From Mike Vaccaro -
What Torre wasn’t able to handle, and what was destined to be his Waterloo even if he opted to accept this transparent and temporary stay, was the new way the Yankees are run, the passive/aggressive obstacle course that now passes for the organizational flow chart.
George Steinbrenner? Torre could handle him. You knew the man was in the room, and you knew what was on his mind. You knew if he was mad at you, and you knew if you were in trouble, because there was never a moment when the boss was the Boss when he would spare you the full wrath of his rage.
But Torre’s special gift was that he could defuse Steinbrenner, deflect him, disarm him.
Now the Yankees are run by a tangle of titles, by a couple of Steinbrenner sons and a gaggle of in-laws and headed by a professional politician named Randy Levine who never has made any pretense about the fact he is unconvinced that Torre personally hung the moon in the night sky.
Torre always believed the harshest postgame questions asked by the Yankees’ own state-run network originated in Levine’s office. Whether that was true or not, it certainly tells you they weren’t destined to be bridge partners, and it tells you the man who ran the team on the field wasn’t necessarily prepared to share a foxhole with the man who ultimately ran it off the field.
And the man who, ultimately, ran him off the field.
Levine has thrust himself into position to be what Steinbrenner used to be, if this coup d’etat doesn’t work out the way everyone on Thursday’s conference call solemnly promised it would.
He will be the new villain. He will be the new target. He will be the one that Yankees fans point to if the man selected to replace Torre turns out to be anything less than a cross between Connie Mack, John McGraw, Joe McCarthy and Miller Huggins – none of whom, for the record, ever managed a team to the postseason 12 consecutive years.
Remember in “The Godfather,” when Michael Corleone ominously and chillingly informs his treacherous brother-in-law: “You have to answer for Santino, Carlo.”? In a year, in five years, if the arrow on the Yankees’ growth chart doesn’t keep inching north, that will be Yankees fans, demanding to Levine: You have to answer for Torre, Randy. You have to answer for the insane expectations that would render Torre’s resume wanting.
Of course, there is a way where this can all work out for Levine, and for the others who now populate the crowded Yankees conference room, and it’s the same blueprint Steinbrenner eventually fell into. They won. A lot. They became a multibillion-dollar success story, even if it sometimes seemed to happen in spite of Steinbrenner. Maybe that can happen for the New Boss, too.
Last week, I suggested that it may be Levine to pull the plug on Torre. So, this report is no shocker to me.
The interesting thing is, during his press conference yesterday, when asked about Levine, Joe Torre said that he had very little to do with him – and that, as a manager, it was his job to work with the G.M. (Cashman) and not Levine. So, it’s somewhat suggested there that Torre felt like he should have nothing to do with Levine – or have to answer to him – and perhaps that led to part of the non-connection or power-envy thing that may have existed between these two.
I’ve stated in the past that Randy Levine just rubs me the wrong way – in that he always seemed like the Yankees version of Larry Lucchino to me.
Lucchino, with his ways, eventually turned off the people that he worked with while he was with the Baltimore Orioles and the San Diego Padres. And, you don’t hear that much from him out of Boston these days – at least, nowhere as much as you used to hear from him.
I suspect the same will happen with Randy Levine in New York.
Randy Levine is full of sound and fury – and, usually signifying nothing. Randy Levine is President Bluster. The Psychedelic Furs should write a song about him.
Levine is annoying – and, he may be a detriment to the team. But, he’s going to be transitory in the big picture. His type usually is – by nature of their being.
Plus, while Levine has some skin in the game now, let us not forget that, in Yankeeland, Steinbrenner blood is the magic potion. Unless you have some “Big Stein” in your hemoglobin, you will never live forever in the Yankees team photo.
Once the new Stadium is built, and all around it is in place, Randy Levine will have less value to the Yankees. By that time, he should be half-way out the door.
So, lament President Bluster now – and just hope that the ticking sound that you hear in the background when he speaks is the expiring Yankeeland lifeclock in the palm of his hand blinking brightly in red and just about to turn black.