• Torre: Post-2001 Yanks Were Lacking

    Posted by on January 27th, 2009 · Comments (37)

    Via Neil Best, looking at Joe Torre’s new book -

    Beyond the blunt critiques of Alex Rodriguez and rising tensions with Brian Cashman, one theme dominates “The Yankee Years,” the new book “co-authored” by Joe Torre:

    That the Yankees of the former manager’s final six seasons were a self-absorbed, overpaid imitation of the famously gritty bunch that brought him four rings in his first six years.

    “It was just not an unselfish team,” Torre says of the revelation that hit him in 2002.

    “The team wasn’t tough enough . . . A lot of those players are more concerned about what it looks like as opposed to getting dirty and just getting it done. Those other teams, they were ferocious.”

    That observation comes on Page 37 of 477, and before A-Rod even arrives in the Bronx. But it sets the tone: 1996-2001 — good. 2002-2007 — not.

    Reading this, I wonder, is Torre trying to say…

    The cadre of players put together by Stick Michael and Bob Watson: Good.
    The cadre of players put together by Brian Cashman: Not.

    Because, basically, the 1996-2001 Yankees were the Michael/Watson team whereas the 2002-2007 Yankees were Cashman’s crew, no?

    Comments on Torre: Post-2001 Yanks Were Lacking

    1. antone
      January 27th, 2009 | 1:44 pm

      *waits for the storm*

    2. butchie22
      January 27th, 2009 | 1:54 pm

      I agree about the Cash Man crowd vs the Stick/Watson crowd BUT after they lost in 2001 it seemed like George wanted the superstars again. As much as I disdain Cash Man, the Tampa contingent also had a lot to do with the team becoming an all star team again. To be fair, that 2002 team was the Cash Man/Tampa Steinbrenner team if anything. I’d never thought I’d see the day that I would defend Brainless Cash Man…… Cash Man hasn’t drafted that well as of late and that has impacted the team since he was given full control, but he deserves some not all of the blame for the period from 2002-2007.

    3. bfriley76
      January 27th, 2009 | 2:06 pm

      Well…seeds for the 96-01 teams were planted while George was banned from baseball, were they not? And when he returned, at least initially, he was much more hands-off than the George from before the ban, or the George that would eventually return. When Comparing the Stick years to the Cashman years, you’re starting off on an uneven playing field.

      Even so, I think Rob Neyer addresses the comparison pretty well in his blog post on Monday:

      ++++++++
      Beginning in 1996, the Yankees won four World Series in five years. In those five years, they averaged 97 wins.

      In the eight years since, of course, the Yankees have won zero World Series. Incidentally, in those same eight years they’ve averaged 97 wins.

      There’s no question that mistakes were made after 2000. Every franchise makes mistakes. There’s also no question that they’ve picked up some prima donnas, some of whom didn’t play much defense.

      But until someone can explain to me why those same factors that produce 97 wins a season work so well from April through September but suddenly fall flat in October, I’m going to assume that the Yankees were (1) overly lucky from 1996 through 2000 and (2) overly unlucky from 2001 through 2007.
      +++++++

      Doesn’t completely explain it, but it does paint a different picture than we’re used to hearing.

    4. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 2:13 pm

      But until someone can explain to me why those same factors that produce 97 wins a season work so well from April through September but suddenly fall flat in October
      —————
      Yep, I’d be willing to hear that explanation myself… But instead we’ll hear “OMG MYSTIQUE” “OMGWTF AURA” “OMGWTFBBQ GHOSTS” and or “CHEMISTRY R00lZ” because, as usual, they got nothin :D

    5. MJ
      January 27th, 2009 | 2:17 pm

      Reading this, I wonder, is Torre trying to say…

      The cadre of players put together by Stick Michael and Bob Watson: Good. The cadre of players put together by Brian Cashman: Not.
      —————–
      I’d have to take Torre’s words with a Rock of Gibraltar-sized grain of salt here.

    6. January 27th, 2009 | 2:21 pm

      As I have written many times in the past…

      Brian Cashman became Yankees G.M. on February 28, 1998. And, yes, the Yankees did win rings in 1998, 1999 and 2000. However, when Cashman took over as the head man in charge, the following players were already on the team: Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Paul O’Neill, Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mike Stanton, David Cone, Ramiro Mendoza, David Wells, Joe Girardi, Jeff Nelson, Chad Curtis and Darryl Strawberry.

