There is Blood on your Pen, Tom Verducci

There has been a lot of melodramatic, hyperbolic, and illogical writing done about Joe Torre in the past 24 hours. None seems worse though than that of Tom Verducci on SI.com. It really has it all: it makes bold assumptions, misconstrues facts, and is horribly one-sided (which I guess I am too, but I don’t get paid by SI). We’re going to have to break this one down, FJM style (that’s firejoemorgan.com for those of you who don’t know).

Blood on their hands

Yanks look disorganized, cowardly after Torre’s exit

Great title. Illusions to murder and chaos. Wait, are we sure this is about a manager of a baseball team being fired?

While we’re here, are writers required to say the Yankees look disorganized? Is there anything the Yankees can do that would make them look organized? Seriously? Let’s look at the facts: instead of simply letting Torre go after the season due to an emotional loss, the Yankees brass, including executives who all for once have clearly defined roles, sat down and rationally determined how much Torre was worth to the organization moving forward. Agree or disagree, but that sounds pretty damn organized to me.

When he was robust and running the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner never minded a little blood on his hands. He swung his firing axe decisively and often. I was there in Chicago at old Comiskey Park when Dale Berra cried into his dirty sanitary sock when Steinbrenner fired his father, Yogi, only 16 games into the 1985 season. Steinbrenner was rash, but he took the heat for it.

How disorganized they are now!

Cruel? Maybe. But on Thursday, the New York Yankees, with Steinbrenner’s health rendering him little more than a figurehead, descended into a far darker and disrespectful place.

Just so we’re clear: offering a man the ability to be the highest paid manager in baseball is more disrespectful than firing a man rashly 16 games into the season? Noted.

Under the leadership of president Randy Levine, who commandered [sic] the news conference yesterday as if general manager Brian Cashman and Steinbrenner’s two sons, Hank and Hal, didn’t exist,

Reporter: Mr Levine, what was Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner’s role in this decision?

Levine: Who?

the Yankees let corporate cowardice be their guide. This is a peek of life after George.

Corporate cowardice? Does Verducci even know what that means? I just did a google search on it. Pretty sure it involves corporations refusing to work towards the common good and hiding behind procedure. Target removing the Salvation Army from outside their stores because they don’t allow solicitors comes to mind. The Yankees offering Joe Torre between $5 and $8 million dollars does not.

Levine’s Yankees are proud of themselves today because they think they ran Joe Torre out of New York without getting blood on their hands. They think you are dumb enough to believe that Torre was not fired, that they really, really wanted him back, but that, golly gee, Torre turned down their offer.

No, they think Joe Torre wouldn’t accept the contract they thought was best. It would have been easiest for the Yankees for Torre to return for one more season, to help ease the transitions of veterans and youth. But he wouldn’t.

But there is blood everywhere on Levine and the boys, remnants of a sloppiness and covertness the Boss never knew. They spent three days crafting a contract offer they thought would strike just the right balance: just good enough for public relations purposes, but insulting enough that no man of Torre’s pride and accomplishments would ever accept. Torre is the most successful manager in modern baseball history. He has delivered the Yankees to 12 consecutive postseasons. The next longest active streak by a franchise? That would be one. His Yankees crashed out of the first round of the postseason this year because a swarm of bugs attacked a rookie pitcher and the winningest pitcher of the past two seasons threw a total of 5 2/3 innings in two starts in the American League Division Series. Such episodes defined the unpredictable nature of postseason play.

I’m not going to discuss any further how this move was in no way sloppy. I’ve done that already. And I’m not going to get into the reasons why Torre needed to leave. I did that in previous postings. But I find it interesting that now the Yankees simply lost because of bugs and a couple bad outings by Wang. If only someone could have taken his team off the field when the bugs attacked. And if only someone could have stopped Wang from coming back on three days rest. Wait… Torre could have done both those things? The same Joe Torre??

So here is how Levine & Co. treated the Hall of Fame bound manager: they offered to cut his pay by 23 percent

or less if he simply does what he has done every year for 12 years and get the Yankees to the playoffs. Which apparently only he can do.

