From Neil Best:
That the Yankees of the former manager’s final six seasons were a self-absorbed, overpaid imitation of the famously gritty bunch that brought him four rings in his first six years.
“It was just not an unselfish team,” Torre says of the revelation that hit him in 2002.
“The team wasn’t tough enough . . . A lot of those players are more concerned about what it looks like as opposed to getting dirty and just getting it done. Those other teams, they were ferocious.”
I find this line of reasoning to be both frustrating and ridiculous. It comes from the same school of logic as the old canard that only “True Yankees” win championships due to their grit and guttiness, while high priced mercenaries such as Alex Rodriguez will always come up short. Worse yet is that it is now coming from the manager, which lends an air of legitimacy to a weak argument. As Rob Neyer succinctly puts it:
Beginning in 1996, the Yankees won four World Series in five years. In those five years, they averaged 97 wins.
In the eight years since, of course, the Yankees have won zero World Series. Incidentally, in those same eight years they’ve averaged 97 wins.
There’s no question that mistakes were made after 2000. Every franchise makes mistakes. There’s also no question that they’ve picked up some prima donnas, some of whom didn’t play much defense.
But until someone can explain to me why those same factors that produce 97 wins a season work so well from April through September but suddenly fall flat in October, I’m going to assume that the Yankees were (1) overly lucky from 1996 through 2000 and (2) overly unlucky from 2001 through 2007.
Exactly. The whole grit and toughness argument does not stand up to the most rudimentary of analyses. Does it really make sense that those teams were equally tough in regard to the regular season, but had a wild grit disparity when the playoffs rolled around? That the 2002 Yankees were gritty enough to win 103 games but not the World Series, or that the 2003 Yankees were tough enough to take a 2-1 Series lead but not win the whole shebang? I find it to be highly unlikely that the post-2001 players got dirty and got it done, to use Joe’s words, during the regular season, but decided upon the start of postseason play that getting dirty was not for them.
Of course, you could make the argument that those teams choked under pressure. However, that would be a knock on the manager, would it not? Joe is certainly not going to disparage the job that he did, nor will he ever take the blame for some of his poor moves during those postseasons. Ultimately, the short series means that often the best team will not prevail, and the Yankees have come out on the short end of the stick for a few years that happen to follow a run of great luck. It had nothing to do with toughness, and Joe should know better.