      This group of Yankees was added to the team by Stick Michael and Bob Watson. It was they, and not Cashman, who built a powerhouse entity (via this cadre of players) who went on to win three rings from 1998 through 2000 – and which benefited Brian Cashman when he took over for Watson in 1998.

      After 2001, when that the force that Michael and Watson created was nearly tapped out, is when the Yankees sincerely became “Brian Cashman’s team.” And, sure, from 2002 through 2008, under Cashman, the Yankees were marvelous in terms of their win totals and revenue. But, if not for Boston collapses in the 2003 ALCS and the regular seasons of 2005 and 2006, this seven-year period would not look as pretty for New York as it does on the average fan’s ledger.

      On the whole, Brian Cashman took a team that was a three-peat World Champion and turned them into a team that would finish first and then lose in the LDS…and then into a team that would no longer finish first but would win a Wildcard (and lose in the LDS)…and then into a team that would not make the post-season at all. Notice the trend here?

    7. January 27th, 2009 | 2:22 pm

      So all those times between 2002 and 2007 when Torre took to the airwaves to declare “I like my team,” “I can only go by the effort, and the effort is there,” “This club never gave up,” “I’m proud of what we accomplished,” he was just jiving us?

    8. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 2:30 pm

      So why didn’t the Yanks win in 97?

      If Watson and Michael have some kind of magic ability to assess championship quality players, why weren’t they able to do it elsewhere?

      I would think other clubs would pay through the nose for a winning formula. Better yet, what did Watson do different in NY that he did in Houston? Because he was, like, their GM too, and I don’t remember the Astros winning a World Series while he was there.

      But yeah, it’s all Cashmax’s fault. Even wunderkund Theo Epstein failed in 05, 06 & 08 to deliver a title to the Red Sox organization. What happened? He was a genius in 04, then an dummy with pretty much the same players in 05, 06, a genius again in 07, and a moron in 08?

      Yep, makes perfect sense :D

    9. January 27th, 2009 | 2:59 pm

      There’s a reason for everything in life. Cause and effect, my friends, cause and effect…

      If not a poor job by Cashman, why did the Yankees not win rings like they did from 1996-2000? Bad luck? Injuries? That’s an excuse.

      Luck is the residue of design. If your team is good enough, they don’t need good luck, or the absence of bad luck, to win.

      Depth on the bench and farm system allow you to overcome injuries.

      If it was bad luck that caused zero rings from 2002 on…then it’s Cashman’s fault for not spending his $200 million a year wisely enough to build a team that was strong enough not to need luck to win.

      If it was injuries that caused zero rings from 2002 on…then it’s Cashman’s fault for not using his vast economic resources to build a bench and a farm system that would fill in the gaps when injuries occurred.

      Hey, let me put the dime back on those who think it was not Cashman…why did the Yankees not win any rings from 2002 through 2004? Give me a valid reason and I bet it can be tied back to something that Cashman did or did not do….

    10. January 27th, 2009 | 3:01 pm

      ~~So all those times between 2002 and 2007 when Torre took to the airwaves to declare “I like my team,” “I can only go by the effort, and the effort is there,” “This club never gave up,” “I’m proud of what we accomplished,” he was just jiving us?~~

      Towing the company line which was cascading down from Cashman, no doubt. ;-)

    11. lisaswan
      January 27th, 2009 | 3:03 pm

      Great point, Old Fezziwig. Was Joe lying all those times when he said how proud he was about his team? Talk about J-Fraud!

      Anybody who reads my Subway Squawkers blog knows I’m not a big Brian Cashman fan (although I am mostly happy with the moves he made this offseason.) But here’s the problem with Torre’s argument. Even if you agree that the post 2001 team is “not the same team,” and that the other teams had mystique, aura, and all that jazz, what does that say about Torre’s management, or lack thereof? It seems to be saying that he can only do a great job with a certain core of guys, who arguably could have done the same for some other manager.

