Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bob Klapisch rewrites history of the Yankee dynasty

Today's Bob Klapisch piece for the Bergen Record about the Yankees in the Joe Torre era might be the biggest piece of Yankee revisionist history I've read all year, with him claiming that Torre never had the talent Joe Girardi had to work with, and that the Bombers were already aging and fading by 1999, just when Derek Jeter was entering his prime, Jorge Posada was coming into his own, and Roger Clemens had joined the team. Huh?

Here are some of Klapisch's claims, with my responses below:
"Torre never had the luxury of managing a roster that had CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett."
What the??? A.J. Burnett is 23-22 as a Yankee, with a 4.52 ERA. Is he really somebody to envy? I don't think so.

And while Clemens' numbers were surely chemically-enhanced, he was arguably was just a big a force as CC Sabathia in his time with the Yankees. And let me pull a Kanye West and say that A-Rod is one of the greatest players of all time. Torre had him for four seasons, but treated him like something stuck under his shoe. Not to mention that Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter in their prime were as valuable as Teixeira is.
"[Torre] didn’t stick around long enough to have Steinbrenner out of his face."
Not true. Torre went seven straight years of not meeting his job requirement of winning the World Series, and still didn't get fired. Torre's own book admits that Steinbrenner wasn't mentally the same in the last few years. Besides, does anybody think The Boss of old would have not cleaned house after 2004?
"And Torre wasn’t able to collect the dividend on Alex Rodriguez’s breakthrough October after five years of postseason misery."
Hmmmm. Maybe Joe Girardi's lighter touch with A-Rod might have contributed to Alex relaxing at the plate. Just saying.
"Those perks have been awarded to Girardi, who gets credit for his sterile, efficient manner."
What's this "awarded" nonsense? Girardi won the World Series in only his third year of managing, yet Klapisch wants to minimize that, calling his manner "sterile." Please.
"But Girardi would’ve been challenged to extend the Yankees’ renaissance after 1998, when the previous generation’s core started to age out."
Is Klapisch out of his flipping mind? I mean, really. At least Wally Matthews' babbling can be funny -- his line about A-Rod pulling a Madame Bovary death scene in the batter's box is one of the funniest things I've read all year. Klapisch's ravings are just sad.

Let's review. In 1999, the Yankees, who had won 114 games the year before, traded for Roger Clemens, who had just won two Cy Youngs in a row for the Blue Jays. And the team won 98 games.While El Duque was probably already old in 1999, he also won 17 games that season. Derek Jeter had an MVP-caliber year (and his best season ever), Jorge Posada was a budding young star, and Bernie Williams had a .971 OPS.

The only starter you can arguably say was starting to fade in 1999 was Paul O'Neill, who never hit above .300 after 1998. But even then, his numbers were still respectable until the end of his career.

Klapisch should know better; the year where some of the Yankees seemed really old all of a sudden was 2001, not 1999, when they won 98 games. (And yes, even I will give Torre the credit for getting the Yankees within one inning of winning the World Series in 2001-- they totally overachieved that year. And with them winning in 2000 despite the team only winning 87 games in the regular season. Believe it or not, I was a big Torre fan until 2003, when he pitched Jeff Weaver in Game 5 of the World Series. It took that event -- and the 2004 ALCS -- to turn me against Joe for good.)

Here's another Klapisch gem:
"That’s what the haters seem to forget – that Torre coaxed two more world championships out of a team that slowly was being caught by the Red Sox. Maybe that’s why Torre cried like a baby after Aaron Boone’s HR in Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series. Maybe he knew the dynasty was over."
I guess I'm one of those "haters," but I think I know my baseball history a little better than Klapisch does. Because I seem to remember the Yankees beating the Red Sox four games to one in the 1999 ALCS. And the Sox not making the playoffs at all for the following three years. Boston didn't really catch up with the Yankees until after then, when John Henry et al bought the team, Theo Epstein took over as general manager, and the team got a huge player makeover. To suggest that Torre "coaxed two more world championships out of a team that slowly was being caught by the Red Sox" is sheer nonsense.
"There’s been too much revisionist spin of Torre’s career in the Bronx, particularly after 2003. Too old, too out of touch, too laid back, too disinterested – name it, and the blemishes suddenly littered his Hall of Fame résumé. Torre doesn’t have to apologize for any of the Yankees’ non-championship years, although if he had a second chance, he might’ve decided to wait until retirement to publish his memoirs. Instead, “The Yankee Years” damaged Torre’s legacy in some Yankee circles, even though it was co-authored with Sports Illustrated’s highly respected Tom Verducci.
The only "revisionist spin" being written here is by Klapisch himself. Torre had the biggest payroll, with the top stars, each year, and couldn't even make it to the World Series after 2003. That is just as much a part of the resume as the four rings. Just because it took a while for the starry-eyed media to finally acknowledge that isn't revisionism; it's acknowledging reality.

