The Book: The Yankee Years
The Author: Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
Rating: a preferred read, 4-out-of-5
Published by: Doubleday in 2009
This book is not quite Joe Torre’s memior. His voice is heard throughout the book, but Tom Verducci conducted lots of interviews of players that played under Torre as well as throughout the rest of the league. The story told is about Torre’s relationship with the Yankees from the mid-nineties when he was hired up until just after the Yankees lost the 2007 ALDS to the Indians.
To say the book came out to a flurry of press both good and bad would be an understatement. With the help of the NY Post and the Daily News this book was almost infamous before it even hit the shelves. Despite the media’s focus on the gossip, it is a well written tale that is not just a typical behind the scenes look at the team. It also documents the shift in baseball over the years and how the Yankees were slow to adjust
It also documents the shift in baseball and the Yankees that took place from the late nineties to the 21st century. Baseball was a changing world and neither the Yankees nor Joe Torre were quite ready for the statistical revolution the sport was undergoing. Verducci often compares the Yankees to the Red Sox especially as he is detailing the 2003 and 2004 playoffs where the two teams faced head-to-head in the ALCS twice.
The importance on statistics is not the only shift this book sees, Torre reminisces about the late 90’s teams like they were gods often talking about their “desperation to win” and once the team shifted so did the attitude of George Steinbrenner and Torre’s relationship with the team. Torre never really connected with some of those teams post-2001 and it shows throughout this book.
The second half is really where the gossip starts, as optimistic as the first part of the book was – the second half of this book can get pretty underhanded. From Torre revealing that teammates called Alex Rodriguez “A-Fraud” behind his back, to players problems with Carl Pavano, to dealing with a surly Kevin Brown and his tantrums. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing that most fans who followed the Yankees everyday didn’t know and there is nothing too horrible, but there is a dramatic mood shift.
The book ends as Torre and Verducci outline exactly how Torre’s relationship with the team split with the final nail seeming to be Torre listing the trust of Brian Cashman. Obviously it takes a very pro-Torre side of the issue. This is going to be the only part that some anti-Torre people might have a hard time getting through.
I’ve always been a Torre fan though I personally felt that while he was still a good manager he wasn’t a good fit for the team anymore. A change was good. That’s why the end was odd for me. Torre was clearly having a harder time dealing with the team in the later years especially with George Steinbrenner starting to take a backseat in the organization. Yet, he is almost attacking the team for not offering him a second year of a contract after 2007. Why deal with everything with such bitterness?
Overall this is a really good book though. Fans should read this book, especially newer fans who weren’t paying attention to the team in the 90’s. This is a pretty unique behind the scenes look at that team that might give you a real appreciation for what the team went through including why the Yankees were able to win despite Steinbrenner and the trades that were and almost were that put those dynasty teams together. Finally it tells you how it all fell apart.