      And if these newer guys were so tough for Joe to manage, then why did he want to be in charge of them for another two years? And why did he think it was an insult for the Yanks to put performance-based incentives in his contract, given that it was clear he was more interested in reminiscing about 1998 than in managing his present team?

      You can think that Gene Michael was a better GM than Brian Cashman, as I do, and still think that Joe mailed it in for most of this decade and should have been fired years ago.

    12. bfriley76
      January 27th, 2009 | 3:17 pm

      Luck is the residue of design. If your team is good enough, they don’t need good luck, or the absence of bad luck, to win.
      ====
      Which is exactly the reason the best team always wins the World Series…oh wait.

      If having the best postseason closer in history blow back to back series clinching saves isn’t bad luck, I don’t know what is…but we’ll table that for a minute.

      Steve…arguing that luck doesn’t have some role is ridiculous. Especially since your argument against Cashman includes luck in it. You keep saying that without the collapses by the Red Sox in 2003, 2005, and 2006, the Yankees recent history would be a lot less pretty. If you view them as collapses, then your opinion is that those Sox teams were better than their Yankee counterparts, right? If they were the better team, then wouldn’t it be bad luck that they didn’t come out on top? Good luck for the Yankees then, no?

    13. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 3:17 pm

      Luck is the residue of design. If your team is good enough, they don’t need good luck, or the absence of bad luck, to win
      ———
      Of course they do. The Cardinals could’ve used Jack Clark in 87 and Vince Coleman in 85. You honestly don’t think blown calls by Denkinger (85), Garcia (96), West (05), don’t factor into gameplay?

      Hell the players themselves don’t think they’re good enough to win, that’s why they think they need supernatural help ;)

    14. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 3:23 pm

      Yeah, let’s talk about that 2002 season;

      NYY 103-58, featuring a playoff rotation of
      SP Mike Mussina
      SP David Wells
      SP Roger Clemens
      SP Orlando Hernandez

      Got laid out in the postseason. By a team that wasn’t even good enough to win their division, that 4 games worse than them.

    15. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 3:27 pm

      If it was injuries that caused zero rings from 2002 on…then it’s Cashman’s fault for not using his vast economic resources to build a bench and a farm system that would fill in the gaps when injuries occurred.
      ———————–
      Eh?

      Matsui goes down, Damon shifts to left, Melky gets called up. Sheffield goes down, Yanks trade for Abreu.

      Wang is called up, Cano is called up, Chacon is traded for, Small stays with the team.

      Another year, Clemens is signed, Hughes is called up, Joba is called up, Kennedy is called up

      So on and so forth. So your point about farm systems and bench fail. ;)

    16. January 27th, 2009 | 4:26 pm

      ~~Which is exactly the reason the best team always wins the World Series…oh wait.~~

      This is a loser’s excuse. The team that wins is the better team – because they won 4 games before the other team did. People who want to use the short series, small sample size, etc., excuse are usually fans of the team that didn’t win. It’s a crutch.

    17. January 27th, 2009 | 4:28 pm

      ~~So on and so forth. So your point about farm systems and bench fail~~

      No, it just says that those moves were not enough – and, because of the weak bench and system that’s all Cashman had to call on…and, again, it was not enough.

    18. Evan3457
      January 27th, 2009 | 4:31 pm

      On the whole, Brian Cashman took a team that was a three-peat World Champion and turned them into a team that would finish first and then lose in the LDS…and then into a team that would no longer finish first but would win a Wildcard (and lose in the LDS)…and then into a team that would not make the post-season at all. Notice the trend here?
      ===============================
      Yes, I notice the trend, but it’s not the trend you notice.

      I notice a great team aging and becoming un-champions, and due to the fact that the owner who would not permit re-building in the 70′s and 80′s was back, large and in charge, in the late 90′s and 00′s, the farm system that produced the wonderful key components were allowed to go fallow (also they stopped having any picks near the top of the rounds, and because of free agent pickups started to spend high picks on signings as well), resulting in no internal replacements for the aging great players as the left, forcing the Yanks to use their financial power to bring in replacements good enough to get them through the regular season, but not good enough to win the playoffs.

      And when Cashman dare to try to build the slightest bit from within last year, and it flopped immediately, (and was given 1 whole month to work) and for the first time it left them out of the postseason in 12 years, was abandoned for…what elese?…more free-agents.

