by Tony Aubry, BaseballEvolution.com
February 22, 2009
Managers can only dream of a career that replicates the one
Joe Torre had in pinstripes for 12 seasons. Or could they? The Yankee Years
gives us a view from inside the Bronx Bombers’ clubhouse during his tenure and
so much more.
Prior to cracking open the book, one might assume it’s a
biography of Torre while sporting a Yankee uniform, but in actuality, it’s an
attention-grabbing narration of the game we all love from 1996-2007. While
the Yankees remain the main focus, the book chronicles everything from the
infamous steroids ordeal to the evolution of player development and evaluation.
Torre’s quotes are striking, funny, and sometimes surprising, and Verducci’s
style of writing is unique. He could be giving distinct details of an at bat,
stop on a dime, and weave in a story from the past without losing any flow.
The Yankee Years breaks down into three sections:
The Glory Years, Steroids and Moneyball, and The Abyss.
The Glory Years- Joe entered the 1996 season as
“Clueless Joe,” and by the time the 2000 season would come to an end, the city
belong to him. The reasons, according to Torre, why the Yankees were able to
enjoy such success was the will to win, a grind-it-out mentality, and a cohesive
clubhouse that was lead by the old-school David Cone, who came equipped with a
sharp tongue. There is no one who dismisses intangibles more than I, but this
book showed how hard it could be to focus on the game itself when there are
problems off the field and in the clubhouse.
Steroids and Moneyball- The steroids part of the
book is mainly told from Brian McNamee’s point of view. Although he tries to
make himself look like the good guy, claiming he warned the guys he trained not
to use steroids, he gives us a pretty good view of how prevalent steroids were
during that period. From hour-long instructional phone calls to Clemens agreeing
that McNamee’s salary should come straight out of Clemens’ paycheck while with
If anyone dares to claim that Moneyball does not work in
the playoffs, quietly point them to the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox. This section
provides thought provoking quotes from Billy Beane , Mark Shapiro, and Theo
Epstein. Beane gives us his thoughts on exploiting the market, Shapiro on
building a system that would cause any amateur saber-head to foam at the mouth,
and Epstein on how Red Sox player evaluations went from qualitative statements
such as “I like him” to objective statistical analysis. This train of thought
eventually trickled down to Yankee brass, mainly Brian Cashman, and it would
spark many disagreements between he and Torre, such as line up suggestions and
allowing Bernie Williams to walk after the 2006 season.
The Abyss- The phrase refers to the demise of the
Yankee dynasty, particularly after they lost the 2003 World Series to the
Marlins. All that was left of the original crew were Derek Jeter, Mariano
Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Williams. The Yankees would turn to free agency,
Signing old and injury prone pitchers (Johnson, Brown, Pavano, and Wright),
hotheads (Lofton and Sheffield), and sociopaths (A-Rod). These signings would
hurt the Yankees both on and off the field. The Yankees would be forced to use
multiple pitchers throughout the 2006 and 207 seasons and the clubhouse became
tight; players would mingle in groups, rather than as a whole.
As the book starts to dwindle down, Torre’s dwindling
relationship with George Steinbrenner is discussed. Towards the end of his
career, Steinbrenner’s voice wasn’t as loud, and would not speak with Torre
nearly as much as he used to. By the time 2007 would arrive, Torre’s lame duck
status would get to him, so much so that winning didn’t feel as good as it used
to. Torre would demand a two-year deal after the 2007 season to avoid the burden
of his uncertain status for a second straight season, but the organization
wouldn’t budge, and the two would part ways for good.
Whether you’re a Yankee fan or a Cardinals fan, you
shouldn’t hesitate to put this book on the shelf with the others. Getting
familiar with baseball’s latest dynasty’s clubhouse is a treat and the
transformation of analysis in such little time is fascinating. Verducci and
Torre did a great job.
You can get a copy of The Yankee Years
using this link or at your local
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Tony resides in Queens, New York and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.