With the Yankees once again on the outside looking in on the playoffs and threatening to miss the playoffs for the third time in manager Joe Girardi‘s tenure, many Yankees fans wonder if this season would have been different if Girardi’s Hall of Fame predecessor Joe Torre was at the reins? Would the most recent inductee into Monument Park have fared better in a season in which his team lost 4/5 of his Opening Day starting rotation for significant parts of the year? Could the owner of the most recently retired Yankee number overcome a lineup that cannot hit with runners in scoring position?
The Yankee season would have undeniably gone differently with Joe Torre leading the team, however, their spot in the standings would likely be the same. Torre weathered his fair share of injuries over the years, losing stars like David Cone, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter for periods of time. However, he never experienced the kind of DL fever experienced by the Yankees this season. Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia are out for the year, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka were out of action for months. Injuries are a part of the game, a part that cannot be controlled and can strike at any time. In fact, given Torre’s managerial style, the injury bug could have been even more infectious. Torre was notorious for using and overusing the same relievers over and over again. There is a strong chance that given the problem with the rotation Torre would have tried to pitch Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and David Robertson everyday. Torre shortened the careers of many relievers over the years, from Steve Karsay to Tanyon Sturtze to Paul Quantrill. Betances, Warren, Kelley and Robertson could easily have been another victim, further decreasing the Yankee playoff chances.
Torre had a gift for managing egos and getting players to buy into a team goal. He was an excellent veteran’s manager who generally had a hands off approach to the game. He hated sabermetrics, preferring to manage with his gut than a binder. The Yankees would no doubt rarely, if ever, employ the shift that they do so often this season. The stats say that would result in more base hits than were saved by not employing the shift. That could lead to more loses for the Yankees as well.
The current team is a not a compilation of All-Stars at every position like it was during Torre’s reign. This is a flawed team of underperformers. Torre’s gift of managing egos would likely have been unneeded. This team would remind him of more of his unsuccessful managerial runs with the Mets and Cardinals than his storied Yankee years. There is simply not an abundance of talent remaining on a team decimated by injuries. This Bomber team with Torre as the manager would likely still be on the outside looking in and due to Torre’s shortcomings in applying advanced metrics and bullpen management, they might even be further out of the race than they are now. That’s not a knock against Torre, a terrific manager from a different era, but an honest view of the flawed team in pinstripes today.