Saturday, June 26, 2010

Where The Ocean Meets The Shore

Think in terms of bridges burned. It is impossible not to pay homage to Bob Seger this weekend. The Yankees are in Los Angeles for three games against the Dodgers and the kid from Brooklyn who manages them. What is his name again? Rhymes with glory. As in "one of the men responsible for the Yankees' return to". Of course, it is the prodigal skipper a/k/a "Mr. Torre".

If you think that the people responsible for running the Yankees franchise are not sporting a grudge towards their former manager, then consider this. In the years since Major League Baseball concocted inter-league play, how many series have the Yankees played against their all-time World Series rivals? Two. How many home series have the Yankees played against the Dodgers? Zero. Not a single game in the bi-coastal rivalry has been played in Yankee Stadium. When the Yankees return home next week, watch any of their games against either the Mariners or the Blue Jays on television. Take note of those fans in the lower bowl of the stands -in the really, really expensive seats. Take note as well of what an uncanny resemblance they bear to actual empty seats.

One wonders how many tickets the Yankees would have sold for a weekend series at the big ballpark in the Bronx for a visit from Torre's Dodgers. Considering that Don Mattingly is one of Torre's coaches, I suspect that the Yankees would have sold some of those typically empty seats had Los Angelenos made a trip East this summer. What could Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, the co-pilots on the good ship Silver Spoon, value more than money? That is a rhetorical question folks so do not blow out too many brain cells working your way through it.

At the end of the 2008 season, the Yankees said goodbye to the then-Stadium in a very big way: a rather glorious ceremony prior to that season's final home game, which took place on a Sunday night in September against the Orioles. The ceremony featured both live on-field stuff and a very elaborate, detailed video tribute. Torre was not present at the Stadium as he was busy managing the Dodgers. The Yankees' brass made sure that the video presentation, which paid tribute to the franchise's six most recent American League champions and four most recent World Series champions, contained not a single reference to Torre. All he had done was manage all of those clubs. Now he is not even James Cagney. He is Claude Rains.

I love the Yankees but pettiness is pettiness, whether it is dressed up in white uniforms with navy blue pinstripes or in another ensemble altogether. If it does not gall Torre that the Brothers Steinbrenner, who came to their position via an old-fashioned two step (they were born into it and then for good measure fell into it up to their necks when Boss George's anointed successor Steve Swindal went from "heir to the throne" to "ex-brother-in-law" in less time than it took the Yankees to catch the Sox in '78), then he is a better man than either of them. I suspect he already knew that. I suspect that they both did as well.

I laugh when I read that the cause of all of the nonsense being expressed by the Yankee hierarchy towards Torre is his book. I laugh because the more I read about all of the ill feelings stirred up by The Yankee Years the more I think that although it was a best-seller most of the people who bought it never bothered to read it. Sort of like The Da Vinci Code, non-fiction style. I did. Was Torre kind to Alex Rodriguez? Not really. Did he reveal the long-developing schism in his working relationship with Brian Cashman? Yes. Did he call out Randy Levine as an egomaniacal, ignorant d*ck? Absolutely. Were any of those disclosures what one would consider revelatory? Not if one paid even a modicum of attention to the final few years of Torre's reign in New York.

It pleased me immeasurably to see how the Core Four responded to the Yankees' visit to Los Angeles. If a man may be measured in part by the company he keeps, then the mutual admiration society Torre maintains with Messrs. Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera reflects well on all five of them. Those five men have accomplished things together that neither of the Silver Spoon Boys nor Levine nor any of the other angry children in Yankeeland have. Regardless of the franchise's official position, the four players on its active roster who earned their pinstripes as the architects of the Renaissance have demonstrated that they learned their lessons well from their long-time manager.

Class begets class. And as the figureheads at the top of the Yankee ship of state have demonstrated yet again, the opposite unfortunately is also true.

Like a guest who stayed too long
Now it's finally time to leave
Yes, it's finally time to leave
Take it calmly and serene
It's the famous final scene.

-AK

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