Friday, October 19, 2007

I was looking back at some previous entries here, and I came across one talking about how Barry Bonds was going to break the career home run record (he did), and how I thought Alex Rodriguez would break the single season home run record (he didn't). However, he did have a career year, leading the American League in home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored. And I am still willing to bet that that he is going to opt out of his contract with the Yankees (especially now that Torre is gone, which I will get to in a moment) and sign a huge free agent deal (I am guessing in the neighborhood of $30 million per year for 5-6 years with some kind of club or player option). And although no one wants to believe me, I am still saying that he ends up with the Cubs. We shall see what happens.

Now on to Torre. I am officially naming him as the 2007-08 biggest name in free agency. I am also going to say that he is going to be the most overvalued free agent, and will NOT be successful in his new job (unless he gets into broadcasting, which I think he would be successful at doing). The thing I have noticed with managers/head coaches is that more so than almost any other job or position they are the culmination of a perfect storm rather than the driving force. By that I mean that they are the final complimentary part to a team that wins a championship. A quick glance at coaches that have won championships with one team and later coached another team shows this. Look at this list of World Series Winning managers...

World Series Championships - Ties Are Alphabetized

Joe McCarthy - 7

Casey Stengel - 7

Connie Mack - 5

Walter Alston - 4

Joe Torre - 4

Sparky Anderson - 3

Miller Huggins - 3

John McGraw - 3

Bill Carrigan - 2

Frank Chance - 2

Cito Gaston - 2

Bucky Harris - 2

Ralph Houk - 2

Tom Kelly - 2

Tommy Lasorda - 2

Billy Martin - 2

Bill McKechnie - 2

Danny Murtaugh - 2

Billy Southworth - 2

Dick Williams - 2
How many of these managers won these championships with different teams? Anderson (also the only manager to win a World Series championship in both the AL and the NL), Harris, McKechnie. That is it.
I think that we can all agree that a championship season in ANY sport (excepting for those "dynasties" like the 70's Steelers or the Yankees of too many dang eras) requires a mot of skill on the team and a lot of luck on and off the field. For instance, injuries to your team (or to your opponents/division foes/rivals) can have a HUGE impact. All in all, it is almost a perfect storm/confluence of events and players that leads to a championship. There is a reason that there has been no repeat winners, or even two time winners of the World Series since the 1999-2000 Yankees. Say all you want about big money/big market versus small market and buying teams. If that was the case the Yankees and the Red Sox would have won every World Series for the last 10+ years, and they probably would have played the Cubs at least 5 or 6 times. I am a firm believer in team chemistry (the 1972-1974 Oakland Athletics notwithstanding), and team chemistry is a very fragile thing.
Joe Torre was always lauded for his ability to handle the huge egos that came to New York with the giant contracts and make them work together. This is true, to an extent. But the other thing to think about is that when he was leading the Yankees to the World Series, he had a mixture of young players with talent and a hardcore work ethic (Jeter/Rivera ET AL) and a bunch of veterans who played the game the "right way", and weren't all about egos (O'Neill, Cone, Key, Wetteland, Boggs, Martinez...the list goes on and on). The team kept on winning, but those veteran players moved on and/or retired, and the Yankee's front office kept bringing in players with comparable (or better) stats, but not with the same work ethic and desire (Knoblauch, Giambi, etc). And Torre was able to keep them in line enough to get to the postseason (although with a roster as talented as they had, not getting to the postseason would have been BEYOND unacceptable), but he couldn't get them any further. Why is that? I am glad you asked...
Joe Torre was never a great tactician. He was a good motivator (not a great one, but a good one), but the X's and O's of the sport were never his strength. When he had that mix of young and old players fighting tooth and nail to get to (and win) it all, he looked like a genius. Once he had to start really playing chess, he started losing to managers that had to do it all season in order to win. Torre could just bludgeon most teams with superior talent, but without talent you won't make it to the postseason, and with talent and a postseason berth, anything is possible. Since Torre didn't have to make tactical moves NEARLY as often as most other managers, when the margin for error was so greatly reduced he didn't have the needed skill set to fall back on. Joe Torre was out managed by Jack McKeon in the 2003 World Series (did I just hear someone say "who"? My point exactly). A manager brought in halfway through the season as an interim manager led the Florida Marlins past the mighty Yankees. It REALLY shouldn't have happened.
Now as far as being in the broadcast booth, I think he would be excellent as a color man. He has a dry sense of humor, and a great knowledge of the game and the history of the game (hey, he's been part of the history for 40+ years, he HAD to have retained SOME of it). He is a warm, friendly guy by all accounts, and has a natural, pleasant way of explaining things that I think would not come across as condescending. So Joe, if you are reading this (and I am sure that you are. At least, SOMEONE named Joe is going to read this), call up Fox and get that cushy desk job doing the pre-game. Or take Dusty Baker's spot on Baseball Tonight. But don't grab that Kansas City Royals job. You REALLY don't want to do that.

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