November, 21, 2010
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com
AP Photo/Ed Bailey
"Clueless" Joe Torre takes a question during a news conference at Yankee Stadium, where it was announced that he would succeed Buck Showalter as manager, in this Nov. 2, 1995 file photo.
Fourteen years ago, current ESPNNewYork.com columnist Ian O'Connor was serving in the same capacity for the Daily News. And here's a brief excerpt from what he was writing on Oct. 27, 1996.
The topic was Joe Torre, whose hiring had been ridiculed by the paper. The cover headline when Torre had been introduced had blared: Clueless Joe.
Well, the day this O'Connor column ran, Clueless Joe had led Yankees to the World Series title, in his first year as skipper. The previous night, Jimmy Key was credited with the win, John Wetteland got the save and the Yankees won the first of four championships in five years.
The point: You hire a GM to pick a manager, and expect him to know more about what he is doing than the media or fans. In fact, perhaps the anger about the potential choice is a good thing in a way, since it shows the Mets may not be following their familiar pattern of doing what's popular in order to sell tickets the next day. In the end, sustained winning will take care of ticket sales.
So here are a couple of snippets of what O'Connor wrote that day, with the Yankees in the beginning stages of a dynasty under Torre:
WE LAUGHED when word hit, or at least I did. Joe Torre? Are you kidding? The man had lost more than 1,000 games as a manager, and he was supposed to bridge the distance between the wild card and the World Series? Good job, George. Way to scrap another decade.
The headlines in this paper didn't reflect an exclusive opinion. Clueless Joe: Torre Has No Idea What He's Getting Into. We ran pictures that made him look silly, goofy, downright dumb. From Marine Park, Torre was the first New York City native named manager of the Yankees. This was his introduction to the Bronx.
A phone call was put into Lee Mazzilli, Torre's old pet. "He has the right personality for New York and the Yankees," Mazzilli said. "Players always go the extra mile for Joe."
Yeah, just like the Mets did, the Mets who couldn't win more than 67 games for him.
A phone call was put into Frank Torre, the older brother, after he learned he had a bum heart but before the doctors found him a healthy one.
"When they hired Joe, St. Louis promised him they'd spend money on players the following year," Frank said. "Then they screwed around for five years and did nothing. That's all my brother ever asked for, a chance to manage some talent."
Yeah, the owners wouldn't spend and the players couldn't play. It's never the guy in between.
Torre worked more than 4,000 games, never seeing the middle of October.
Then, there was this conclusion:
What was funny 11 months ago was fact last night. In Yankee Stadium, Joe Torre was trying to win a championship.
SO WE ATE our words, bagged our cynicism. If the retraction comes a tad late, we offer it with sincerity.
The headline might read something like this: Clueless Joe: Manager of the Year.