Friday, October 19, 2007

Managing the Yankees: It Always Ends Badly

So many people will be weighing in on the minutiae of Joe Torre's departure over the next few days and I'm more or less content to leave it to them, mostly because I have nothing new to add. I'd probably have tried hard to keep him around, but I understand why the Yankees didn't feel the same way. All involved here are big boys, and any talk about wounded pride, a lack of respect, or any of that emotional stuff is a bit silly.

It will be interesting to see, however, how many columnists and commentators go sentimental and shed Torre tears over what they feel to be the allegedly classless or insulting nature of how it all went down. Interesting in that it will represent a total failure of memory on the part of whoever it is who voices such a sentiment because, let's face it, no New York Yankee manager ever leaves on good terms.

Torre wasn't asked back? Well, at least he wasn't forced out like Buck Showalter was. Before those two the Stump Merrill-Bucky Dent-Dallas Green-Lou Piniella-Billy Martin-Yogi Berra-Clyde King-Gene Michael-Bob Lemon-Dick Howser-Bill Virdon carousel was pure struggle, strife, drama, sturm und drang. Ralph Houk was unceremoniously -- but understandably -- forced out by Big George seven years after Johnny Keane was forced out by Houk who had previously fired Yogi, with none of those transitions fairly called amicable.

The last time a Yankee manager was, more or less, allowed to leave on his own terms was Ralph Houk after his first go-around between 1961 and 1963. And, given the shabby treatment Casey Stengel had been given at the end of 1960, even Houk's decent treatment (a promotion to GM) was an aberration. Indeed, only one Yankee manager has ever truly left with dignity, and that was Miller Huggins in 1929, who was extended the courtesy of being allowed to die in office.

So, I offer a warning: spare the sentiment. It is the destiny of Yankee skippers -- most skippers of other teams too, actually -- to be unceremoniously dumped, even if the last 12 years of relative stability has caused some of us to forget that.

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