Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘Red Sox’

Book Review: The Yankee Years

Posted by silentarchimedes on April 29, 2009

The Yankee Years

Authors: Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

yankeeyearThere was a lot of pre-release chatter for this book. The snippets that were released led people to believe that Joe Torre, the Yankees manager during their 1996-2007 dynasty, was bitter about being let go by the Yankees and the book was his way of getting back at the team. There was also chatter of Torre breaking the unwritten code of leaving what happens in the locker room behind the scenes instead of revealing them to the public. The release of the book seemed untimely considering that Torre is still managing and most of the players he discussed in the book are still playing. Torre, in his defense, said he isn’t the only author of the book, and the book is actually written in third person. He also mentions that there’s really nothing new mentioned in the book that’s not already out there, especially about Alex Rodriguez.

As a big time Yankees fan, all the above reasons, in addition to wanting some insider analysis of the dynasty years, were enough to check this book out of the local library and give it a read.

THE REVIEW

This book is loooong. Considering that Torre says it doesn’t reveal anything new, at 477 pages, there is a lot of regurgitation of obvious in-game details. Maybe it’s because I came in wanting to read about things fans don’t get to read about in the papers, especially about what happens in the locker room and what does not. I was not interested in reading, “Chuck Knoblauch hit the first pitch of the game for a home run. Jeter doubled. O’Neill doubled. After a brief pause on a strikeout by Williams, Martinez singled. Darryl Strawberry hit a home run. After Tim Raines grounded out, Jorge Posada hit a home run.” (pp.46-7). I watched the game, I read about it in the newspapers and internet when it happened. I sure don’t need to read it again in a book. This type of detail was plentiful throughout the book. After awhile I started scanning those sections.

So what else is in the book, besides in game details? Let’s just say, the book makes Torre look like the most righteous guy in the world. His encounters with players always resulted in his favor. And there are plenty of little stories that demonstrated how adept Torre was at handling The Boss Steinbrenner. Now it’s very possible that all those stories are true, but it’s hard to fathom that there weren’t other stories that resulted in Torre being wrong. None were talked about in the book. Most bothersome was that all the stories do support the notion that Torre does have an inner circle of players he has an affinity to and everyone not really in this inner circle has issues. He definitely throws people under the bus. He talks about players (by name) crying. (I’m sure Roger Clemens was happy that this book revealed how he “cried uncontrollably” aftter the Mike Piazza bat throwing incident in the playoffs in 2000.) And this is where I think is over the line and breaking the unwritten rules. He analyzes players’ personalities as if he is an expert. It’s fine to talk about Kevin Brown punching a wall after a rough outing because it did happen and it’s a fact. But to really talk about how he was weak as a person, to me was unnecessary. He talks about how this player had these issues, or how this player is mentally weak. There are definitely some pretty mean things he says in there about players that couldn’t hack it in New York. And it always seemed like it was their fault and not Torre’s. Then he talks ever so glowingly about the dynasty years. The players that were in his inner circle. Of course, Derek Jeter. And Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams and David Cone. Finally, I’m surprised how often Torre curses, especially the F-bomb, in the book.

The problem with reading a book that has two contrasting authors is that it is hard to separate what parts of the book are Verducci’s and what parts are Torre’s. Since most of the book features Torre as the prominent character, it’s hard not to associate all comments and analysis to Torre. That might be unfair but there’s no other way.

Joe Torre

Joe Torre

After Torre talks about the 2000 World Series, the book becomes a slow explanation of the demise of the Yankees dynasty, from the management, the scouting, the players and the rise of the Red Sox and other statistics conscious money-managing teams. It’s not that fun to read as a Yankees fan, but it is worth reading once to really realize that the Yankees have become a very misdirected team for the past eight seasons or so. Once you get past the game details, the already public ribbing (especially about A-Rod, Clemens and Knoblauch) and the throwing of some players and people to the wolves, there are some interesting new information about this book. There are details about Clemens and Randy Johnson that the fans didn’t really know about. It was also nice to see the players and people that contributed quotes and information to the book. David Cone is frequently quoted in the chapters surrounding the dynasty years. Even Theo Epstein offers insight of the rivalry and the rise of the Sox.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed about the book. I wished that Torre was not an author of book because there seems to be a lot of self-serving stories in there. The writing of the book is also not as smooth as I’d expect from Verducci. A lot of quotes seem blunt, too direct and fake. I’m not sure if they are really a word for word quote of what happened. And Torre is right, there really aren’t that many new interesting mind-blowing things in there that aren’t already known. The whole chapter on steroids really seems like a collection of information from the Mitchell Report, Clemens-McNamee Congression hearing and other media stories.

However, as disappointing as the book is, it’s hard to argue that Torre was not a great manager. His personality and ability to handle Steinbrenner and troubled players were perfect for a baseball dynasty. That plus the combination of completely team-oriented win at all cost players like O’Neill, Jeter, Bernie, Brosius, Tino, Rivera, Cone, Pettitte, Posada and other bit players resulted in a 6 year span of baseball success that would be hard to duplicate in the coming years.

