Peter Gammons- Yanks' issues go beyond Torre
They are the Yankees, so two hours after their season turned to winter, there was a cellphone conversation about what could be packaged with Chien-Ming Wang to get Johan Santana, not Carlos Silva or any of the other mongrel free agents. They inquired about Santana, because they are the Yankees.
But they're also different from the Bronx Zoo or 1998 Yankees. There is no clear chain of command, as the man who bought the franchise for half of what he now pays Jason Giambi has struggled with his health and his sons are feeling their way into power. They have been eliminated in the first round three straight years, haven't played a World Series game since being dominated by Josh Beckett in 2003, haven't won the World Series since the Clinton Administration.
After 12 years of respect, competence and dignity, Joe Torre is almost certainly out as manager, with no replacement set in stone. People in the organization know Don Mattingly is the only successor the players will buy, but it may be that the fragmented powers that be don't care what the players think because the players think Torre should be rehired.
They'd love a proven entity, but Tony La Russa has little interest in dealing with the chain of hurricanes that surround this franchise, and Jim Leyland, Bobby Cox and Mike Scioscia aren't available. La Russa is very careful and sensitive to the media, and going from a couple of beat writers to a media culture which plays sides and in some cases believe they, the writers, are the story, is not something he wants after all he's done in his professional life. There may be drums beating for Lou Piniella, and the Cubs might not mind allowing him to go to New York.
They will chew on Mattingly and Joe Girardi (someone will mention Trey Hillman and certainly Buck Showalter), but the centrifugal force that Torre provided will be gone, and the floor opens to one question after another. The Boss's successor may be Hank Steinbrenner, but he has to sort through the voices that want his ear. Or it could be Hal Steinbrenner. Will Brian Cashman remain in power, or can Randy Levine grab the power chair? If Cashman isn't in full command, it could take months to figure out where the buck stops.
And Alex Rodriguez. Those who believe the sun sets and rises on baseball's best player can rant about his .267 Division Series and point to the fact that he went from Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS until the eighth inning Monday without a postseason RBI, but if he opts out of his contract and Scott Boras gets him $30 something million a year elsewhere (plus a third of all Venezuelan oil reserves), they must fill in a canyon, as well as replace his entertainment value to YES and those $2,500-a-game seats in the new stadium.
Players warn that Torre's departure will make it more expensive and difficult to keep free agents Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. The former makes no pretense about his loyalty to Torre and, since the team waited on his extension, he is willing to listen to other teams. Can you say Mets? Don't even waste your time thinking about it. But the larger question is whether Posada or Rivera leave, will it open the door to the 1980s, when players didn't want to go to New York to play for the Yankees.
Rivera will have no qualms about taking the Yankees to the wall, or leaving. Bobby Abreu would leave without the ties of Posada and Rivera.
The good news is that they have developed a new, fresh core. Robinson Cano is close to the plate discipline that could make him a .340/35 home run, three-hole hitter. Melky Cabrera is a wonderful, energetic force. Joba Chamberlain is real, Phil Hughes showed in Game 3 the ridiculous stuff he showed in the minors ("He was relaxed because this was the first time he didn't think he had to be great," says Mattingly) and Ian Kennedy can pitch.
And if Jeter hadn't hobbled around like Walter Brennan with his bad knee and Wang had been good instead of terrible, the Yankees might have won the series. But in the Yankees' world, sadly, anything short of winning the World Series is failure, with no respect for the fact that seven different teams have won the World Series in this century and that revenue-sharing has made getting to the World Series really difficult. Yankeeland may not be alone, but in the self-absorbed promotion of Red Sox Nation, this season in which Boston led the majors in wins while developing more than a half-dozen players in their first full major league seasons, the success or failure of the 2007 season may be determined on whether or not the Sawx win the World Series. If C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona win three of their four starts, which is a distinct possibility, New Englanders may be convinced by a misanthropic shock jock world that the season was a waste and that someone has to pay for that failure by losing his job.
The saddest part of the Indians-Yankees series is that the story became Torre and Steinbrenner and A-Rod, not a Cleveland team that won more games than the Yankees during the season. With a payroll half the size of the Red Sox's, the Indians matched Boston in wins. They moved two kids named Asdrubal Cabrera and Franklin Gutierrez into key positions in mid-August (after which they had the best record in the league), and they took Carmona out of Buffalo and watched him develop into one of the three or four best pitchers in the league. It's a shame that the swarm of bugs became the story of Game 2, the reason Chamberlain lost. When Carmona got to the Indians' bench after pitching during The Plague, they scraped more than 50 bugs off his neck and face, but Carmona didn't get distracted.
The Indians' lineup is deep, they play defense, they have two great starters, two very good relievers (Rafael Perez and Betancourt), and they grind out at-bats and make it hard for starting pitchers to get into the seventh inning. They deserved to beat the Yankees, and it's possible that they will deserve to beat the Red Sox. They aren't a tabloid team in an era when celebrity news is so legitimized that Paris Hilton gets 100 hits on Google for every one for Nancy Pelosi.
It's one thing to dream about Johan Santana or Roy Oswalt. They are the Yankees, and in two years they'll be getting $810,000 for four season tickets behind home plate. It's another thing to drive the firing of Joe Torre because not winning the World Series is a failure, and because the story sells.
Thoughts? I really do like Peter, but I definitely think he's overstating the chaos that he thinks surrounds the franchise. Until I see evidence indicating otherwise, Brian is still in charge of this team....(except for the Joe thing, unfortunately, but what can you do? That's George). Now all of a sudden players aren't going to want to play for the Yankees anymore?
I don't see Posada or Rivera leaving......although Mo for sure is a man of principal. If he truly feels the Yankees have wronged him or Joe, who knows? Still, I can't imagine him wanting to finish his career in anything other than pinstripes.
I like his points about the new core of youngsters........and of course, his implication that firing Joe is a lousy move. Everyone in baseball loves Joe