My first reaction after the Yanks were ridden out of the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers was that the jig was up for Joe Torre. I was all but certain that George Steinbrenner would zotz the Yankee manager in a matter of days. Then, over the last day or so, I sensed that maybe it wouldn’t happen. Why? Because it shouldn’t.
And I was quite happy today to see that it didn’t. Joe has been great with that team. This year he had one pitcher or starting player after another go down with injury or fail to perform, and by the end the Yanks had won 97 games. How’d Torre do that? Well, I guess he just kept plugging the holes.
Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield both broke their wrists early in the year. That’s two-thirds of the starting outfield gone for most of the season. Robinson Cano, the next Yankee superstar, missed about six weeks with a bad hamstring. Randy Johnson lost his touch at some point, got it back near the end, then came up with a herniated disc going into the playoffs. He’s 43. And Mike Mussina, who is 37, looked at times like he was beginning to wind down as well.
But Torre juggled and shuffled. He plugged Melky Cabrera into Matsui’s spot, and had Bernie Williams holding down Sheffield’s job in right field until the Yanks traded for Bobby Abreu. And then Jason Giambi hurt his wrist near the end of the season and Torre was forced to use the returning Sheffield out of position at first base for some of the playoff games.
In the end the weaknesses caught up with the Bombers in a short series with Detroit. I think that Kenny Rogers essentially destroyed them with a very hot curve ball in game three and the hitters were out of synch because of it when the hammer dropped in game four.
The Yanks need a stopper to go along with Ching-Ming Wang, their 19-game winner with the 95 mph sinker.
And they should keep A-Rod.
It’s a great team, with a great manager.