Now that the controversy has died down and the NY Post has stopped splashing trashy headlines, it's a good time to pick up Joe Torre's THE YANKEE YEARS.
Co-written by Tom Verducci, this is not a hatchet job. It's not a "tell-all" as some in the media would have you believe. If you want to know what baseball is really about, this is a killer read. Torre was not the first choice for the Yankees managerial job when he was hired. He wasn't even the second or third choice. But he was the perfect manager at exactly the right time.
The players who star in the story are David Cone, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. In fact, the Yankee Dynasty at the end of the last century may never have happened without them. And, while they were winning, the Red Sox were changing the way they do business, which is also detailed in the book.
When John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner took charge of the Sox, they became enamored with statistical analysis. Keep in mind that this was before the publishing of MONEYBALL by Michael Lewis. So, they hired Bill James and kept Dan Duquette. But Theo Epstein started putting his Ivy League degree to use.
While Billy Beane was chasing players with a great on base percentage, Theo took charge of Boston and went after many of the same players with money to spend. In one winter, Boston acquired Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller and David Ortiz. That became the core of the team that would finally bring a Word Series Championship to Boston.
Here's a great nugget from the book. The Red Sox have compiled a database of every college baseball player in history. Then they matched those performances with the way those same guys played in the big leagues. Now, they can look at the numbers of current college players and see trends that nobody else sees. That's how far ahead of the game Boston is right now.
Torre tells the ultimate ARod story. In Alex's first year in New York, he was struggling in May. Joe pulled him aside and said, "You're gonna be OK." Alex responded, "My numbers are exactly the same as they were last year at this time." That embodies everything that is wrong with ARod. Torre was concerned about Alex as a person, and he measures himself by statistics.
The bottom line is that if you want to understand the game of baseball in the late 90's and the early part of this decade, read THE YANKEE YEARS. You will understand why Torre is worth every penny of what Frank and Jamie McCourt are paying him.
For more, check out our interview with Joe about the book from a couple of weeks back on the Mason & Ireland Show.