Where Have You Gone, Don Zimmer?

Torre’s time as Yankee manager seems to be done. Most of the media and public are demanding his return. They have many good points:

  • Joe Torre is good at handling stars and he can win in NY. He has made the postseason in 12 straight years which is no small feat. Replace him, and the team could easily evolve into chaos.
  • Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte would be more inclined to return with Torre at the helm.
  • You know what you’re getting with Joe Torre.
  • Joe Torre is a model citizen and Yankee. Everyone loves him and if he were not Yankee manager, he would probably be President of the United States (Alright maybe that’s not entirely true; Sportscenter said he would be second in the voting to Michael Jordan).

This doesn’t change the fact however that Torre’s team has lost to teams that were vastly inferior to his in 5 of the last 7 years. The only exception being the Red Sox in 2004 and Indians this year, who were both slightly worse, but good enough that in a short series there isn’t that much shame in coming up short.

If you look at the numbers from the Indians series this year, you see a Cleveland team that got extraordinarily lucky: they hit almost .500 with runners in scoring position and 2 outs. The Yankees hit .100. Stat people will tell you that is a product of luck, and likely to swing the other way next year. Jeter, Posada, Matsui, all performed well under their regular season numbers. Wang threw 2 of his worst 3 starts of the year (along with Aug. 8th at Toronto). Again, bad luck. Or is it? If this was just one series, you tip your cap, and come back next year.

The problem is this happens EVERY year. At what point is it no longer luck and instead a product of something else? Fans and media alike tend to blame the players: clearly the Yankees are now a bunch of chokers. They need Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Scott Brosius, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada. Oh wait. They still have two of those players. And they just played terribly. In fact they were likely the two most disappointing players in the series. And guess what else? They’ve had Tino and Bernie back recently, with no great playoff gain. And most importantly: look at some of these player’s postseason numbers, particularly in the World Series (and particularly Tino and Bernie). All of them are hitting in the low .200s in their careers in the postseason (with the exception of Jeter, who is coming off arguably his worst playoff series).

In 2001, when the Yankees were still loaded with “clutch talent,” they were defeated by a team whose cleanup hitter was Danny Bautista. Are you kidding me? I don’t care if they did face Schilling and Johnson. They still underachieved (though they would have won if not for that stupid strip of dirt that led to Rivera throwing the bunt away; but I digress).

Sure Wang came up short this year; not that much unlike Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, and Randy Johnson. Again, is all this Torre’s fault? Probably not totally. But at some point you have to make a change. Do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always gotten.

I feel bad for Torre and I wish his career could end with him weeping holding another World Series trophy. He has meant a lot to the Yankees and it’s hard to imagine them without him. Can you picture someone else walking out to the mound and signaling for Mariano?

Some people say he has the easiest job in baseball. Some people the hardest. But I guess we’ll never know for sure until he’s gone.

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