'The Yankee Years'
By Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
Review By David Ulin
Last week, as the controversy over Joe Torre and Tom Verducci's "The Yankee Years" was ratcheting up, I got an e-mail from my brother, who, like me, is a lifelong New York Yankees fan. "As I understand it," he wrote, "Torre is saying NYY is a tough place to work, very 'What have you done for me lately?' and if your name is not Piniella or Jeter, everyone is out to get you. No news there."
This is the reality for the Yankee faithful and has been since George Steinbrenner took control of the team in 1973. As for Torre's revelations that Alex Rodriguez is high-maintenance (No!) or that General Manager Brian Cashman failed to stand by him after the 2007 season . . . tell me something I don't know.
As it turns out, that's precisely what "The Yankee Years" does, providing an unexpectedly thoughtful, even nuanced, history not only of Torre's 12 years as manager of the Yankees but of Major League Baseball during that time. It's a period ripe for just this sort of overview: the steroid era, the rise of moneyball.
When Torre took over the Yankees in 1996, baseball was less than two years removed from the catastrophic strike that stopped the 1994 season, forcing the cancellation of the World Series for the first time since 1904.
By 2007, when he left the team after losing the American League division series to the Cleveland Indians, baseball was huge business despite the exposure of some of its biggest stars ( Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds) as alleged cheaters, transformed by a new generation of executives who made decisions based on advanced statistical analyses.
On the surface, none of this appears to have much to do with the Yankees: Although Clemens and others on the 2000 team have been embroiled in the steroids scandal, the team never had an ingrown culture of cheating, while the new age, numbers-crunching style of management demands a patience Steinbrenner lacks.