November 6, 2006

The Steady Hand Steers The Ship

After Joe Torre narrowly missed getting fired for his team's elimination from the American League Division Series by the Detroit Tigers, Yankees fans had time to take stock of Torre's tenure as the Yankee's skipper. As the longest running manager under George Steinbrenner many thought that it was time for Joe to go. His style was "too laid back", many thought. Also, it was widely suggested that he wasn't aggressive enough, perhaps resting on his laurels. Lou Pinella, the polar opposite of Torre's poker-faced and calm managerial style was widely touted to be his replacement.

Piniella served as the Yankee's skipper from 1986 - 1987, and was general manager for the rest of 1988-1989, and is reported to be on of the most ejected managers in history by Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Fans and baseball analysts alike believed that Piniella's aggressive managerial approach would better suit a Yankee team composed of mainly all-stars with big contracts and perhaps even bigger egos. But, as one person who follows baseball closely said to me concerning Piniella "that does not mean he's a better manager." One may agree or disagree with that statement, but Joe Torre can wave a hand with four World Series rings he won as a manager of the Yankees to Lou Piniella's one managerial World Series win as the skipper of the 1990 Cincinnati reds (Piniella won two World Series championships with the Yankees as a player, 1977,78).

Winning counts in baseball, more so in with the Yankees than any other team. Joe Torre had the credentials, skill, and a talented roster to win the 2006 World Series; but we all know what happened. There were times in the past that George Steinbrenner was tempted to cut Torre loose as there have been many disappointments in recent years, including the historic collapse of the Yankees versus the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, losing four games in a row after winning the first three of the series. As distasteful as that defeat was to Yankee fans, this one was worse because this time, the team had everything going for them. What made firing Torre easier this time was that "Sweet Lou" was waiting in the wings, looking to return to his old spot in on the bench as manager of the most storied baseball franchise in baseball history. But now, with Piniella signed as manager for the Cubs, the heir apparent for the job as Yankee's manager is Don Mattingly, who was recently promoted to bench coach, replacing Lee Mazzilli (the only head to roll for the Yankees post-season fizzle).

Mattingly has Joe Torre's level head, calm demeanor, and clout as a player to lead a team of high priced super stars. Once the captain of the Yankees himself, it is certain that Donnie Baseball can not only manage in New York, he can win a championship, a feat he was never able to accomplish as a player. The fans love him, and so does George Steinbrenner. The transition should go smoothly, if and when Joe Torre ends his career with the Yankees and looks forward to entering Cooperstown. Yes, as fans we have much to anticipate as one great manager leaves the helm of the Yankees and hands the team over to a first class Yankee legend. It will be a pleasure to watch as Mattingly is promoted from captain to skipper.

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