Today, I finally got the chance to flip through Joe Torre's and Tom Verducci's "The Yankee Years." No, I didn't buy it - I got a copy of it from the New York Public Library. But I might owe the library money for it if I hurl the book across the room, which I'm about ready to do!
I'm not sure I'm going to be able to read the whole thing straight through, as pretty much every anecdote I've read so far in "The Yankee Years" is self-serving, selfish, and wrong-headed, and is raising my blood pressure. But I used the index to read a good portion of the book. Here are my observations:
* I knew that David Cone and Mike Mussina were sources for the book, but I wasn't aware that Derek Jeter was a source! So were the other Yankee core guys - Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. I also know that Jeter and Posada vehemently defended Torre writing this book. But why weren't they ever asked about their own contributions to "The Yankee Years"? Especially Jeter, given how much of the book is about how some teammates don't like Alex. There are an awful lot of clubhouse confidences betrayed in this book, and not just by Torre. Did the captain have anything to do with that?
* After the book came out, Torre and his minions like Larry Bowa were trying to spin the notion that the "A-Fraud" anecdote was taken out of context. It wasn't. If anything, it was mild, compared to the rest of the stuff here about A-Rod. I always thought Joe had a really sadistic, cruel streak when it came to Alex. And sadly, Torre is even worse than I thought. There is so much pettiness here in this book about Alex, it really makes you feel sorry for him. For page after page after page, Joe is incredibly catty and mean about A-Rod. The book puts him down for everything he does. And I mean everything - his clothes, his speaking manner, even the fact that - horrors - he actually likes watching baseball games!
* After years of Torre denying that there was any clubhouse friction between Jeter and A-Rod, he finally acknowledges that they didn't get along, and that it screwed up the clubhouse. And that Brian Cashman was angry with Torre and Jeter in 2006 for refusing to support A-Rod. Left unsaid is why, when the book admits the feud separated the clubhouse, why Torre allowed it to fester.
* As expected, Torre makes sure to take all the credit for the four rings, but none of the blame for the post-2001 playoff failures. This really got my blood boiling. After all this time, he still contends that he had no choice but to pitch Jeff Weaver in the 2003 World Series! Unbelievable.
* 2004 is even worse. Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Brown, Tom Gordon, and Mariano Rivera (!) get their share of the blame for the ALCS loss, but Torre never acknowledges doing anything wrong. Also, ever wonder why didn't the Yanks bunt on Curt Schilling? The book alternately claims that the team didn't know he had surgery on his ankle (huh?) and that Torre didn't believe Schilling was hurt. So he told them to play the way they always did against Curt. They never adjusted their game plan at any point. Not exactly a recipe for success.
* Ever notice how over the past few years, how the Yankees seemed to give up in the playoffs at the first sign of adversity? It's true. The Yankees mostly gave up after Game 5 that year, and figured they had no chance after Game 6. Mike Mussina said the team felt, "We're finished," after Game 6. What a damning revelation. It's enough to make you respect the Red Sox's resilience, given how they never gave up, even being down 0-3. How Torre still got to keep his job, after his team quit like that, still boggles my mind. Heck, how Jeter's still considered to be a good captain, after hearing how his team just quit like that, is astonishing.
* I ended up respecting Brian Cashman, another villain in the book, a bit more after reading "The Yankee Years." He tried to get Torre to pay attention to stats, and to change with the times, but Torre wasn't interested.
* There are many infuriating revelations in the book which inadvertently show how blase Joe was during the playoffs. But maybe the worst was this one. During the Bug Game, Joba Chamberlain, covered in bugs, called out to Torre, "I can't see!" And it still wasn't enough to get Joe out of the dugout to protest the game conditions!
* If I had to pick a favorite part of the book, it would be this, when, after four years of abuse, A-Rod finally stuck it a little to Torre. After the 2007 ALDS loss, players said goodbye to Joe, knowing it was the end. But Alex never said a word to the manager. Nor did he return the call when Torre phoned him a month later to congratulate him on his MVP award. Good for A-Rod. Nothing phony about that!
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