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I understand why this is being treated as such a big story. The manager position has been very highly thought of since the start of time, and this particular manager is one of the most respected men in the industry (and not just for winning four World Series titles).Joe Torre

That being said, let’s look at this from an objective point of view. The field manager used to run the entire show, not only filling out the lineup cards, but also acquiring the talent and possibly even playing. But those days are long over. The position is now, more or less, that of a middle manager, bridging the gap between the top level executives and the company’s talent roster.

Joe Torre is no different. Perhaps his managerial tact and calm demeanor really did have a key impact in the Yankees’ playoff success in the late ’90s. But let’s be realistic; he wasn’t nearly as successful with Joel Youngblood and Frank Tavares as he was with Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter.

And no, I’m not on the bandwagon of misinformed critics who blame Joe for the Yankees’ “failures” the last seven seasons. Anybody who takes ten minutes out of their day to apply some probability models to the MLB postseason knows that playoff success is mostly driven by chance.

And yes, I do think it was ridiculous that Andy Phillips was given free reign at first base while Wilson Betemit wasted away. And Miguel Cairo probably got way too many chances over the years. And Joe did ride certain bullpen arms a little too much. But even these issues are besides the point.

In the end, the most important people in any baseball organization are the players on the field, and the men upstairs who put them there. The field manager’s primary duty at this point is to carry out the objectives of the front office. Whether Joe Torre did this or not, I’m really not sure. But I am pretty certain that Joe’s $7.5 million salary this season was higher than any other non-playing, non-Steinbrenner Yankee employee. No matter the resources of the team involved, this is a gross inefficiency.

So where should the Yankees turn next? Tough to say. Could Don Mattingly or Joe Girardi really be a Terry Francona-type, keeping control of the clubhouse while not ruffling anyone’s feathers and dutifully staying in sync with his superiors? Girardi almost certainly doesn’t fit this mold, and we really don’t know enough about Mattingly yet.

The problem isn’t really with the people at hand, but instead the public perception of the manager’s role. A manager may feel that he is the boss, since that is what is expected of him by the media and even the players. But as we’ve discussed, this really isn’t true anymore.

I’m often asked who my manager would be if I was running a team somewhere, assuming Manny Acta and Francona weren’t available. It’s a very tough question, and to this second I still don’t have an answer.

(When asked, I inevitably settle on my dad. He is a brilliant investor and knows as much about business as, say, Ted Williams knew about hitting. But even more importantly, I know he would listen to me.)

As far as Torre, maybe the Yankees didn’t handle it perfectly. But in the end, it was the right move. We’ll see what their next one is.

Feedback? Write a comment, or e-mail the author at shawn(AT)squawkingbaseball.com

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  1. on October 19th at 05:30 pm
    Blastings! Thrilledge said:

    I wonder if just anyone can be a manager. That perception of what a manager should be means a lot. Look at what has happened to recent managers who “never played the game,” like Carlos Tosca and Sam Perlozzo.

    I think the ideal manager is a former player, but one who was been bred in your organization’s philosophy all the way through the minor leagues. You make him take courses in game theory and personally re-instruct him with the latest revelations about in-game strategy.

  2. on October 20th at 05:38 am
    Rob said:

    Except the manger of the Yankees isn’t a middle manager. He’s also the very public spokesperson for the team. and while all managers deal with the press the Yankee job is different. Is it worth a premium of $3-4 million? Who knows. But Cashman is also the highest paid GM in the game. Adn do you really envy him being expected to take calls from Giuliani and Trump at a moments notice to get comp tickets?

  3. [...] was honestly very surprised that Joe Girardi got the Yankees job. Not that I think it’ll make all that much of a difference, but Girardi was prone to over-managing in Florida. That’s not going to work with the [...]

  4. on December 31st at 08:20 am
    David Chase said:

    I think a behavorial or motivational expert would do well in a managerial position. I’m sure a manager salary and the prestige that goes with it would attract the highest talent in those areas. Acquire a Tony Robins, and course him on in game win probability percentages and situational strategies.

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