• Is Torre Saying That A-Rod’s Arrival Ruined Yankees?

    Posted by on January 26th, 2009 · Comments (12)

    Sure sounds like it.

    From Michiko Kakutani’s review of Joe Torre’s new book:

    Torre and Verducci note that as the core of the old guard from the championship years dwindled — Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Chuck Knoblauch and Paul O’Neill were all history by 2002 — the front office tended to turn to imported All-Stars, who failed to congeal into an effective ensemble. The farm system, which had produced the likes of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Rivera, was increasingly neglected, and Steinbrenner began to indulge his taste for what Torre calls “big boppers” like Jason Giambi, who the manager felt “wasn’t part of what we prided ourselves on: playing well defensively.”

    This decision, Torre and Verducci write, “made for a whole different dynamic in the Yankees’ clubhouse.” A-Rod’s arrival in 2004 would cement this metamorphosis, and the authors say he became fairly or unfairly “the unmistakable shorthand symbol for why the Yankees no longer were champions and suffered at the rise of the Red Sox”: “Whether hitting 450-foot home runs or sunbathing shirtless in Central Park or squiring strippers, Rodriguez was like nothing ever seen before on the championship teams of the Torre Era: an ambitious superstar impressed and motivated by stature and status, particularly when those qualities pertained to himself.”

    With each year’s failure to win a world title, Yankees management grew increasingly desperate, going for the quick fix instead of a long-term plan, bringing to the stadium a succession of aging hitters and what the authors of this book call a “collection of expensive pitchers” — including Kevin Brown, Jeff Weaver, José Contreras, Javier Vázquez, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano — who “were ill suited for New York, either because they were too emotionally fragile or broken down.” Meanwhile, the team made only lukewarm efforts in 2003 to keep the clutch left-handed pitcher Andy Pettitte, who left for his hometown Houston Astros.

    While the Yankees were going through an identity crisis, the dynamics of baseball had begun to change, with other teams embracing new cost-effective business practices based on statistical analysis. No one excelled more at this new number crunching and player development than the Yankees’ archenemies, the Boston Red Sox, who in 2004 would deal the once-mighty Evil Empire a crushing blow, coming back to win the American League championship after the Bombers were ahead by three games to none and a mere three outs away from the World Series. It was a devastating loss that only accelerated the Yankees’ dysfunction, the authors observe, resulting in more organizational backbiting and a team made up of “a slapdash collection of parts that didn’t fit or work.”

    And, via Michael S. Schmidt’s feature today on the book, also in the Times:

    But what stands out the most about the book are the frank, and often critical, statements that Torre makes about Alex Rodriguez, who won two Most Valuable Player awards during the four years that Torre was his manager in the Bronx. At 33, Rodriguez has hit 553 career home runs. He is widely regarded as the game’s best all-around player. He is also its highest paid.

    But in the past year, Rodriguez has clearly become something of a target for people trying to sell sports books.

    In “Vindicated,” José Canseco’s second book about steroids in baseball, Rodriguez ended up as the centerpiece. In the book, which was released a year ago, Canseco tried to link Rodriguez — who has denied he ever used performance-enhancing drugs — to banned substances. Then there is Kirk Radomski, the convicted steroids dealer whose book, “Bases Loaded,” goes on sale this week. He could not stay away from Rodriguez, either, first stating he had no first-hand knowledge that Rodriguez had used banned substances, then speculating that he probably had.

    Now it seems it is Torre’s turn. Torre’s view, however, has nothing to do with the use of performance-enhancing drugs and everything to do with Rodriguez as a person and a player.

    In the book, which was written with Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated and refers to Torre in the third person but quotes him extensively, Torre said that the clubhouse became strained after Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees before the 2004 season.

    “Alex monopolized all the attention,” Torre said.

    “We never really had anybody who craved the attention,” Torre added. “I think when Alex came over he certainly changed just the feel of the club.”

    And Torre clearly had concerns about Rodriguez’s well-chronicled failures in key moments, particularly in recent postseasons. Torre said that when everything was on the line, and when Rodriguez was at the plate, Rodriguez was too often unable to “concern himself with getting the job done” and instead became distracted with “how it looks.”

    And it is not just Torre who makes critical assessments of Rodriguez in the book. The book quotes Mike Borzello, a former Yankees bullpen catcher who is described as a “close friend” of Rodriguez’s, and says that Borzello continuously had to boost Rodriguez’s ego because he felt that he was competing with Derek Jeter for attention.

    “It doesn’t help,” Borzello said, referring to Rodriguez’s relationship with Jeter. “You would rather that the stars are in the same place, pulling together, but I don’t think it affected the other players. It just affected the feel in the clubhouse.”