— so insulting that the players’ association has rules against such a huge cut for its members — to bring him back only for one year (which keeps their sniping of a lame-duck manager in play) and to throw in “performance bonuses” (which are unprecedented even for the least accomplished managers)

He’s 67 and his team has consistently underperformed for years

based on a postseason model any baseball observer with the least bit of sense understands is more random than controllable.

“There should be no accountability for what happens in the playoffs. Those who do poorly win!”

One year? Goodness, Charlie Manuel, Joe Maddon and Ozzie Guillen were given multiyear contract extensions!

“Teams with worse records gave longer extensions to their managers! Sure those managers didn’t have nearly the talent to work with… but if other teams are doing it, so must the Yankees!”

No manager of Torre’s resume or dignity would have accepted those conditions and Levine, who wanted Torre out for years, knew it. It was not the money; Torre doesn’t need it. It was knowing that your employers don’t want you, knowing that if another season began 21-29, as this season did, the snipers and leakers would be firing away with impunity. How could he ask respect from his players when his bosses did not respect him?

Certainly, if Torre only made $5 million, his team would be rife with mutiny. No player could ever relate to taking an incentive laden deal when age and a lack of recent performance causes a team to question if you have it anymore. Oh wait… and wait….. and wait…. alright I’m tired of linking.

Torre spent hardly an hour in Tampa yesterday with the Yankee brass. Does anybody regard that as real negotiating, a good-faith effort to bring him back? And Torre came to Tampa on his own accord, implying that the Yankees were prepared to low-ball him by telephone. Classy. And did Cashman, as he told reporters, really share a plane ride with Torre from New York and Tampa and, despite all the time and success they shared, not warn him of the ambush waiting for him at Legends Field with specifics of the contract?

Cashman filled Torre in on what was going to be offered to him on the plane. It has been reported. I learned it by simply reading the news. Seriously, it didn’t even take that much research. Anyone could have done it.

But anyways, Torre knew and said he didn’t know how he was going to respond. If there was no negotiating maybe Torre wanted an out and didn’t care to negotiate? No, that can’t be possible, because that makes the Yankees look less evil.

If the Yankees wanted to fire Torre, they should have just fired him after the ALDS, laying responsibility on him for a “failure” to get to the World Series seven straight years.

Hmm, where to begin? They couldn’t fire Joe Torre. He was no longer under contract. There are lots of sites where you can look up the contracts for both players and managers. But pretty much anyone who follows the Yankees knows this was the final year of his deal.

He has not failed to get to the World Series seven straight years. He has failed to win it. But I know what you mean. And I do appreciate “failure” being put in quotations. Because the Steinbrenners are simply saying he failed to win the World Series. Really the Yankees did succeed and win it. The victory parade is next week.

It was the way of George. It was certainly their right. You could argue Torre didn’t deserve it, but you had to respect the dictatorial right of Steinbrenner, even as the Yankees cling to this “World-Series-or-bust” mentality that has long been rendered obsolete in this revenue-sharing age.

It is too much to expect that the most talented team come out on top once in 7 tries.

Instead, under Levine, they took the cowardly way out and think they are slick enough that you won’t notice.

Wouldn’t cowardly be giving the job to someone else behind Joe’s back? Right, though, very cowardly to sit down with him and explain to him exactly what he is worth to the organization moving forward. How dare they.

And who won’t notice? Me? I noticed. Seriously, check below. I guessed it exactly. I even said that’s what they should do. Am I a coward?

It was interesting to hear Levine assume command on the conference call. Hank, except for a lame football analogy (“I’m sure if you asked Vince Lombardi …,” he said), and Hal, who briefly showed an ability to decisively say nothing, were eclipsed by Levine’s bluster.

It’s so disorganized to have the President do most of the speaking.

Were the sons not taking command from their father? Is this not their inheritance, their responsibility? And wasn’t this the first major policy decision in which they were supposedly taking daily control?

No. They said they wanted to be more in the background, unlike their father. Mission accomplished, apparently.

