Joe Torre Is Still Griping About George Steinbrenner

Joe Torre Is Still Griping About George SteinbrennerLos Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre was in New York Friday night for his annual Safe at Home charity fundraiser. Although he told reporters he was “happy” that the New York Yankees won the World Series, he recently made a more insidious comment about his former team’s owner, comparing George Steinbrenner to Torre’s abusive father.

In a recent interview with Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers, Torre and his wife Ali both explicitly compared Steinbrenner to Joe Torre Sr., the wife-beating ogre who threw Torre’s mother down the stairs when he found out she was pregnant with Joe Jr.

“George was such a domineering figure in Joe’s life and his father was like that,” says Ali Torre.

Joe Torre backed that comment up, saying about his experience as Yankee manager, “That was a big part of it with George too. I don’t know how many times I told George, ‘The only thing I wanted to do was make you feel proud of what I’ve done.’ “

Columnist Simers didn’t raise his eyebrows at these accusations. Instead he agreed, writing, “The abused going full circle, five times as likely to become the abuser, the experts say, or become abused again. Or go to work for Steinbrenner.”

A little perspective, please. George Steinbrenner may have had a notoriously bad temper. He certainly was a tough man to work for. But comparing him to a wife-beating monster crosses the line. And it trivializes real domestic violence, the very thing Torre’s foundation is acting to prevent.

It wasn’t enough that Torre bit the hand that fed him for twelve years by writing his tell-all book “The Yankee Years.” But to describe Steinbrenner in this manner now – something Torre did not do in that book – is even more unfair, particularly when The Boss is not in a mental state to defend himself.

This is how terrible Steinbrenner was to Torre – he picked that failed manager off the baseball scrap heap and gave him the opportunity of a lifetime. And he helped turn Torre into a future Hall of Fame manager – and the highest-paid manager in baseball history.

Torre was a three-time loser who had the grand total of one playoff appearance in nearly fifteen years as an MLB manager when he got the chance to manage the 1996 Yankees. The keys to the Yankees dynasty were already there; all Torre had to do was manage. And that he excelled at.

Torre guided the team to four rings in five years, and became a legend. He also became the most highly compensated manager in baseball history, thanks to The Boss, with several lucrative contract extensions, and the least interference from Steinbrenner that any Yankee manager under The Boss had ever received.

But Torre also came to believe his own hype. Instead of the aggressive NL-style of managing he brought to the Yankees at the beginning, Torre became lethargic. He appeared more engaged in dealing with his Four Rings guys – Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the rest – than in managing the entire team. He seemed more interested in looking classy – like when he infamously refused to have his team bunt against the injured Curt Schilling in the 2004 ALCS – than in winning it all.

Yet Steinbrenner, known for a quick trigger at firing managers, let Torre keep his job, despite the fact that he hadn’t won a World Championship since 2000. This, even though his team had the biggest payroll in baseball, year after year, and even though the team’s stated goal each year was winning the World Series.

It took the 2007 ALDS, where Torre sat impassively in the dugout while reliever Joba Chamberlain was overcome by a swarm of midges, for the Yankee front office (Steinbrenner was no longer in full control of his mental faculties by them) to finally think about giving Torre a stern warning to do something else in the dugout besides sipping green tea and holding Derek Jeter’s bat.

But even then, the Steinbrenner family’s offer – a one-year, $5 million contract, with incentive clauses guaranteeing him an additional $3 million if he got the Yankees to the World Series, still kept him as the highest-paid manager in baseball. Yet it was infamously deemed “an insult” by Torre, as he quit the team in a huff.

Here’s how the Torres described what happened. Ali Torre told her husband and Simers, “The parallel was very similar to what you had with your father. Some of the people in the Yankee organization were bulying you and not treating you with respect all along. You kept trying to survive until you got worn down.”

Yet, by Torre’s own prior admission, he would have stayed on as Yankee manager if the team had only given him a two-year contract. Some abusive situation that was.

Maybe they should have just batted him eighth.

Photo by malingering

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Lisa Swan, a lifelong Yankee fan, grew up in Passaic, N.J., where her favorite player was the talented but insecure Reggie Jackson. Today she lives on Staten Island, where her favorite player is the t ...read more

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