Torre not Yankees' problem

Torre not Yankees' problem

CHICAGO -- Speculation regarding Joe Torre's job security, or lack thereof, is once again rampant in the New York media.

This is, on one hand, natural, given the Yankees' current whereabouts -- somewhere other than first place. On the other hand, it is nonsensical.

The Yankees' difficulties this season have nothing to do with the way they are being managed. They have everything to do with pitching.

Joe Torre is one of the few people who could succeed in this atmosphere. He already has succeeded, with, for instance, seven straight division championships, and four World Series championships. OK, the Yankees haven't won it all since 2000. The difference between the Yankees then and the Yankees now is not that Joe Torre's managerial abilities declined. The difference is that the Yankees don't have either the quality or quantity of pitching now that they had then.

Torre's situation was a topic on both sides of the contest at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday night, where the New York Yankees were meeting and beating the Chicago White Sox, 3-1.

The core, veteran Yankees support Torre completely. "It's not his fault," said Jorge Posada. "A lot of people have been hurt here, so you can't put it on one guy's shoulder. We have to step up for him and play some good games down the stretch. I'd hate to see him go. If we do the things we're capable of doing, win the games we're supposed to win, everything will take care of itself."

"He's not pitching, hitting, catching, running, throwing, any of that," said Derek Jeter. "He's putting a lineup on the field that is supposed to win; it's our job to go out there and win the games."

It was instructive to hear the comments of another manager, in this case, Ozzie Guillen, regarding Torre's job.

"That's why Joe Torre gets paid a lot of money, not to manage the team, but to deal with all that other stuff," Guillen said. "Unfortunately, Joe has a lot of managers around him, and it's not easy.

"Joe Torre, to me, is one of the best baseball men in baseball, but I wouldn't want to be in his shoes."

That's a common managerial sentiment. Everybody understands that the Yankees managing job comes with both immense resources and record-setting expectations. It is a combination that looks good from the standpoint of being assured of having talent on hand. But it has also been a recipe for incessant second-guessing and, of course, endless speculation about who must take the fall when the Yankees do not achieve the ultimate annual success.

And it's worse now than ever. What this is about now is the concept that if a team with a payroll of more than $200 million does not win, somebody's head must roll. In normal circumstances, that would be the manager's head.

The $200 million is unprecedented, but also, in its own inflated way, misleading. Two-thirds of that amount goes to just eight players. That has not always been money well-spent. Kevin Brown, $15 million, this season alone?

Injuries depleted the Yankees' rotation earlier in the year. Of the three major offseason pitching additions, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano have been mostly unavailable, and Randy Johnson has often not been Randy Johnson.

The Yankees have been forced to go with 14 different starting hurlers, more than any other team in the Majors. Some of these starters were less than long shots. They were no-shots. You couldn't understand some of these people being in the Yankees organization, much less in the big-league starting rotation.

How much of this was Joe Torre's fault? Roughly none of it. The Yankees spent at record levels for pitching. Some of that money was spent on pitchers of advanced age. Some of it was spent on pitchers with histories of repeated visits to the disabled list. And some of it was spent on pitchers with both advanced age and repeated visits to the DL.

And now, when some semblance of order seems to be returning to the rotation, it turns out that some members of the Yankees bullpen may be a bit frayed from overuse. This was the only logical thing that could happen, given the chaos in the starting rotation.

Torre was asked about the speculation regarding his status. He responded with the same kind of patience and dignity that has characterized his entire tenure with the Yankees.

"It doesn't make winning [Friday's] game any more important than it's always been," Torre said. "That goes with the territory. I've never been concerned about managing to save my job, because I always manage to try to win.  

"If I start thinking that I have to do this, or that if I do this, it doesn't look as good as if I did this -- I can't do that. I've got to be thinking about what I need to do to win a ballgame, and I worry about the results later.  

"When you make decisions, you don't make decisions as a manager concerned about how you're going to answer the questions; you make them based on what you think was best for that particular game. If it doesn't work, you address it, be as honest as you can and go on to the next day. ... You're human; not everything you touch turns to gold."

With everything that has occurred, the Yankees are still solidly in contention for the postseason. They aren't in their usual leading and/or dominant position in the AL East, but given everything that has happened, what else could fairly be expected?

 I know, I know. With the Yankees, everything is expected, especially now with the $200-million payroll. But firing Joe Torre is not the answer for the Yankees' shortcomings, because Torre is not the problem. There cannot be many people with the patience and the inner strength to handle the daily roller coaster that this job presents. Joe Torre has already demonstrated that he can do this.

Yes, all the speculation is perfectly understandable. And completely off the point.

Mike Bauman is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.