      Now, was Cashman in charge of the farm system in this period (1998-2004)? Notionally, yes, but as a practical matter, no.

      To put it briefly: a great team got old, and the purchased replacements weren’t as good. Some worked great. Some were mediocre. Some were disasters.

      That’s the extent of the indictment against Cashman.

      In retrospect, should we have expected that they would all be great? That’s the real question.

    19. butchie22
      January 27th, 2009 | 4:37 pm

      If it was injuries that caused zero rings from 2002 on…then it’s Cashman’s fault for not using his vast economic resources to build a bench and a farm system that would fill in the gaps when injuries occurred. Quote from Steve

      I keep on going back to this point to counteract the foolishness of the Cash Man partisans. When a GM has this much money and he has to go to Ponson as an option yet again then something is wrong with this team. They had no internal options by having the most money to draft AND on payroll yet they still go after the scrapheap. Steve, most people are in denial with the playoffs as well. The playoffs are a crapshoot is a maxim that is trotted out by an overrated GM like Beane BECAUSE he never got to the Big Game let alone has won it all.

      AS to the bench, the last time I checked the Yankees haven’t won a WS title since 2000. Hal was on Miked Up today basically said that the fans expect a WS title each year. With all the money they spend on payroll and drafting , has that garnered them a WS series win recently? NO WAY! Signing Roger to win what a paltry amount of games in his second run resulted in what? They didn’t bring home a trophy that year.

    20. Evan3457
      January 27th, 2009 | 4:41 pm

      This is a loser’s excuse. The team that wins is the better team – because they won 4 games before the other team did. People who want to use the short series, small sample size, etc., excuse are usually fans of the team that didn’t win. It’s a crutch.
      ======================
      No, it’s not.

      The Pirates were not better than the Yanks in 1960 and the Mets were not better than the Orioles in 1969 and the Dodgers were not better than the A’s in 1988, and the Royals were not better than the Cards in 1985, and the White Sox were not better than the Cubs in 1906 and on and on and on.

      These teams won the World Series, and they are rightly considered the Champions. But lemme tell you something, as much as football is much more than baseball a sport of physical domination, and as much a Giants fan as I am, anyone who thinks the Giants were a better team than the Patriots last year is kidding themselves. If the Cardinals beat the Steelers on Sunday, anyone who thinks that a team that went 9-7 in winning its division, by far the worst division in the NFL, is the best team in football, is right out of their minds.

      Luck is real, and it happens, and it really does play a role in winning titles, unless you think it was a residue of John Hart’s design that a swarm of midges should assault Joba in the 8th inning of the 2nd game in Cleveland in 2007.

    21. bfriley76
      January 27th, 2009 | 4:52 pm

      This is a loser’s excuse. The team that wins is the better team – because they won 4 games before the other team did. People who want to use the short series, small sample size, etc., excuse are usually fans of the team that didn’t win. It’s a crutch.

      ======

      How can the same person make the above argument, and continue to say this when attacking Cashman:


      But, if not for Boston collapses in the 2003 ALCS and the regular seasons of 2005 and 2006, this seven-year period would not look as pretty for New York as it does on the average fan’s ledger.

      Either the winner gets full credit, or you have to acknowledge that sometimes luck plays a factor, and the best team doesn’t win. You can’t pick and choose whichever best serves your argument.

    22. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 5:02 pm

      This is a loser’s excuse. The team that wins is the better team – because they won 4 games before the other team did. People who want to use the short series, small sample size, etc., excuse are usually fans of the team that didn’t win. It’s a crutch.
      —–
      Whatever, the 2002 Angels are the best team in baseball despite not even being the best team in the league AND not having the best team within their own division.

      But hey, they won a postseason tournament. :D

      I suppose you think Ricky Ledee is a .600-.615-.900 player? Because that’s what he batted in the 1998 WS against the Padres. Small wonder why Cashman traded him away. Can anyone explain why he posted the following line, .243-.325-.412, for his 10 YEAR (2030 AB’s) career? If these gutty, gritty Yankees of the Watson/Michael regime knew what it took to win, why didn’t they go 162-0? How did they ever manage to lose a game in the postseason?