So, too, was Cashman diminished. As one veteran GM told me last week, “If Brian has it written into his contract that he has authority on all baseball operations decisions, where has he been? Why hasn’t he said anything about Torre?”

He was at the meetings in Tampa, not sure how anyone missed that. Oh, and there are a bunch of quotes from Cashman on Torre. You can get those from pretty much any news service.

It’s apparent now that in his heart Cashman didn’t really want Torre back, a sea change from where he was in May, when as the heat grew on Torre from that slow start, Cashman told Steinbrenner, “It’s not Joe’s fault. If you want to fire anybody, fire me!”

How is it apparent that Cashman didn’t want him back? And did you just break out “sea change?” That’s a Shakespeare reference!

Cashman has fancied himself a
Billy BeaneTheo Epstein wanna-be, an intellectual GM known for running an efficient system, especially when it comes to player development, rather than just a guy who writes checks. He has traded veterans for prospects, embraced sabermetrics and surrounded himself with young number-crunchers who get jazzed about PlayStation tournaments. The more he has put his self-worth in the image of cutting-edge GM the less Torre and his old-school ways became relevant.

Wow. This might be the most outrageous part of this article. First, Cashman was hired a year after Beane and 5 years before Epstein. He is not a “wanna-be” of either. Especially Epstein. That’s like calling the Rolling Stones a Nirvana wanna-be. Or something like that. I assume you mean he has become a “moneyball,” “sabermatrics” guy. Which is not true. He gathers all information possible. He uses traditional scouting and data analysis. Thus Joba Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez being on the same team.

And PlayStation? Sabermetrics guys like xBox. Everyone knows that.

“There may be some surprising names that show up,” Cashman said about the search for Torre’s successor. Sure, Cashman would love to go all cutting-edge on the Yankees and get somebody young and unknown like Trey Hillman,

Just like he did when he signed Pettitte and Clemens. Why must he be so stubborn and resist traditional thinking? Damn kids and their new ideas.

the former Yankees minor league manager who is now in Japan. But would the Steinbrenners and Levine dare let Cashman replace Torre with a no-name? And if they thrust
Don Mattingly, who is a nice guy and “true Yankee” but hardly sabermetric-friendly,

Apparently Don Mattingly failed high school Math. He is hardly friends with baseball statistics!

on Cashman, how much further is Cashman diminished? We’ve already heard Hank tell us that he personally insists that Joba Chamberlain start next season.

because that’s what Cashman said they should do. And that’s what BOTH the scouts and the number crunchers said they should do. He is supporting his organization. Anyways, outside of maybe John Kruk and Steve Phillips, no one thinks Joba should be in the pen next season.

Are these Cashman’s baseball operations any more?

Yes.

Whatever happens, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada just earned themselves a boatload more money. Do you really think Levine’s Yankees are going to let Rivera and Posada leave town, too?

Do you think the Yankees were going to let them leave even if they kept Torre? I know, I know, I answered your question with a question. But still.

They need to sign them more than ever.

I’d say they need them just as much now as they did last week.

This day is the official end of an era for the Yankees. The Torre era — four world championships and six pennants in 12 years — is over, with Torre taking with him the same dignity he brought to the job and the franchise.

It is the end of an era. Last year was the end of the Sheffield era. Next year will likely be the end of the Giambi era. Things change; this is baseball.

He didn’t want the job under these conditions. What does that say about these Yankees?

Probably that they need to find a new manager because the one they wanted wouldn’t agree to the terms under which his hiring would be most palatable to the franchise. Are these questions supposed to be hard?

Really, couldn’t you have spent your time writing us another puff piece to make us nostalgic for the late 90s?

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One response to “There is Blood on your Pen, Tom Verducci

  1. This doesn’t bother me, but If anyone wants to thank me for what I’ve done, you can reach me here anytime!
    Randy L. Levine
    Senior Counsel
    Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
    590 Madison Avenue
    New York, NY 10022-2524
    212.872.1005
    Fax 212.872.1002
    rlevine@akingump.com

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