Joe Torre is making overtures that he’d very much be interested in becoming the next manager of the Mets, a position which is all but assured of being vacant once the season concludes and Jerry Manuel is sent packing.
The Mets, for their part, have not expressed disinterest (either publicly or by back channels), which is already more than I can bear to hear of this burgeoning love story.
As the Roots said, it don’t feel right.
Look, no one can deny Torre is an accomplished skipper if we’re basing such a thing only on the brass tacks — World Series rings. He won four of them with the Yankees and never missed the postseason in his 12 years in the Bronx.
But all those warts that eventually led to his jettisoning from the Yankees are still present. His bullpen management remains dubious at best. The old joke used to be Scott Proctor — as in, Proctor must have been crying the day he was acquired by the Dodgers after being overworked by Torre and the Yankees. Now, the joke’s on Jonathan Broxton, who went from fire-balling closer to noodle-armed mop-up man in just a matter of three seasons under Torre.
Torre’s bizarre fetish for craptastic, middling veterans is as strong as ever, too. To acquire the perfectly mediocre Casey Blake (supposedly on account of Torre’s undying mancrush), the Dodgers traded away Carlos Santana, he of the Big Three catching prospects (Matt Wieters and Buster Posey are the other two). Matt Kemp has gone from an All-Star and a seemingly perennial MVP candidate to a guy who has at times lost playing time to the Reed Johnsons and Scott Podsedniks of the world and is at odds with coaches and management.
Even the mythology of Torre’s supposed strong suit has eroded in Los Angeles. Remember when the New York writers were tripping over themselves to hail Torre as the clubhouse patriarch of those mighty Yankees teams? That magic seemed to evaporate with Manny Ramirez, didn’t it? The guy didn’t cut his hair despite Torre’s clean-cut mandate, continued to shoot ‘roids (resulting in a 50-game suspension in ’09), and he finally sulked and loafed until it became so unbearable to watch that the Dodgers were left with no choice but to dump on the White Sox in a straight waiver claim. Funny how it appears to be a lot easier to be a calming clubhouse presence when the guys over whom you’re presiding are Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, etc. There’s also the curiously underreported business of the Dodgers looking nothing like those vintage Yankees teams in the 2008 and ’09 NLCS, coming up quite small in all the big spots against the Phillies.
Mind you, all of these knocks serve only to illustrate that Torre really isn’t a great manager, never mind that the impact a manager can have on a team is debated upon but generally thought to be no more than a few wins or losses. In short, a manager can do far more harm on account of roster input and pitcher deployment than he can do well to help a team win. And in Torre’s case, I’m not the first to suggest that his success with the Yankees wasn’t so much a result of his brilliance but rather his fortuitous anointment as the leader of a really, really good collection of players.
As for how, specifically, he doesn’t fit with these lovable Metsies, where to begin?
Perhaps the single greatest source of ire for Mets fans is the team’s inability to step out of Big Bro’s shadow over the past 15 years. How, exactly, would hiring the leader of the most recent Yankee dynasty work toward that end? Yes, it would grab headlines. Yes, for all Torre’s faults, he’s at least credible in a few ways that a retread like, say, Jerry Manuel is not. But, what purpose would it serve? The Mets already tried to ride those coattails with Willie Randolph. He was a respectable man and passable on the bench, but he was a Yankee. He was Joe Torre’s guy. And, ultimately, when the team struggled (largely by no fault of his own), his attempt at buttoning up the Mets in the vein of the Yanks did him no favors in keeping his job.
What really stings about this flirtation — and, admittedly, it’s nothing more than that right now — is that is smacks of Torre using the Mets to enact his creepy, bizarre vendettas against the Yankees. Torre wants to return to New York as a conquering hero after being unceremoniously dumped (apparently, his tell-all book didn’t cure that itch). He wants money, yes, and he wants to be back in his hometown of New York, sure, and he may even want to set things right after a forgettable run here as Mets manager early in his career.
There’s some grain of intrigue in all of that — I truly believe his desire, regardless of motive, to win with the Mets would be strong, and it’s hard to argue with that sort of zeal. But as I enumerated earlier, that desire, unfortunately, is mitigated by the reality that Torre contributes little in the way of, you know, winning. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but without a pretty significant roster overhaul, this squad is fated for .500-ish play again in 2011. And if the 2010 Dodgers proved nothing to us, it’s that Torre can’t take a .500-ish team and make it a playoff contender. No manager can, in fact.
I, for one, don’t want the next Mets manager to be much concerned with sticking it to the Yankees. I just want one whose sole focus is the Mets.