      And you STILL haven’t explained why the Yanks weren’t able to win in 1997, despite being composed of the same players in 1996 & 98, nor have you explained why the Red Sox were unsuccessful in 05, 06, & 08 :D

      162 > 11 always.

    23. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 5:10 pm

      Besides, why are we thrilled Pettitte is coming back? Game 6, 2001 WS he only lasted 2 innings. He sucks, what a bum, no wonder he was allowed to leave after the 2003 season. He sucked in the ALDS too, he should’ve pitched a CG instead of 6.1 measly innings.

      Mariano Rivera blew the WS in 2001, he’s another bum that needs to be traded. He was clearly washed up after 2004, blowing 2 saves. ;)

      :p

    24. January 27th, 2009 | 5:16 pm

      ~~I notice a great team aging and becoming un-champions, and due to the fact that the owner who would not permit re-building in the 70’s and 80’s was back, large and in charge, in the late 90’s and 00’s, the farm system that produced the wonderful key components were allowed to go fallow (also they stopped having any picks near the top of the rounds, and because of free agent pickups started to spend high picks on signings as well), resulting in no internal replacements for the aging great players as the left, forcing the Yanks to use their financial power to bring in replacements good enough to get them through the regular season, but not good enough to win the playoffs.~~

      Excuse me? Did the Yankees not spend millions on draft picks and international signings from 2001 through 2004?

    25. January 27th, 2009 | 5:19 pm

      ~~~But, if not for Boston collapses in the 2003 ALCS and the regular seasons of 2005 and 2006, this seven-year period would not look as pretty for New York as it does on the average fan’s ledger. – - – Either the winner gets full credit, or you have to acknowledge that sometimes luck plays a factor, and the best team doesn’t win. You can’t pick and choose whichever best serves your argument.~~~

      Fair enough. I’ll give the Yankees, and Cashman, for building a team that was able to win a DIV when they had no competition those seasons. ;-)

    26. January 27th, 2009 | 5:23 pm

      ~~~The Pirates were not better than the Yanks in 1960 and the Mets were not better than the Orioles in 1969 and the Dodgers were not better than the A’s in 1988, and the Royals were not better than the Cards in 1985, and the White Sox were not better than the Cubs in 1906 and on and on and on.~~~

      If he Yanks in 60, O’s in 69, etc., were better, why didn’t they win? Bad luck? If a team is so much better, why would they need luck to win?

    27. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 5:30 pm

      Excuse me? Did the Yankees not spend millions on draft picks and international signings from 2001 through 2004?
      —————-
      Besides, even if they did have the players on the far, it did not stop them from getting replacements; the rotation was full when Orlando Hernandez & Jose Contreras was acquired, and they had Nick Johson & Mike Lowell, when they signed Giambi & resigned Brosius.

    28. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 5:31 pm

      If he Yanks in 60, O’s in 69, etc., were better, why didn’t they win? Bad luck? If a team is so much better, why would they need luck to win?
      ——–
      You tell me; it’s the Yankees that believe in “ghosts” & “mystique” & “aura” ;)

    29. January 27th, 2009 | 5:32 pm

      ~~And you STILL haven’t explained why the Yanks weren’t able to win in 1997, despite being composed of the same players in 1996 & 98, nor have you explained why the Red Sox were unsuccessful in 05, 06, & 08~~

      Because there were better teams that beat them.

      Hey, I’m not saying that the Michael/Watson Yankees were the greatest team ever and should have never lost. I’m just saying that they won what they deserved – 4 rings in 6 years. And, the Cashman Yankees won what they deserved – 0 rings in 6 years.

    30. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 5:58 pm

      Because there were better teams that beat them.
      —–
      ?

      A 96 win team is better than an 86 win team.

      The 1997 Indians had the 4th best record in the league. 4TH. Even if you give them the wins in the postseason, that puts them @ 2nd, tied with the Yanks.

    31. January 27th, 2009 | 7:05 pm

      ~~A 96 win team is better than an 86 win team.~~

      Ever hear of strength of schedule?

