Torre discusses book on MLB Network
Former Yankees manager is comfortable with finished product
NEW YORK -- Give Joe Torre the chance to revise history, and Mariano Rivera might not have issued that leadoff walk to Kevin Millar in the 2004 American League Championship Series. You can bet Joba Chamberlain wouldn't have tried to pitch through the cloud of Lake Erie midges in 2007.
But co-writing "The Yankee Years" with Tom Verducci is not on Torre's list of things to change. In a point made emphatically during a one-hour interview with Bob Costas which aired Thursday on the MLB Network, Torre remains comfortable with the finished product.
"You can't spend 12 years doing what I was doing for a franchise like the Yankees, having the success that I've had there, and not want to be able to talk about it," Torre said.
Speaking at the MLB Network's Studio 42, Torre said that he has read the book "four or five times" and believes it reads differently in context. Excerpts of the text leaked into tabloids in advance of the book's release this week, and Torre fears they have left a stain.
"It's unfortunate, because I think A-Rod is going to be called 'A-Fraud' for the longest time because of it," Torre said of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. "Tom Verducci warned me. He said, 'If we do this book, there's going to be something that someone is going to take out of the book. It's going to make you uncomfortable.' And he was right on, unfortunately."
Despite the advance notice, Torre was eager to share his experiences and thoughts for the project, conducting his first interviews with Verducci during Spring Training 2007 -- in advance of what Torre would call his "toughest year," and before his eventual parting with the organization.
"I did not have the purpose of writing this book to shock anybody because I left the Yankees," Torre said. "It was not that I was going to come back and say, 'Here, I'll show you.' That wasn't the purpose. It was more of a celebration."
The book was formulated as a third-person narrative, with Verducci outlining what changed in Major League Baseball over Torre's 12 years managing the Yankees. Torre is a primary source, but his words are supplemented by Verducci's original reporting.
The story needed to be told with authenticity, Torre said, and he tried to offer the whole story -- not a rosy, sanitized version of the 12 years. Some of it is not pretty.
It is revealed that teammates called A-Rod "A-Fraud" in 2004, and Torre helps with detailed accounts of struggles faced by players like Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson. Players sniped at a hobbled Johnny Damon in 2007, and Torre once told team president Randy Levine to "shut up" on an internal conference call discussing David Wells' fate.
"If I'd written the book and talked about ... what happened on the baseball field, it'd be a yawn," Torre said. "Yeah, I may have walked the line a little bit, but I, in my opinion, didn't violate anything. I wanted to give the flavor of the decision-making and what went into it."
One of the book's most prominent figures is Rodriguez, who is painted upon his 2004 arrival as being insecure and not fitting in well with his teammates, craving the spotlight and accolades. Torre said he tried to help A-Rod understand that he could not do it all.
"Alex tried just so desperately to be that guy, all the time," Torre said. "He came on board at a very tough time. We had been winning and gone to the World Series, and it was a matter of putting a lot of pressure on himself. I was trying to relieve that somewhat."
Part of the issue was Rodriguez's reported infatuation with all things Derek Jeter, which Verducci writes was a "Single White Female" obsession. The movie reference is not Torre's, but he admits that A-Rod struggled not being the franchise star of the Yankees, and often tried so hard that he would wind up getting in his own way.
"I don't care how talented you are or how much money you make, this is Jeter's ballclub," Torre said. "I think what he tried to do was be close to Derek and to try to -- I don't want to say imitate him -- but just try to get a feel of what the personality is supposed to be on this ballclub."
Torre said that he worked with Verducci by outlining drafts of the book, pulling out several items that he did not believe were appropriate for public consumption. Verducci said that he does not believe the book goes into areas that were not previously reported on.
"This is a further illumination of what was going on," Verducci said. "Is it a surprise to people that Alex had a tough time fitting into the Yankee clubhouse? I think that anybody who has been around New York and has read copious reports about those difficulties is aware of it. What you're getting here is further insight, a ground-level view."
Verducci's contributions to the book went beyond the scope of what Torre could offer, detailing how the Red Sox caught up with the Yankees at the tail end of Torre's run and how developments like steroids, revenue sharing and sabermetric analysis changed the game.
"This is a history book, as far as I'm concerned," Torre said. "I think this is going to sit on that bookshelf and be able to reference it over the years."
The response from the Yankees hierarchy has been one, largely, of silence. General manager Brian Cashman has declined to comment on the book, which outlines several of their disagreements over the years. Torre said he hopes his relationship with Cashman is not damaged.
"Brian Cashman and I got along, even though for the last few years we disagreed on a number of things," Torre said. "I took a lot of time to make sure that I didn't violate anything.
"I feel badly that people feel that's the case in some cases, but I still think a person who reads it from front page to back page is going to realize there's more to this book than my Yankee years."
In the wake of Torre's book, what once appeared to be certain enshrinement in Monument Park and a retiring of uniform No. 6 is doubtful. Torre was not acknowledged during the final game at the old Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21, and it seems unlikely the Yankees will hold a "Joe Torre Day" anytime soon.
Torre said that he was surprised by last September's snub, but is OK with it.
"As far as being invited back, that's certainly not my decision," Torre said. "Whether you want to retire my number, or invite me back for a day, or whatever it is, I can't worry about that. My 12 years in New York were very, very special, the fans were very special, and it's something I will take with me wherever I go and into retirement."
While Torre said that he would have written the book even if he had not departed from the organization after 2007, the story could have been a lot different with a few different twists along the way -- take your pick, the 2001 or 2003 World Series, or the 2004 ALCS.
"It's a lucky bounce here or there that changes it," Torre said. "If we win the World Series, we're not even sitting here talking a lot about what we're talking about now."
If Torre has any regrets, he said, they are on the field -- the moments when he second-guessed himself almost immediately. Given that trip in a time machine, Torre would have told Rivera not to try to be too fancy against Kevin Millar leading off the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series.
He would have also asked home plate umpire Bruce Froemming to stop play during Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series in Cleveland, when thousands of insects proved to be the antidote to Chamberlain's invincible first two months in the league.
But Torre said he is proud of the book, stands by it, and will live with it. "The Yankee Years" are complete now, both in book form and in the literal sense, and Torre said he does not feel he will have anything to answer for when he puts his Dodgers uniform back on next week.
"I really don't," Torre said. "For me to try to qualify something that I don't feel needs to be explained, then I'm saying to myself, I probably shouldn't have done this. And I don't feel that way."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.