World Series 2001 |
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World Series 2001
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10/29/2001 04:32 AM ET
Mayo: Brenly is winning this chess match
Brenly (left) has been pushing all the right buttons so far.
PHOENIX -- Are we seeing a changing of the guard in this World Series?

I'm not even talking about the three-time World Champions relinquishing their crown, which could happen the way things have unfolded so far.

What I really mean is, "Has Joe Torre's run as the manager who could do no wrong come to an abrupt end? And has Bob Brenly assumed the title of the skipper with the Golden Touch?"

It certainly seems that way so far, doesn't it? Torre has had a tremendous run, better than most could expect. For five years, just about every hunch he played worked. Every lineup switch, every pitching matchup, every play miraculously would help the Yankees win.

After a certain point in time, you realize it's more than just luck. People who say Torre's not that good of a manager, that he's lucky his hunches pan out, miss the point. Torre is an excellent manager, precisely because those hunches have worked. It's trite, but you can create your own luck in this game.

But perhaps his luck has finally run out. So far in this World Series, most of the buttons he's pushed have either backfired or simply not produced any benefit. In Game 1, starting David Justice in left field led to three strikeouts and a costly error. Two intentional walks were followed by RBI hits. In other words, he was 0-for-3.

To his credit, Torre has always been up front about his string of success, Even after the Series opener, he said he's always understood the flip side of "being right" all this time. But he had to hope things would change in Game 2. With Randy Johnson on the mound, Torre would certainly have to work some more of his magic, wouldn't he?

So he unveiled an all right-handed lineup, except for pitcher Andy Pettitte (who doesn't really count, does he?). It was only the second time in Yankees history they had an all-righty lineup in a World Series game.


Now Torre can't be blamed for Johnson's dominating performance. But the changes -- Randy Velarde at first base, Shane Spencer in right, with Velarde batting second and Derek Jeter third -b- had absolutely no impact. The Bombers collected just three hits and had only one runner in scoring position all night. In the past, starting Velarde would've almost certainly produced a few hits, some scoring chances, maybe even a victory. But maybe those days are over.

Maybe Brenly stole Torre's touch. Maybe it's something about catchers-turned-managers. Everything he's tried, every bit of strategy he's implemented, seems to work. Granted, having Schilling and Johnson makes the job easier, but he certainly hasn't looked like a novice in the D-Backs dugout.

Lets start with Game 2 in this Series. Facing a tough lefty again, Brenly had the option to stock his lineup with righties. He made but one move: inserting Danny Bautista in center field in place of lefty Steve Finley. Like Bautista has done throughout the season and playoffs, he paid tremendous dividends, driving in the first run of the game with a double in the second, and adding a single in front of Matt Williams' homer in the seventh.

"We wanted to get another right-handed bat in the lineup against Pettitte," Brenly explained. "He is extremely tough on lefties, and everybody, but our options were either Greg Colbrunn at first base, but I think that weakens us defensively considerably.

"We could have run Jay Bell in the middle infield somewhere, but once again it takes away from the defense. Bautista has not won a Gold Glove in his career, he's darned good in center field. We felt we could install a right-handed bat and lose the least defensively."

So Brenly was just as correct in the moves he didn't make as he was in the changes he did make. That's something Torre had mastered, the art of not over-managing. Perhaps Brenly can add that to his Midas reputation as well.

And it's not like it's just been spotting Bautista from time-to-time. Come on, anyone could do that. But add that decision to making Craig Counsell, a guy who had about 300 at-bats over two seasons heading into 2001, his everyday second baseman, and you're building a pretty good case. Just look at what Counsell has done with the opportunity. He's added to his reputation as role player who comes up big in the postseason, a la Brian Doyle or Mark Lemke.

And who can forget deciding to go with lefty Erubiel Durazo to pinch-hit against southpaw Tom Glavine? Durazo homered, adding another tale to the "Brenly is a genius" legend.

"Player switching, that's it," Brenly said. "You accepted them up there and you hope for the best. You try to put them in a situation where they have got the best chance to go out there and get something done and then, it's up to them to go out and get it done. "

The ultimate test may come in Game 3 on Tuesday in New York. Brenly decided to give the ball to lefty Brian Anderson, who hasn't started a game in quite some time. Will the trend continue? Will Brenly maintain his streak, continue creating his own luck? And will it mean the further demise of Torre's golden touch? There could be a reversal of fortune, but for right now, it's as much Brenly 2, Torre 0 as it is Arizona 2, New York 0.

"It's nothing I am doing," Brenly said. "It's the way they are going about their business and the way they are taking over situations when I call upon them."

OK, Bob, don't take any credit. Joe never did, either. Simply keep pushing all those right buttons, and we'll do it for you.

Jonathan Mayo is a columnist for The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.