All Things Baseball

Yankees Problems Aren’t Torre-Ential — They Start Upstairs

The Yankees have once again made an early exit from the MLB postseason, and there’s no person in the basebal world that is more frustrated right now than George Steinbrenner. The Boss is spending millions of dollars on the Yankees each year, and his promises and guarantees of a World Series title have been foiled for the 6th consecutive year. Because George Steinbrenner can get a hot-head faster than anyone else in the sports world, the Boss is likely to play Donald Trump with the Yankees; and you know what that means — somebody’s getting a loud “you’re fired!”.

When George Steinbrenner doesn’t get what he wants, his employees are in trouble

Steinbrenner has gone through quite a few executives and managers during his long reign as owner of the New York Yankees, but the current manager of the Yankees, Joe Torre, has had an unusually long 11 year stint. Torre has won several World Series with the Yankees, but the chamionship drought the Bombers have encountered these past 6 years could put a pinkslip in his mailbox and a new face in the Yankee dugout.

Joe Torre is likely to feel Steinbrenner’s wrath, though he doesn’t deserve it

As much as George Steinbrenner would like to think that firing Joe Torre will solve his team’s problems, he’s dead wrong. Torre is one of the best managers in baseball, and the recent playoff failures the Yankees have suffered are not due to the way he has managed the team, but rather because of how the Boss and the Cashman (GM Brian Cashman) have put it together.

Centerfielder Johnny Damon can’t imagine the Yankees without Joe Torre running things from the dugout. He said yesterday, “I can’t envision Joe not being here. This is totally on the players. We didn’t play well. We didn’t hit the ball. We were completely outplayed on the field and that has nothing to do with Joe.” He added that “the players love playing for Joe”. To have a good team, you’ve got to keep the players happy, and it’s clear that the on-field Yankees think Joe Torre is the man to lead the team.

So is it Brian Cashman or George Steinbrenner who is to blame?

Most baseball executives would kill for Brian Cashman’s job

Brian Cashman has one of the easiest front office jobs in baseball. His budget is unlimited, so all he has to do is talk to George Steinbrenner about which high-flying and pricey player the Boss wants wearing pinstripes, and then make an unmatchable offer to that player. The Boss’ deep pockets have allowed Cashman to make trades for players like Bobby Abreu and sign expensive free agents like Johnny Damon without thinking twice about how much green is changing hands. No other General Manager in baseball has that luxury, so if Cashman is a gifted GM, he should be able to put together the ultimate baseball team. (More on that “ultimate” team later).

Dare I suggest the Yankees problems start all the way at the top?

Let’s assume that Cashman is in fact a decent General Manager and keep on looking for where the blame really belongs. If it’s not the manager and it’s not the general manager, that just about takes the front office and the on-field staff out of the blame game. Who’s left? Dare I say it? I do dare…George Steinbrenner

The Boss will really hate this point, but I think at least part of the blame for the Yankees’ recent “struggles” fall squarely on his shoulders. The problem is that Steinbrenner has set the bar too high. Struggling, for most teams, would mean annually missing the playoffs and showing now signs of improvement. For the Yankees, struggling means falling anything short of a World Series title.

If not winning the World Series means that a team is struggling, there’s no word with nearly enough magnitude to describe the slump teams like the Royals and Devil Rays are mired in. And therein lies the problem. The Boss has every right to expect the Yankees to win the World Series, because his team is the most expensive in baseball and looks the best on paper. Unfortunately, having the highest payroll doesn’t make a team the best in baseball. The Boss couldn’t fix the Yankees by throwing all of his money into the team; he would have to change the way it’s put together first.

The Yankees do not need to go into a full rebuilding mode, because the team is already terrific; well, sort of. Steinbrenner and his front office crew has put together a team that is too good. That’s right, there’s a limit to how good a baseball team should be.

The Yankees lineup should be the envy of every team in baseball, but it isn’t, because the Bombers don’t play as a team. There’s more talent in the Yankees’ 1-to-9 this season than any team has had since the Big Red Machine, and possibly in history. The problem is that Damon-Jeter-Abreu-Rodriguez-Giambi-Matsui-Sheffield-Posada-Cano are all individualists, and with the exception of Damon and Jeter, none of them are true team players.

Look at the teams remaining in this year’s playoffs. The A’s, Cardinals, and Mets lineups certainly don’t come close to the power of the Yankees’ offense. Neither do the Tigers, though MoTown had enough mojo to oust the Bombers in 4 games. Why? Because the Tigers play baseball the right way — as a team sport.

The Tigers, and all the other remaining teams for that matter, are great at helping each other out and coming through in clutch situations. It was the Tigers that out-hit, outscored, and outplayed the Yankees, because they hit better with RISP, played better defense, pitched better, and most importantly, played with more spirit. Jim Leyland’s team played baseball the way it is meant to be played; Joe Torre’s team (though it wasn’t his fault) did not.

But didn’t the Yankees use a ton of money to put together their Championship teams of the 1990’s? Yes, but those teams had one important difference from the Yankees of 2006, and the Bombers of the early-21st century. They were comprised of players who were part of a team, not players who had all-star talent, but didn’t play together. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the Yankees of 2000, 1999, 1998, and 1996 were many times WORSE than the Yankees of 2006 on paper; they won because they played as the Yankees, not as 25 separate guys with immense talent wearing pinstripes.

So here’s the solution if Steinbrenner wants to stop “struggling”, in a simple five-step process.

  1. Keep Joe Torre — he has done nothing to deserve being ousted
  2. Trade Alex Rodriguez — you don’t like him Steinbrenner…here’s your chance to move your “third baseman”
  3. Release/trade Carl Pavano — you’re wasting money on him…I know you can, but you shouldn’t
  4. Spend a little more money on pitching — hey, with A-Rod gone, you can afford to add a little to your pitching budget while still significantly cutting your payroll
  5. Fire Brian Cashman — if you want to fire someone, it’s the front office that needs a makeover, not the on-field staff

If Steinbrenner can bring himself to reduce his payroll and do some front office housecleaning (I know I said Cashman might be a good GM, but a new policy requires new management) he will improve his beloved Yankees and bring the pride back to the Pinstripes and their fans. If the Boss stays with his plan of ousting Torre, hiring Lou Piniella, and spending even more money on a team of individualists, being a Yankees fan will not be fun for the next several years.

That’s right Boss, you can win more by spending less — take the risk you’re afraid of taking and spend your money elsewhere.


Trivia Time!

Yesterday’s question was…

Woody Williams has pitched for several teams in his MLB career. With which club did he make his MLB debut in 1993?

The correct answer…

Woody Williams started his now 13-year-old career with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Today’s question is…

During the 2000 World Series, one Yankees reliever earned 2 wins, while pitching 4.1 scoreless innings and recording 7 strikeouts. Who was he?

Hint: he is still pitching in the MLB today


One Response to “Yankees Problems Aren’t Torre-Ential — They Start Upstairs”

  1. I have to disagree with you. A-Rod is one the main reasons the Yankees have made it as far as they have. Without him it’s hard to say wether or not the Yankees had a chance to get to the World Series this year.

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