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In his 12 years as Yankees manager, the words most often used to describe Joe Torre were "classy" and "class act." The man was viewed as a Pope-like figure by the media and fans because of the team's success and his calm demeanor. Red Sox fans even showed unprecedented respect for a Yankee by giving Torre a standing ovation at Fenway Park upon his return from prostate cancer surgery in 1999. Touched by the warm reception, Torre would reciprocate by standing on the dugout steps and applauding the Red Sox players as they received their World Series rings before the 2005 home opener.
But since his unceremonious departure from the Bronx and subsequent hiring as Dodgers manager, Torre hasn't been able to put his pinstriped past behind. It is being detailed in a book co-authored by SI's Tom Verducci entitled –- what else? -– "The Yankee Years," which is scheduled to be released Feb. 3.
In the longstanding tradition of Yankee books such as the "Bronx Zoo" (by Sparky Lyle) and "Balls" (by Graig Nettles), it has already generated some controversy. At least two New York newspapers reported the mild-mannered Torre criticizes Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Verducci says that is inaccurate and this is not a tell-all book.
Darn. I should have known it was too juicy to be true. Torre was a master at putting out brushfires, not starting them. He was enjoying his new lifestyle in Hollywood, making celebrity friends like Alyssa Milano and living a charmed life again. When the Dodgers visited Shea Stadium last summer, Torre didn't appear to have any lingering bitterness toward the Yankees.
If Lou Gehrig was once the luckiest man on the face of the earth, Torre was the luckiest manager. The Yankees had great players, the team that got a ton of breaks and he pushed all the right buttons throughout his first five years in the dugout. But the next seven seasons weren't as kind to Joe. There were early exits in the playoffs, a historic collapse in the postseason that still gnaws at Yankees fans and mistakes in the dugout that helped pave the way for his exit from the Bronx.
Recognizing the No. 6 he wore with the Yankees, here are six of Torre's biggest blunders:
6. Torre continually burned out his relievers. Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze and Scott Proctor were cooked by August and had nothing come October.
5. Instead of pulling his team off the field until a swarm of gnat-like bugs fleed Jacobs Field, Torre allowed rookie reliever Joba Chamberlain to get eaten alive. Chamberlain spit bugs out of his mouth and coughed up a one-run lead in the eighth inning of a game the Yankees eventually lost in 11 innings.
4. By tinkering with his batting order in the 2006 playoffs, Torre messed with Rodriguez's head. He batted A-Rod sixth, fourth and eighth in the four-game loss to the Tigers. Torre also benched Gary Sheffield in Game 3 after batting him clean-up in the first two games.
3. Torre didn't tell his batters to bunt against Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who was hobbled by a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle that limited his mobility for Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. In Torre's defense, most of the hitters in his slugger-laden lineup hadn't dropped a bunt since Little League.
2. Torre placed righthander Jeff Weaver on the 2003 World Series roster against the Marlins, then used him in extra innings of a tie game. Light-hitting shortstop Alex Gonzalez homers to win Game 4 and tie the series.
1. If there is any mistake Yankees fans can classify as unforgivable, it is be starting Kevin Brown in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox. Brown didn't get out of the second inning of a 10-3 loss.