The Yanke Years: 6 stars

The Yankee Years: 6 stars

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Interesting 2008 baseball regular season comes to a close

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 28, 2008

As the 2008 baseball season comes to a close for many teams today, there have been some interesting firsts, same storylines, and sad endings.

FIRSTS

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays

1. Tampa Bay Rays makes playoffs for first time in franchise history – Not only that, it was the first time they had a winning record. It was the first time they had over 70 wins, 80 wins, and 90 wins. It was the first time they had the best home record in the majors. It was the first time they finished first in the vaunted AL East over the Red Sox and Yankees. Could it have been due to removing the “Devil” from their name in the offseason? šŸ™‚

2. Francisco Rodriguez shatters saves record – Rodriguez shatters Bobby Thigpen’s single season saves record of 57 from 17 years ago. His 62 saves is the first time a reliever broke 60 saves in one season. Both were 26 years old. However, Rodriguez had 7 blown saves this season (compared to Mariano Rivera’s one). He could have had close to 70 saves had he been more consistent.

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki

3. Ichiro and A-Rod reach baseball milestones – Ichiro Suzuki became the first player in over a century to have eight consecutive 200-hit seasons. Meanwhile, A-Rod became the first player to record at least 35 homers in a season for 11 straight years. He also tied Babe Ruth with 12 career seasons of having over 35 homers.

4. Instant replay – Near the end of the season, MLB decided to install instant replay for questionable home run calls. It has been used several times since, and has been involved in overturning calls on the field.

SAME STORYLINES

1. Joe Torre makes playoffs for the 13th consecutive year – After leading the Yankees to 12 straight postseason appearances in 12 years as their manager from 1996-2007, Torre was let go and signed with the Dodgers. He led them to the NL West Title in September.

2. Yankees continue winning ways – Although the Yankees did not make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, some of their winning streaks continued. They now have 17 consecutive seasons with over 75+ wins (for strike shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons a winning percentage of .460 was used) and 16 consecutive seasons with a winning record; both major league bests.

3. Red Sox continue winning ways – Although the Red Sox haven’t been as prolific and consistent at making the playoffs due to the dominance of their division rival Yankees, they have put up consistently winning seasons. They are second to the Yankees in consecutive winning seasons with 75+ wins (16) and a winning record (11).

Can this be reused for 2008?

Can this be reused for 2008?

4. Mets continue their late-season futility – Although the Mets have had success the past 9 years, they continually show futility at the most important times of each season. Besides losing the Subway Series to their crosstown rival Yankees in 2000, they also lost in the playoffs in 2006. However, the past two seasons have been most depressing. In 2007, theĀ  Mets had a 7 game NL East division lead with 17 games left to play. They proceeded to lose 12 of their final 17 games to lose the title to the Phillies and miss the playoffs. By some measures, it is considered the second worst collapse in baseball history. The 2008 season is seeing a smaller collapse. Having a 3.5 game lead against the Phillies for the division title again with 17 games to go, the Mets won only 7 of their next 17, while the Phils won 12 of their next 15. The Phillies clinched the division once again. To make matters worse, the Mets lost their final game while the Brewers win their last oneĀ  to grab the wild-card and leave the Mets out of the playoffs once again.

5. Small market teams continue losing ways – Besides the Rays, most small market teams continued their non-playoff appearances. The Montreal Expos – Washington Nationals have a major league leading 27 consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance. The Brewers in second with 25 consecutive seasons ended that drought with a win today and a Mets loss to grab the wild card berth. The Royals (23), Pirates (16), Blue Jays (15), Reds (13) and Orioles (11) all continue their futility.

6. Another season, another surprise team or two – This year the Tampa Rays and Brewers have been the surprise teams. 2007 saw the Indians and Diamondbacks. 2006 were the Twins and Athletics. 2005 were the White Sox and Braves. 2004 was the Dodgers. 2003 was the Marlins. And 2002 saw the Expos do relatively well.

ENDINGS

The old and new Yankee Stadiums

The old and new Yankee Stadiums

1. Yankees miss the playoffs for first time in 13 years – Ever since the Yankees became the first AL wild card team to make the playoffs in 1995, they have not missed it until this year. In those 13 years of postseason play, they won 4 World Championships, 6 AL Pennants, 10 AL East titles and 3 Wild Card berths. They had a combined record of 1252 – 832; a MLB best .594 winning percentage. They had 3 no-hitters, of which 2 were perfect games. They had one Rookie of the Year, two Manager of the Year, one Cy Young, one Comeback Player of the Year, and two Most Valuable Player of the Year awards in that time span.

2. Two stadiums come to a close – Both the Yankees and Mets will be playing in new stadiums to start the 2009 season. Although most people are happy Shea Stadium is being torn down, the demise of Yankee Stadium and its rich history is more symbolic.

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