Also love how Klapisch blames Verducci for the book. Do you think there was a single line in that book that wasn't approved by Torre himself? Come on now.

For good measure, Klapisch also blames Brian Cashman for overreacting to how he was portrayed in the book:
"Torre used the book to criticize Cashman’s growing reliance on statistics, for the way he handled the end of Bernie Williams’ career and for becoming the most powerful figure in the Yankees’day-to-day operations by 2005.
Cashman stood in the way of Torre’s previous direct connection to The Boss, planting the seeds of the manager’s resentment. Torre was correct in noting how the Yankees changed the way they did business by the middle of the decade, but Cashman nevertheless was “shocked” at the way his onetime buddy flogged him in print."
Funny how Klapisch implicitly agrees with Torre's criticism of Cashman relying on statistics, when it was the Red Sox's use of statistics that helped to give them an edge. There are things Cash has done that I don't like, either, like signing Nick Johnson and bringing back Javier Vazquez this year, but it's obvious that the GM and not the manager should be "the most powerful figure in the Yankees’day-to-day operations." Especially when the manager thought looking at a stat sheet was beneath him.

Klapisch also writes that Torre "was, and still is, a model of calm and composure, the very qualities that helped him act as traffic cop when the clubhouse was so fractured and cliquish after 2003." This is just laughable. The "clubhouse was so fractured and cliquish after 2003" because Torre took sides with "his guys" over A-Rod and other newer players, instead of running the clubhouse as a team. If Torre had been the same manager that he was in the '90s, then perhaps the clubhouse would have been as united as it was back then.

What do you think? Tell us about it!


Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

Torre's World Series run from 1996-2000 had the best starting rotation and bullpen ever assembled!

I wonder why this hasn't been given more coverage?

Uncle Mike said...

It's possible that the "aging dynasty" Klapisch is talking about includes not just O'Neill and El Duque, who were both still pretty good, but also Chuck Knoblauch and Scott Brosius, who were still better options at their positions than most teams had.

Sure, Girardi can call on the aging but still effective Andy Pettitte. Torre had the young one -- and saved him from being traded.

Girardi has Teixeira, and Torre had Tino Martinez. I wouldn't trade Tino's best for Teix's best, which may be yet to come, but I'm sure glad Torre and the rest of us had Tino.

Torre had plenty to work with. So did a lot of the managers he faced in the postseason: Johnny Oates in Texas, Davey Johnson in Baltimore, Bobby Cox in Atlanta, Mike Hargrove in Cleveland, Art Howe in Oakland, Lou Piniella in Seattle. None of those guys beat Torre's Yankees and went on to win a World Series.

That's the point Klapisch would have made... if he were smarter.

Lisa Swan said...


If Wells were smarter, he'd talk about how in his book, Torre accused Sidney Ponson of being a bad influence on Wells and Jeff Weaver, even though Ponson was never teammates with them!

Uncle Mike,

Excellent points, particularly 2001. The fact that Torre's Yankees beat an 116 win team was pretty remarkable.

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

I forgot you read the whole book! Now I recall that you pointed it out back then.
My point was that David Wells trashed Torre right before the ceremonies and both were there, but nobody said a thing.
It was all about St Bigelow Joe, intrigued by Jerry Manuel's job when it's yet to be open.
Very classy of Bigelow Joe to jump ship because he knows that the McCoys and Hatfields feud will NOT field him a winning team.
So he's sending Mattingly directly to the wolfs, in a lose lose proposition. I can picture now Viper (Tom Skerritt) to Maverick (Tom Cruise) "you lost your wingman. That's a cardinal sin." I can picture too Joe Torre jumping on Oprah's couch as Tom Cruise did.

Uncle Mike said...

"Jump ship"? Seems the McCourts, the presumed captain and, uh, first mate, were the first rats to jump off the sinking HMS O'Malley. They'd already saddled Torre with an impossible situation, so why did he owe them any further loyalty? If someone stick a knife in my back, I'm gonna pull it out and slash their throat with it, not stand there like a (literally) bloody fool and say, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

You would think, being from Brooklyn, Torre would have known not to trust the Los Angeles Baseball Club. Question Torre's judgment if you must, but not his loyalty. He is still more sinned against than sinning.

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