Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Joe Torre is a Magical Fairy Who Grants Wishes to Yankee Fans

At least that what Sam Borden seems to think.

While constantly saying this season's struggles aren't "Joe Girardi's fault" and that "nobody can blame him" Borden continually hints and posits that with Torre, things might have been different because of some supposed magical ability he has.
Joe Torre wouldn't have made a difference in how this Yankees season has gone, would he?

Would he?

Alex Rodriguez would still have missed 20 games. Hideki Matsui would still have missed 50. Jorge Posada and Chien-Ming Wang would still have been gone even longer. Just having Torre managing the team instead of Joe Girardi wouldn't have put the Yankees in a better position than they are today, right?


There is no way to know for sure, no way to prove quantitatively that Torre's presence would have changed things. Progressive statisticians often talk about VORP, which essentially measures how good a particular player is relative to the "average player," but there is no such statistic to determine how good Torre or Girardi is relative to the average manager (or each other).

It can only be a hunch. A feel thing. And even if common sense says otherwise, it feels like Torre would have made a difference.

The last time the Yankees didn't make the playoffs in a full season was 1993, and that includes all 12 seasons that Torre was the manager. Every year. Every October. Some years were cruises, 100-win seasons that were only preludes to the playoffs. But not all. Most recently, in 2005 and 2007, Torre had to bring a team back from a slow start, just like the Yankees had this year. And he did. Every time.

Would the Yankees have made fewer errors running the bases this year with Torre? Would they have hit better with runners in scoring position? Would they have as many mental mistakes like the one in the fifth inning last night, when Jason Giambi looked bizarrely confused after catching a throw from A-Rod and allowed Coco Crisp to sneak home from second on an infield hit? Maybe, maybe not. There are those who believe Torre was just in the right place at the right time, a formerly less-successful manager who stumbled into a great team, great city, great run. If that's true, than perhaps Girardi is just incredibly unlucky, a poor victim of circumstance in a tougher-than-average year.

But Torre dealt with injuries, too, made it through seasons where Derek Jeter got hurt and Mariano Rivera got hurt and the starting rotation featured guys like Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon. None of those seasons ended in September.

Torre's greatest attribute was his ability to manage the players, even more than the games themselves. He pushed, poked, prodded and, ultimately, received production. He knew what to say, when to say it and, most important, how to say it. He thundered and cajoled, depending on the day, time and person. Mostly, he knew how to make the Yankees just a few games better than they deserved to be, and that's something the Yankees could certainly use right now.

Whatever the reason, the Yankees wake up today in as bad a place as they've been in over a decade, the last season at the Stadium on the verge of ending one month too early. Out west, Torre might well continue his playoff run with the Dodgers, so it's hard not to wonder whether he would have made a difference here.

Common sense says he wouldn't have.

Would he?
A hunch. A feel. Or perhaps magical fairy dust?

By the way, Torre's magical hunches and feels have propelled his new team and willed 100% maximum effort from his Dodgers to the tune of a 65-67 record.

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posted by Mr. Faded Glory @ 10:51 AM   0 comments


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