- Last Updated: 11:36 AM, June 2, 2012
- Posted: 2:37 AM, June 2, 2012
DETROIT — Here at Comerica Park, where the Yankees’ 2006 season concluded with Alex Rodriguez dropped to eighth in the team’s lineup, A-Rod learned Joe Torre — the man who made that infamous decision — still talks about their time together.
To which we say: Let it go, Joe.
Torre taped an appearance on a Yahoo! Sports television show called “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that debuted yesterday, and the host went over much covered ground with the former Yankees manager. The topic of A-Rod naturally came up, because, well, he’s A-Rod, and because Torre criticized him multiple times in his 2009 book with Tom Verducci, “The Yankee Years.”
“He was concerned about putting numbers up,” Torre said of Rodriguez on the show. “And that really wasn’t what we [the Yankees] were all about, you know. We were all about, you know, winning games. That was the only statistic that was important for us.”
Rodriguez, presented with Torre’s words yesterday before the Yankees’ 9-4 victory over the Tigers — to which he contributed a ninth-inning, two-run homer — laughed and declined comment.
Which is what Torre should have done. First of all, because this is ancient history; it’s asked and answered, as they say in the courtroom. Second of all, because Torre probably should have been more forgiving of a guy who won two American League Most Valuable Player awards during the four years he managed him.
Third of all, and most important, because Torre isn’t just retired baseball royalty. He’s Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations.
Everything that occurs on the field is his domain. If Rodriguez has a Russell Martin-like imbroglio with an umpire, or if Jason Varitek comes out of retirement, puts on his catcher’s mask and shoves A-Rod again, Torre’s office determines and administers the discipline.
I don’t think Torre — who didn’t respond to a request yesterday for an interview — would let personal feelings get in the way of such a professional matter. But why give ammunition to the conspiracy theorists? When he talks about a player in such a matter — a player with whom he experienced such open turbulence — that absolutely qualifies as ammunition.
Look at it this way: If Rodriguez chose to revisit the past and discuss how Torre didn’t work hard enough to create clubhouse harmony, wouldn’t we all be killing A-Rod?
Now, to be fair, Torre proceeded to sort of defend Rodriguez in the interview. He even used the words, “In his defense,” adding, “he just felt if he put up certain numbers, that the wins would take care of themselves. He put pressure on himself,” and he noted how A-Rod came through in the 2009 postseason.
Torre also praised A-Rod for his work ethic — before reiterating his greater point: “He came on board when we had a whole lot of success. The Yankees were different. They had a group that sort of shared the wealth as far as the ability to play together. I think Alex tried to put a lot of pressure on himself trying to do too much too soon.”
I know Torre a little from covering him the last 17 years, and if you’re wondering, “Why would he even address this?” my take is that his brain goes on automatic pilot during an interview like this. He has answered so many questions so many times that he has the responses ready to fire, without even processing them. The A-Rod stuff would be like the “F4” key on his internal computer.
MLB wanted Torre aboard, guaranteed him a salary well into seven figures, because of who he is. He brought instant credibility to the position with his resume, and by all accounts, he has been a good fit. When baseball postponed Game 6 of last year’s World Series in St. Louis — hours before first pitch, acting on a forecast — Torre answered all of the media questions and effectively sold the decision.
Because of that history and credibility, folks still want to speak to Torre about his glory years. In his current post, however, he needs to recuse himself from opening old wounds. Particularly a wound with an active player. Particularly one with Rodriguez, of all people.
The next time someone asks Torre about A-Rod, he should steal from Mark McGwire, another controversial slugger, and say, “I’m not here to talk about the past.”Follow @NYPostsports