Ten signature moments from Joe Torre's years with the Yankees
When the Yankees face the Dodgers tonight at Dodger Stadium it will be the first time that Joe Torre will manage against his former team since parting ways with the Yankees after the 2007 playoffs. Torre managed the Yankees for 12 seasons, reaching the postseason every year, winning 10 division titles, six pennants, four World Series, and punching his own ticket for the Hall of Fame. Only
When Torre was hired as Yankee manager prior to the 1996 season, he had 32 years of major league experience as a player and manager but had never been to a World Series in either capacity. The Yankees, meanwhile, despite having won more world championships than any other team in American professional sports history, had not won a title since 1978, and their Division Series loss to the Mariners in 1995 was their first postseason appearance since 1981. Under Torre in 1996, the Yankees moved into first place for good on April 28, and quickly dispatched the Rangers and Orioles in the first two rounds of the playoffs to send Torre to his first World Series. As the underdog against the defending world champion Braves, Torre's Yankees lost the first two games of the '96 Series at home by a combined score of 16-1 but rallied in Atlanta, winning three thrilling games to remain undefeated on the road that postseason, then returned to the Bronx to nail down the title.
After losing in the ALDS in 1997, the Yankees lost four of their first five games in 1998. It would take them 29 games to lose four more as they unfolded perhaps the greatest team performance in baseball history, tying the then-American League record with 114 regular season wins, and following it up by going 11-2 in the playoffs, including a sweep of the Padres in the World Series, to post a cumulative record of 125-50. No other team has ever won as many games in the regular and postseasons combined, and of the four teams to win as many or more regular season games -- the 1906 Cubs (116), 1954 Indians (114), and 2001 Mariners (116), only Torre's 1998 Yankees followed through by winning the World Series.
The Yankees swept the Braves in the 1999 World Series and won the first two games of the 2000 Fall Classic against the Mets, giving them a record 14-game winning streak in World Series play under Torre, including wins in the last 10 World Series games to have been played. That streak was snapped when the Mets won Game 3, but that was all the Yankees would allow as they wrapped up their third consecutive world championship and fourth in five years under Torre. The only other teams ever to win four championships in five years or fewer were the Yankees under McCarthy (four straight from 1936-39) and Stengel (five straight from 1949-53).
The Yankees were pretty clearly overmatched by the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. They were out-scored 37-14, hit a mere .183/.240/.288, and posted a 4.26 ERA over the seven games. Nonetheless, a pair of stunning and eerily similar comebacks in Game 4 and 5 gave them a 3-2 lead in the series, and an
Every bit as shocking as those twin comebacks in the Bronx, the Diamondbacks rallied against Rivera, who aided their efforts with a throwing error and a hit batsman. Arizona won one of the most thrilling World Series in memory on
As manager of the defending American League champions, Torre managed his first All-Star Game in 1997, skippering the Junior Circuit to the first in a still-active streak of 12 straight All-Star Game victories. The AL hasn't won every All-Star Game since 1997, however. In 2002, Torre and Diamondbacks' manager
Conscious of both trying to get every player on their roster into the game as well as being careful not to overtax their pitchers, Torre and Brenly burned through eight and nine pitchers, respectively, in nine innings only to find themselves in a 7-7 tie with just one man left in each bullpen. Both called on that last man, but after another scoreless inning and a half they were effectively out of pitchers. After an on-field meeting with commissioner
The next year, in an attempt to give the managers more incentive to play for a win, Selig, in agreement with the Players' Union, decided that home-field advantage in the World Series, which previously had simply alternated leagues year-to-year, would be decided by the winner of the All-Star Game.
The Yankees made the playoffs every one of Torre's 12 years with the team, but the last great moment for the Torre Yankees came in his eighth year at the helm. In the final game of a literally knock-down, drag-out American League Championship Series against the rival Red Sox, the Yankees fell behind Boston ace
Though battered by the ALCS against the Red Sox, the Yankees took a 2-1 lead into Game 4 of the 2003 World Series against the Marlins. Down 3-1 in the top of the ninth of that game, they rallied to tie on a pinch-hit, two-run triple by
At that point, Torre elected to use not Rivera, who had thrown two innings the night before, but
The 2004 ALCS brought a rematch with the Red Sox, but to everyone's shock, the Yankees made quick work of their rivals in the first three games and had Rivera on the mound with a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4, needing just three outs for a stunning sweep. Then it all fell apart.
Uncharacteristically wild, Rivera walked leadoff man
Facing a historic collapse, Torre handed the ball to temperamental starter
Above and beyond his in-game strategy, Torre's strength as Yankee skipper was his ability to manage the media and the personalities both above and below him in the organization. It's striking, then, that perhaps Torre's biggest failing as Yankee manager was his handling of superstar third baseman
Nothing better captured that failing than Torre's decision to drop Rodriguez to eighth in the batting order with the Yankees facing elimination in Game 4 of the 2006 Division Series against the Tigers. After winning the first game, the Yankees had dropped two straight to put themselves on the verge of a second-straight first-round exit. Desperate to break his team out of its funk, Torre made the ultimately infamous decision to drop Rodriguez, who was 1-for-11 with four strikeouts in the first three games and had hit just .105 without a single RBI in 11 postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, to the eighth spot, exacerbating the situation by failing to notify Rodriguez of the demotion prior to posting the lineup in the clubhouse.
That came just weeks after an
If Torre were to be asked if he would have done anything differently in his dozen years as Yankee manager, he'd likely give this answer: He would have pulled his team off the field when the midges descended on