New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, left, talks with then-Yankees manager Joe Torre during batting practice before the Yankees played the Los Angeles Angels in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York. Torre takes some harsh swings at Alex Rodriguez, Cashman and the Yankees in a book due out early next month, according to New York newspaper reports.AP FILE PHOTO
NEW YORK — He’s gone from Clueless Joe to Champion Joe and now to Bitter Joe.
Joe Torre paints a vivid portrait of the decline and fall of the New York Yankees in his new book, revealing an angry side rarely on display during his dozen years in the Bronx.
“You’d like to think if you work for somebody for a certain period of time that there’d be a time where they’d trust you somewhat,” Torre says about his former employer. “And I never got that. Even when we were winning, I never got that. That bothered me.”
For so many seasons, he sat stoically in the Yankees dugout, reacting calmly to events on the field and controversies off it. He was a genial, grandfather type, willing to take the abuse from the New York media to protect his players.
Now, he’s sharing his thoughts. Many are vicious.
“A lot of those players are more concerned about what it looks like, as opposed to getting dirty and just getting it done,” Torre says of his 2002 team in “The Yankee Years,” co-written with Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.
Based on the former manager’s observations, “You’re So Vain” should replace “New York, New York” as the team’s theme song.
Exhibit A of the changed Yankees is Alex Rodriguez, who joined in 2004.
“When it comes to a key situation, he can’t get himself to concern himself with getting the job done, instead of how it looks,” Torre says.
A-Rod comes off not only as baseball’s top player, but also the No. 1 narcissist, in need of constant acclaim, approval and adoration.
“He needs all of those statistics. He needs every record imaginable,” Torre says. “And he needs people to make a fuss over him.”
A lot of the most-hyped material in the book, such as teammates referring to Rodriguez as “A-Fraud” and comparing his obsession with Derek Jeter to the movie “Single White Female,” come from Verducci’s reporting in the third-person narrative.
Pitcher Mike Mussina and bullpen catcher Mike Borzello also provide many biting commentaries. Borzello, who might have been the closest person to A-Rod in the clubhouse, said of Rodriguez in 2004: “He was phony, and he knew he was phony.”
But Torre doesn’t hold back, with more than his share of caustic comments about other players, too:
On Kevin Brown: “I think he had some emotional issues. There were a lot of demons in this guy. It was sad.”
On David Wells: “The difference between Kevin Brown and David Wells is that both make your life miserable, but David Wells meant to.”
On Carl Pavano: “The players all hated him. It was no secret.”
On Randy Johnson: “It was sad more than frustrating because when we got him, I thought we finally had someone you could hook your wagon to, and that wasn’t the case.”
On Gary Sheffield: “He was always a suspicious person.”
Torre praises Jeter, much as he did during his managerial tenure. He says he was against signing Jason Giambi (he considered him a defensive liability) and Sheffield (he preferred Vladimir Guerrero), but leaves to Verducci’s reporting the issue of Giambi and performance-enchancing drugs.
Torre also is distressed by the decline in the health of owner George Steinbrenner, whose responsiveness during conversations decreased during 2007. The owner wore sunglasses, even during meetings indoors.
“It was sad,” Torre said. “As much as you might have been confrontational with him at times or hated what he did, you hate to see that.”
Torre also details how his relationship with general manager Brian Cashman became strained in 2007, when Torre wanted the team to re-sign Bernie Williams and Cashman instead added Doug Mientkiewicz and Josh Phelps, both of them busts.
“My opinion was completely disregarded,” Torre said.
After Cashman consolidated control of the team’s baseball operations, Torre confronted him during spring training in 2006. Torre wasn’t pleased with the new reliance on statistics.