Monday, January 26, 2009

Et Tu, Torre?

According to recent reports, Joe Torre has decided to reveal more than just the seedy underbelly of the Yankees in his new tell-all book “The Yankee Years.” He reveals that beneath the veneer of his Austenian perfection lies a man just as willing to sink to the depths of human depravity as the rest of us.

Mark this one down with Santa and the Easter Bunny.

I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t sort of love reading reports that Yankees teammates referred to A-Rod as “A-Fraud” and that he was widely perceived to have a “single white female” complex with Jeter. Nor will I pretend that I wouldn’t have given anything to have been a fly on the wall during the final failed negotiation meeting between Torre and the Bombers brass. But just because gossip-hungry jerks like me want get cheap US Weekly-type thrills from having this information, it doesn’t mean that I’m glad to have gotten them from Torre.

I don’t know exactly what compelled Torre, after so many years of restraint, to suddenly go all Jose Conseco on our asses. Was it the revenge factor? After seasons of dealing with a ruthless Steinbrenner clan and a spineless Cashman, had Joe just built up so much hostility that he was ready to air his laundry now that he was finally in a position to? Or was it all about the money? Period. I don’t quite know which would be a more upsetting prospect. The possibility that Torre is as petty and childish and disappointingly human as the rest of us or that his principles have a price.

If it’s the former, and I assume that there’s at least a little of that mixed in there, then here’s the thing that’s upsets me the most. It’s that Torre doesn’t give us enough credit. Yeah, we’ve heard him defend George Steinbrenner over the years, we heard him say that Cash was his greatest proponent during the negotiations, we also heard him express his undying support for A-Rod as a player in whom he had faith. But guess what, Skip? We knew that none of that was true. I mean, please. You think that just because you acted like you thought Steinbrenner was a sometimes spirited but ultimately well-meaning team owner rather than a sociopath we actually doubted the fact of his derangement? Do you think that just because you held your tongue about the way that Cashman failed to come to your aid during last year’s infamous negotiation meeting we somehow didn’t know that Cashman was a Steinbrenner whipping boy who would always fail the test if the test involved showing a little backbone? I mean, really Joe. Do you think any of us thought that A-Rod was anything other than despised in the clubhouse or that you ever considered him to be Jeter’s equal on the field or as a man?

Please. Give us some credit. It’s not that we didn’t know all this stuff. But the reason we all respected you so much was that you had too much class and good taste to ever say it.

Don’t get me wrong. Are there things that you reveal in your book that we didn’t know? Absolutely. Like the fact that the Yankees medical staff informed Steinbrenner about your prostate cancer before they ever talked to you. But, again, while this may be a detail about which we were in the dark, it does little to change the way that most of us already felt about Steinbrenner. When you write a trashy book about people generally perceived to be trashy already, the only person who it stands to negatively affect is you, the author.

Now, according to the book’s co-author, Tom Verducci,Torre and the book are getting a bad rap. Verducci claims that it is a third person account of a period of Yankee history rather than a first person tell-all about Joe’s experience. He also says that, while Torre is always honest, he’s never tasteless. That the details that we have read about the book are going to seem a whole lot less smutty when read in context.

Gosh, I’m trying to think. Where else have I heard something like that this week? Oh, right. From Governor Rod Blagojevich, who claimed that the recording that we heard of him suggesting they sell off the Senate seat would actually make him sound like a fighter of corruption when played in context.

Well, more will be revealed on both of these fronts, I assume—after both the impeachment hearing and the release of Torre’s book. I certainly plan to read the book and am open to the possibility that I am wrong. However, as it stands, and based on what I know, I have to admit to being disappointed. The prospect that Torre is a man with anything other than impeccable integrity? Well, it would be like finding out that Obama didn’t totally believe in Hope. (Capital “H.”) Or that Mike Mussina actually hated tractors.


Josh Borenstein said...

I think you're being a little harsh on Torre. Steinbrenner and Cashman had short memories and quickly forgot about the 4 Rings Torre helped bring to NY. A-Rod is a prime donna, and I think he's always resented playing second fiddle to Jeter. Torre was treated pretty shittily towards the end of his tenure with the Yankees. His pride was hurt. Holding him to a higher standard than the rest of us is unreasonable.

koala said...

Maybe Torre is embracing the celebrity gossip culture he is now surrounded by having moved to LA? Pretty tough to resist.

Or maybe after spending more time with Manny, this is "just Joe being Joe," finally.