(Long Island, N.Y.) It is the third summer in the Bronx without Joe Torre in the dugout and things are back to normal. In Joe Girardiís first season as bench boss, the Yankees failed to reach the postseason. The only reason why he is still employed here is because the team bounced back last year and won their 27th World Series championship.
Coming in as defending champs is something that is expected from the front office and that occurred on four occasions in the 12 seasons that Torre reigned. What kept the sanity up in the owners box was that the Bombers
had qualified for the playoffs every one of those years and won the American League pennant in two others that they were defeated in the Fall Classic.
By salvaging his job, Girardi doesn’t have to look over his shoulder and listen to any old stories with the Yankees heading into Los Angeles for an Interleague match-up. With Torre moving to the National League, this will be the first time that he will face his former club, and that is something that has not been lost on Derek Jeter.
He is almost like a second father, the Yankees captain told reporters. “I grew up with him and played for him since I was 21. We had a close relationship when he was here, and we still have a close relationship.”
When Torre first came on board following the 1995 season, he was not welcomed with open arms by the fans or media. Buck Showalter had just led the team to their first postseason berth in 14 years where they lost a wild five-game series to the Seattle Mariners. The tabloids splashed headlines like Clueless Joe and were questioning George Steinbrenners decision over and over.
Torre had marginal success as a manager in previous stops with the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, so gaining acceptance in this part of town would only come with success. He was able to attain just that right off the bat and led his club to the title in a thrilling six game series against the favored Atlanta Braves. And this occurred after the Yankees lost the first two games at home.
After a disappointing loss to Cleveland in the 1997 playoffs, the Yankees built a dynasty that swept the San Diego Padres and Braves and then defeated the Mets in five games to win three consecutive championships. A rushing defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series seemed to be a sign of things to come for this proud franchise. They returned to the Fall Classic two years later only to lose to the underdog Florida Marlins. That was as close as they came until last season.
So with huge – not just big – shoes to fill, Girardi has done quite well for himself. After dominating a year ago, the Yankees are once again right there at the top of the ultra-competitive American League East.
Sure, it’ll be nice to exchange pleasantries with Torre again, but the Yankees are in good hands with his predecessor.