I remember that thru those years, the headline that said "Clueless Joe" and had a picture of Joe Torre in the NY Post(?) when he was hired, was run again as getting BACK to the newspaper.

I haven't read that article and my only base to use "clueless" is what I have mentioned in the previous paragraph, so I don't have a base to use the word and if you don't like it, well I apologize.

However, from 2002 and forward, Torre wasn't given what made the team so successful before: pitching and defense.

I have read "Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong" by The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts in which they conclude that most managers are non-factors and "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty" by Buster Olney that gives you an idea of the worrisome situation of the organization that is only now beginning to be fixed and it will still take years.

Therefore, my conclusion from what I have read is that Joe Torre was part of the successful supporting cast but CAN'T be credited SUSTANCIALLY as being THE element that created the championship run. Because given inferior teams from '02 to '07 he did nothing relevant.

And from the Classless Joe, I won't retract, it was very unprofessional, specially coming form someone cited for his dignity and class. It really makes me wonder who really Joe Torre is.

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

And quoting from the guys at

The Pre-Yankee years:
- 894-1003 record before he went to the Yankees
- Blaming everyone else for winning only one division title in 15 seasons
- Feeling betrayed by GM Frank Cashen after leading the Mets to a 286-420 record

And last but not least, his inability to handle a pitching staff and his poor work ethic:

There were whispers about his problems handling pitchers, teaching fundamentals, arriving at the ballpark too late and leaving too early. (Source: The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Feb 2 1985, Page B2)

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

NAM, I don't know where do you get the notion that the Yankees have TONS of talent. Precisely what we lack is depth. We might have tons of talent but if they get injured and are replaced by Chad Moeller, Alberto Gonzalez, Justind Christian, Sidney Ponson, Ross Ohlendorf and Darrell Rasner it really a sorry state.
I went over that extensively in the post: "Who is the 'high-priced ace' who cried in the middle of a game?"

Anonymous said...

Lisa, Buster Olney has an even better name than Sheff and thats David Wells. He seems to put it better than anyone. If people can't get with what Buster is saying THEY are the true clueless ones. Here is an excerpt from Buster's blog:

But he has gone beyond his own code of conduct with his book. In spring 2003, David Wells and a ghostwriter published a book, "Perfect I'm Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball," and Torre was furious, angry that Wells had aired some of the Yankees' dirty laundry in the pages. Wells tried to distance himself from some of the words in the book, saying they belonged to the writer, but the Yankees' manager would not accept that. After a meeting with the pitcher, Torre said this to reporters:

"We talked to him about a lot of things today. I just sensed he was bothered by it. Not by what we said, but by how it came out. How much of it is actually what he said and how much isn't exactly what he said, I don't know.

"But there's no question: It has his name on it, and he has to be accountable for it."

Torre, Cashman and George Steinbrenner held Wells accountable -- in the end, he was fined $100,000 by the organization.

Now it is Torre's responsibility to be fully accountable for the words in the book that has his name on it, and he must stand behind those words.

Read the entire blog entry.

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