    32. bfriley76
      January 27th, 2009 | 7:13 pm

      If he Yanks in 60, O’s in 69, etc., were better, why didn’t they win? Bad luck? If a team is so much better, why would they need luck to win?

      =====

      Are you being serious Steve or are you just being contrary for the sake of it? The 1998 Yankees arguably one of the best teams in history and the pinnacle of the Gene Michael era teams were 5-6 against Anaheim that year. Were the 1998 Angels a better team then the 1998 Yankees?

    33. January 27th, 2009 | 7:25 pm

      When they played head-to-head, that year, based on the record, I would say that they were evenly matched.

    34. Raf
      January 27th, 2009 | 8:03 pm

      Ever hear of strength of schedule?
      ———–
      Yeah, I have, in football.

      In MLB, within their division, the teams played each other 12 times. Outside of their division, they played each other 11 times. Doesn’t make that big of a difference, if anything, it emphasizes the point that the Yanks were a better team.

      One other thing;

      RS
      NYY: 891
      CLE: 868

      RA
      NYY: 688
      CLE: 815

      Yanks had better pitching, better hitting and better defense.

      :D

    35. January 27th, 2009 | 10:31 pm

      But, the Yankees and Indians did not play the same teams, for the same amount of games, in 1997, did they?

      All – really – yes, I’ve been pushing some buttons with this one – just to show that it’s not cut and dried that Cashman had nothing to do with the Yankees lack of rings since 2002…make that to show that a case could be made, to counter all claims, that provides some basis to consider that Cashman’s failures come into play.

      I’ll stop now. Thanks for playing.

    36. Evan3457
      January 27th, 2009 | 10:37 pm

      If he Yanks in 60, O’s in 69, etc., were better, why didn’t they win? Bad luck? If a team is so much better, why would they need luck to win?
      ====================================
      Because the better team doesn’t always play better on a particular day, or in a particular short series.

      Look, this is preposterous, OK?

      Here’s one last example: In the last week of this past regular season, the Phillies played a series at home against the Braves. The Phillies were only 1 1/2 games ahead of the Mets with 6 to play when the series started. The Braves were dead and buried in 4th place, 19 games behind the Phillies.

      The Braves sent their best starter Jair Jurrjens out in Game 1. The Phillies won, 6-2, moved 20 games ahead of the Braves and 2.5 up on the Mets with 5 to play.

      So, in the next two games, the Braves send out Mike Hampton, once an excellent pitcher, but now a shell of his old self, rehabbing yet another major injury, and a Jo-Jo Reyes, a rookie struggling to find himself on the big league level, and not having a good time of it. Opposing them were soon-to-be postseason hero Cole Hamels, and Brett Myers.

      With the Phillies at home, facing a miserable opponent, facing two poor (at best) starters, having everything to play for, one game started by their ace and red hot at the time (they had won 3 in a row and 10 of 11 after the 1st game victory), the Phillies lost both games.

      Now, does taking 2 of 3 from the Phillies in that spot really PROVE the Braves were the better team? No; what it proves is that expectations in baseball are not firm enough to believe that the “best team is the team that wins”.

      On that day, for that game, the team that wins is the better team, but it is perfectly reasonable that in a short series, in the postseason, an objectively weaker team (as measured by quality of performance indicators, or by long-term multi-season performance) can, in fact, play better over the short haul and win.

      It happens a lot. All you have to do to see it is look.

    37. Evan3457
      January 27th, 2009 | 10:44 pm

      Oh, well, of course, Cashman has something to do with it. He can’t be totally blameless, and as the guy with the “GM” after his name, he’s got to take some heat.

      It’s just that I think he gets his share of the blame and Torre’s and Steinbrenner’s and Trost’s and Levine’s and the farm system’s…

      Some criticism of Cashman is justified, especially where misjudgments and mistakes can be directly linked to him, or when decisions are made that can be reasonably judged mistakes at the time they are made even by amateur observers such as myself (Here I am thinking of the signings of Farnsworth, Jaret Wright, and Steve Karsay, to name three examples off the top of my head.)

      I just think it gets way out of hand sometimes. Especially when certain parties go out of their way to look under every rock, and yell, “AHA, Cashman!!”, and to perform semiotic analysis on every statement he makes, or which is made by someone else about him.

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