The news coming out of New York this past weekend regarding the Yankees was, quite honestly, a bit of a shock to me. Both the New York Times and the New York Post, as well as other Big Apple media outlets, were saying that manager Joe Torre was dangerously close to being fired. They even went on to say that if the Yanks were swept by the Red Sox during the weekend series, Torre would be out, that simple.
There were two reasons why this was a shock to me; first it was from two reputable media outlets and secondly, the news had a timeline as well as stipulations for his firing. In other words, this sounded much more in depth and serious than the usual “Fire Torre” rumors that float around Yankee Stadium as though they were ghosts from the past.
The fact that Torre’s job is hanging precariously close to the proverbial edge of the “unemployment cliff” is ludicrous any way you look at it, that is except for one. George Steinbrenner still owns the Yankees and regardless of the fact that Joe Torre has been the manager for over a decade, “The Boss” still handles some things based on emotion and knee-jerk reactions.
For those of you too young to remember, let’s take a walk down the hallowed halls of Yankee Stadium. In particular, lets look at the wall that has the photos of the previous New York Yankee managers; this will give you an idea of how Steinbrenner handled managers in the past.
In 1913, the New York Highlanders switched their name and became the Yankees; for most fans of the Bronx Bombers, this marked the beginning of their team. Another little known fact is that prior to the team moving to New York they were one of the introductory American League teams, the original Baltimore Orioles.
That season, Frank Chance of the early Chicago Cubs and “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” fame was the manager. From 1913 until Steinbrenner bought the team in January of 1973, the team went through 10 managers and five interim skippers. That is 60 years or an average of one manager for every six years which is better than most teams.
But once Steinbrenner came on the scene everything changed, not just for the Yankees but for baseball in general. He set a new precedent when it came to firing managers and in the 70’s and 80’s, he did not make his decisions based on patience. I am not going to list all of the managers or the dates that they were on the bench, just the ones during the Steinbrenner regime. Let’s start off with some numbers though.
From January 1973 – April 2007 (34 Years)
11 Interim Managers (Of the 11 Interim Mgrs, two of them were fired with new Interim Managers replacing them before the season was even over)
9 Managers had seasons uninterrupted and of those, four were fired after that season
3 Managers were skippers on two different occasions; Bob Lemon, Dick Howser, and Gene Michael
1 Manager had the incredible ability to be hired and subsequently fired on 5 (five) separate occasions, Billy Martin
Finally, the longest tenure of all managers hired by Steinbrenner is of course, Joe Torre
Chronological list of Yankee Managers and their tenures under George Steinbrenner
1973 - Ralph Houk
1974 - Bill Virdon
1975 Bill Virdon, Billy Martin
1976 – 1977 Billy Martin
1978 – Billy Martin, Dick Howser, Bob Lemon
1979 – Bob Lemon, Billy Martin
1980 - Dick Howser
1981 - Gene Michael, Bob Lemon
1982 – Bob Lemon, Gene Michael, Clyde King
(Oh just you wait, there is plenty more to come yet!)
1983 – Billy Martin
1984 – Yogi Berra
1985 – Yogi Berra, Billy Martin
1986 – 1987 – Lou Pinella
1988 – Lou Pinella, Billy Martin
1989 – Dallas Green, Bucky Dent
1990 – Bucky Dent, Stump Merrill
1991 – Stump Merrill
1992 – 1995 – Buck Showalter
1996 – 2007 – Joe Torre
I remember thinking to myself two other things when Steinbrenner fired Buck Showalter who had done a masterful job managing the team through the rebuilding phase. First I thought Showalter deserved another year to get this team back to the playoffs and see how far they could go. Secondly I remember thinking how perfect a fit Joe Torre was going to be with this team that had a nice blend of youngsters and veterans.
What I did not think would happen was over a decade later Torre would still be at the helm! Joe deserves to leave on his owns terms, and the rumor is that he was planning on retiring at the end of 2007. What he does not deserve is to be thrown out on his ear by an egotistical owner who apparently remembered that he can fire managers simply because he thinks he knows best.
Joe Torre has four World Series rings to show for his mastery of managing, if he thought for one second that the Yanks were playing as lousy as they are because his skills have eroded he would step down before the next game was played. His players respect him so much that just about any of them that are asked about the situation will immediately take the blame for the team’s sad record.
As I said, the news was a shock to me, but in the long run, I think that Steinbrenner will actually think this one out and realize that firing Joe Torre is not the answer. He learned a hard lesson in the Yogi Berra fiasco and I don’t think he wants to take that big of a hit again from the fans. And make no mistake, if Steinbrenner did fire Torre, his already low popularity would plummet to record lows real quick. Joe Torre will get the team back on track and as usual, lead the Yankees to the playoffs. If he wants to retire at the end of the year then he has earned that right. Hopefully “The Boss” will recognize this and do the right thing, which is absolutely nothing.
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