    Borzello added that he used to tell Rodriguez that he was coming to the stadium and trying to get everyone to look at him, but that they were already looking at him: “You’re Alex Rodriguez. I don’t understand that.”

    Without directly attributing the information to Torre, the book states that teammates and clubhouse attendants referred to Rodriguez as A-Fraud and seemed particularly put off by the fact that Rodriguez seemed to demand so much attention from the attendants.

    “One time, in Detroit, where his personal attendant was not available, Rodriguez was jogging off the field after batting practice, saw a Comerica Park visiting clubhouse attendant, a young kid in his first months on the job, and simply barked, ‘Peanut butter and jelly,’ ” the book said.

    Comments on Is Torre Saying That A-Rod’s Arrival Ruined Yankees?

    1. Raf
      January 26th, 2009 | 10:22 am

      Is Torre Saying That A-Rod’s Arrival Ruined Yankees?
      ———–
      If he is, then maybe he really is “Clueless Joe.” Rodriguez has hardly been the problem with the Yanks, doesn’t even register on the scale.

    2. clintfsu813
      January 26th, 2009 | 10:29 am

      It’s seems similar to that of Reggie in ’77. He was a huge distraction back then. But of course, we all know he killed it in the postseason. If we had bombed in ’77 and ’78, everyone would have blamed Reggie. I know its a small sample, but if Rivera closes out that series in ’04, and we win it all, no one would care about Arods cockiness or off the field distractions.

    3. Raf
      January 26th, 2009 | 10:36 am

      It’s seems similar to that of Reggie in ‘77. He was a huge distraction back then. But of course, we all know he killed it in the postseason.
      ——
      pfft, the last two hr’s he hit, were clearly stat padders :D

    4. bfriley76
      January 26th, 2009 | 10:45 am

      If that is really what Torre is saying, isn’t it as much a failure on Torre’s part as it is A-Rod’s? Since he began his Tenure in NY, Torre has been lauded as a manager of egos. The perfect manager to have running a team full of stars, and its a label he hasn’t done anything to discourage. You’d think if that’s indeed the type of manager he is/was, he’d see the value in making sure that one of the best players in the game was fitting in, since he would give the team the best chance to win.

    5. YankCrank
      January 26th, 2009 | 10:58 am

      Borzello added that he used to tell Rodriguez that he was coming to the stadium and trying to get everyone to look at him, but that they were already looking at him: “You’re Alex Rodriguez. I don’t understand that.”
      —-

      I don’t care. I honestly do not care. He can have an ego bigger than the new stadium, and if they need to hire somebody full time to tell him he’s amazing, than go ahead and do it. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game. So he’s not 100% selfless and on par with players like Chad Curtis or Paul O’Neill. People (Yankee fans, I guess) need to stop criticizing him for who he isn’t and start accepting him for who he is. Whether you like it or not, it’s A-Rod’s team for the next 9 years. You can either bitch, moan and boo him or accept him for his greatness (and flaws) and hope he leads the team to #27.

    6. clintfsu813
      January 26th, 2009 | 12:03 pm

      I’m lookin forward to when he gets up to around 650 HRs when all of New York will be praising him and cheering on every dinger!

    7. clintfsu813
      January 26th, 2009 | 12:04 pm

      P.s. Its crazy to think that if he has a moster year, such as 2007, he could possibly hit 600 in September.

    8. January 26th, 2009 | 12:33 pm

      So Torre didn’t want the Yankees to acquire “big boppers” who would compromise the team’s defense? Wasn’t he the same guy who personally lobbied for the team to sign Albert Belle? Who sat Tino Martinez in the World Series so he could play Cecil Fielder at first base? Who had a love-in with Manny Ramirez last year?

    9. January 26th, 2009 | 12:35 pm

      Tyler Kepner has a good one on A-Rod today too:

      http://tinyurl.com/cqlmhm

    10. Raf
      January 26th, 2009 | 12:38 pm

      So Torre didn’t want the Yankees to acquire “big boppers” who would compromise the team’s defense? Wasn’t he the same guy who personally lobbied for the team to sign Albert Belle? Who sat Tino Martinez in the World Series so he could play Cecil Fielder at first base? Who had a love-in with Manny Ramirez last year?
      ————
      EXACTLY

    11. January 26th, 2009 | 12:58 pm

      Maybe it should have said that…

      Torre didn’t want the Yankees to acquire “juiced boppers”….?

      ;-)

    12. Raf
      January 26th, 2009 | 1:16 pm

      Maybe it should have said that…

      Torre didn’t want the Yankees to acquire “juiced boppers”….?
      ———-
      David Justice disagrees with you :D

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