Torre's time has come

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

DETROIT -- The headline on the back of a New York tabloid on Nov. 3, 1995 read, "Clueless Joe."

The New York Yankees hired Joe Torre, a failure managing the Mets, the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, after 11 consecutive post-season appearances by Torre, owner George Steinbrenner will fire him following a timid offensive showing and a second consecutive first-round exit. That is unless his baseball people talk him out of it.

Should 11 post-seasons, including six trips to the World Series and four Series wins, be overshadowed by three straight losses to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series?

Not usually, but Steinbrenner, 76, is a man in a hurry. He is in a rush to win his first Series since 2000 and he has to quickly hire Lou Piniella.

Piniella, a broadcaster this season after managing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2005, wants to work again. His agent has had talks with the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants to fill their respective managerial openings.

Torre is under contract for $7 million US for 2007, the final year of his $19.2 million deal.

Either the Tigers young starters of Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman, plus Kenny Rogers, who won after seven straight losses, are bound for the Hall of Fame or Yankee hitters mailed it in.

As recently as Wednesday, after the New York won the opener of the ALDS, ESPN asked, "Is the Yankee lineup the best post-season lineup ever." The next day at Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson snorted "Maybe, but it hasn't won anything yet."

And it didn't.

Before the best-of-five series started, Tigers manager Jim Leyland called the lineup "Murderer's Row and Cano" referring to their all-star lineup and No. 9 hitter Robinson Cano, who contended for the batting title.

As the shadows fell Saturday at Comerica Park, it was more like Tippy Canoe and Tyler too -- the Yanks were up a post-season creak, without lumber to paddle. With the Yanks, the meek do not inherit the earth, they move on to Kansas City. Maybe it was too old and too injured. Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi weren't 100% healthy.

When does management make a change? Paul Beeston and Pat Gillick fired Jimy Williams when it looked like the Blue Jays had quit on their manager. The Jays lost a weekend series in Minneapolis by 6-5, 10-8 and 13-1 scores. Williams was fired Monday when he returned home.

Detecting players quitting is difficult to see. Someone with Super Man vision could see, but there were some bad signs.

"For about six outs late in (Game 3) they were very uncharacteristic of Yankee hitters," Leyland said. "They expanded the zone a little. It's very rare you see Yankee hitters get frustrated."

Or as a National League advance scout said of the Yanks: "They didn't even compete. They've got an all-star team but there's no team -- it's not like when they had Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius."

It's too easy to say this was one bad game at Yankee Stadium and a bad weekend in Mo-Town. The Yanks have lost their last three playoff series and are 3-10 in the post-season since taking a 3-0 lead over Boston in the 2004 ALCS.

That, my friend, is a trend.

What kind of manager will Piniella be?

If Torre was like a cuddly lap dog, Piniella will be a pit bull. Piniella won't be putting his arm on Alex Rodriguez's shoulder and softly counselling him -- if A-Rod isn't dealt -- he will be telling him how the third baseman came to win a World Series ring and he does diddly or less in the post-season.

Piniella managed Rodriguez for seven seasons with the Seattle Mariners.

Torre is headed to the Hall of Fame as a manager with 1,973 wins and four Series rings. And his time has come. He got the praise all these years and now will take a pink slip.

Like two-time Yankee manager Bob Lemon used to say, "Is George tough on managers? Yes. But he's never bounced a check."


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