It’s being billed as the tell-all of the last real dynasty in professional sports, the story of how the Yankees won all those championships in the nineties and how it all came crumbling down during this decade. And it’s got the most famous coach in sports’ name attached to it. But for the “The Yankee Years” to truly be the definitive history of Joe Torre’s Yankees, there needed to be a little more incite from the manager around the subject we will all remember the era for – steroids.
Instead, we get the criticism toward the normal whipping boys, the guys who made Torre’s life more difficult – ARod, David Wells, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield. And I’m sure we get all the praise in the world for his guys, the Jeter’s, Tino’s and Scott Brosius’ of the world. But when it comes to discussing the issue that undoubtedly played a role in his team’s success, Torre looks as foolish as any of the athletes who have gone on television and acted as though the clerk at their local GNC had an awful vendetta against them.
Torre always acted as though he had no clue that steroid use was rampant in his, or any other clubhouse. And when it became clear that performance-enhancing drugs weren’t just a Bonds/McGwire/Sosa thing, he continued to play dumb.
In the book, Torre even dismisses the Mitchell Report for being New York-centric.
"You had two guys from New York doing all the talking in the Mitchell Report," Torre said. "That's why you have more information on New York players. If people want to devalue the 2000 team, is that how we lost 15 out of 18 down the stretch? We dried ourselves out and then got a heavy dose for the postseason? One thing I've learned is that people are going to feel the way they're going to feel, regardless of what happened."
It seems clear to me what happened here. Torre and Tom Verducci knew that in order for the book to be a best seller, it needed to have some controversy. So Torre was willing to bash the easy targets and he was okay with providing the details that led to him not re-signing with the team, but there was no chance he was going to tarnish his legacy by spilling the beans about steroid use.
Torre is too smart for that.
And he’s way too smart to have been completely oblivious to the fact that the majority of baseball players were cheating in the late ‘90s and in the early part of this decade. Sorry Joe, but your expert advice wasn’t what led to David Justice having a slugging percentage of .585 the summer he was traded to New York.
At some point, someone who played on that Yankee dynasty will write a true tell-all, chronicling all the guys who were using steroids and/or amphetamines in that clubhouse. But because it won’t come from one of the top guys, the legitimacy of the stories will be in question. Torre could have validated everything, but chose to play dumb, something we know he’s not.
So to me, “The Yankee Years” remains incomplete.