Joe Torre is no longer in New York, but for now, and perhaps even when the Yankees open spring training in Tampa next month, he is a presence with the club as surely as he was during any of his 12 glorious seasons as Yankees manager. The quotes and stories attributed to Torre in The Yankee Years, the forthcoming book he co-authored with Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci about his tenure in the Bronx have lit anew the flames of discord that swirled around the team and the man as Torre’s Hall of Fame-worthy tenure wound to an unceremonious conclusion in October 2007.
The impact that this will have on the Yankees' season, and on Torre's, remains to be seen, but the impact on his legacy in New York is already being felt. For perhaps the first time, Teflon Torre is being viewed in an unfavorable light for exposing his true feelings about his relationship with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and revealing how some of his players felt about superstar third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
As juicy as those details may be to a salivating press and public, what Torre said in the book is less interesting than the fact that he said anything at all. If there was an off-the-field triumph to match his on-field success in New York, it was that he calmly navigated the choppy waters of the city, the owner, the media and the egos that have swallowed whole so many others in his position. His greatest managerial skill, it was often said, was either keeping a lid on potential controversies so they wouldn’t become public, or quickly defusing the ones that did before they could blow up his team’s chances at another championship.
Yet, in the end, even Torre was not immune from drama. After the 2007 season ended with the Yankees third-straight first-round playoff exit, Torre engaged in a very public showdown with the club over his future as manager. When he turned down a contract offer from the Yankees that he deemed “an insult” (the club asked him to take a pay cut in base salary that could be made up for with a series of incentives starting with if they made the playoffs) he managed to do so in such a way that left him with his dignity and reputation as a classy, above-the-fray leader intact.
In his first year away from the Bronx, he maintained that reputation, and even though his position in Yankees lore is chiseled in stone, this book may be the first sign that that stone is starting to crack.
What do you think? Should Torre have aired the Yankees dirty laundry, or was he better off keeping quiet? How will this impact his status as a Yankees legend?