In the wake of Joe Torre’s penetrating, venomous pinstriped memoir The Yankee Years, another four-ring wearing dynasty staple must step up to the plate.
Torre and Tom Verducci’s inside look at the Yankees included rips at several ex-Yankees.
For example, the nearly 500 page sure-to-be bestseller completely deconstructs Carl Pavano, and rightfully so.
One particular excerpt describes a locker room scene highlighted by the antics of visitors Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. The comedic tandem capped off a film short and a stand-up routine by urging the Yankees players present to remember to get down on one knee and pray for the health of… “Carl Pavano.”
The book says the entire cadre of Yankees players erupted in laughter. Pretty sure Gene Monohan was elsewhere, cringing.
Similarly, the book describes Torre’s surprise that, as a Yankee, Randy Johnson could be so easily “rattled,” and Torre said he wished he had known it during Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. [Good luck facing Johnson when you’re up against the Giants this season, Joe]
The digs at former Yankee players is an egregious mistake on Torre’s part, however neither example harms the club upon which his championship pedigree and his celebrity has been built.
Unfortunately, the buck did not stop there.
Torre’s story of Johnny Damon cited an anonymous teammate who told the then Yankees manager to “get rid of [Damon]” because the “guys can’t stand him.” Of course there are the well-publicized swipes Torre took at Alex Rodriguez as well as Brian Cashman.
All four of the players mentioned are still active in the big leagues, and Torre obviously is as well.
The book may or may not have been a good idea altogether. However, its timing is inexcusable. The fact that it will be released while Torre is still managing the Dodgers and that the people talked about in the book are either a)still in the majors or b)still working for the Yankees – shows the dark side of a man feverishly described as dignified and classy.
Due to the potential turmoil the book’s contents could carry into the Yankees clubhouse, it is time for Mr. T’s greatest protege to finally embody the captain persona off the field he so effortlessly displays while on it.
To be blunt, it’s time for Derek Jeter to speak up.
Regardless of how many sleepovers he and Rodriguez have planned for the new year, it’s time for him to stop delegating, curb the diplomacy and actually say something of substance when his team needs to hear it.
Instead of leaving A-Rod out to dry in 2006 following relentless Bronx cheers and another damaging Verducci piece, Jeter could have thrown an arm around the struggling third baseman, asked the fans to show some compassion and might have consequently rejuvenated Rodriguez, and by extension, the rest of the club. Instead, Jeter provided a robotic response describing how Tino Martinez had been ruthlessly booed when he first got to New York.
[Hopefully, Derek is intelligent enough to remember that Martinez replaced the Mickey Mantle of his Yankees generation and beloved fan-favorite Don Mattingly, while A-Rod took over for pick-up basketball goof, Aaron Boone.]
As was the case then, Jeter has the opportunity to show his support for his teammates with his words as opposed to hiding behind cliches and carefully-crafted responses. His relationship with Torre need not be destroyed, but his support for his teammates must be heard. Jeter should be capable of understanding “Mr. T” no longer works here and that a captain’s allegiance belongs to his uniform, even ahead of friends.
Instead, Jeter will likely bide his time until Spring Training at which time he will throw out some neutral commentary, allow Rodriguez to take the brunt of the questioning and miss out on another golden opportunity to strengthen the chemistry between himself, A-Rod, Damon as well as new arrivals [CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher] who might be a bit leery in trusting or crossing the old guard of Yankees.
Until he does so, Jeter may never again taste a Championship. What, you thought the ‘C’ stood for something else?