With "The Yankee Years'" due for release on Tuesday, I'm still wondering what the Great Joe Torre Book Controversy is all about. From the excerpts I've seen, "The Yankee Years" appears to be the tamest "tell-all exposé since Chico Esquela's "Bad Stuff About the Mets," in which he revealed that Tom Seaver "always take up two parking spaces," Ed Kranepool "borrow Chico's soap and never give it back," and Yogi Berra is a "berry, berry bad card player."
According to the book, some Yankees players called Alex Rodriguez "A-Fraud" behind his back, and Rodriguez was obsessed with Derek Jeter.
"In his own way, Rodriguez was fascinated with Jeter, as if trying to figure out what it was about Jeter that could have bought him so much goodwill. The inside joke in the clubhouse was that Rodriguez' pre-occupation with Jeter recalled the 1992 film 'Single White Female,' in which a woman becomes obsessed with her roommate to the point of dressing like her."
This is a rip job? Are you kidding? Calling Dave Winfield "Mr. May" is a rip job. Calling Hideki Irabu a "fat, pussy toad" is a rip job. Saying Alex Rodriguez is obsessed with Derek Jeter is merely stating the obvious.
The worst part of the controversy regarding "The Yankee Years" is it distracts from the other five volumes in the anticipated set covering Torre's entire career as a player and manager. If you were shocked and appalled by the minor criticisms Torre revealed in "The Yankee Years," check out these excerpts from the other five books:
The Milwaukee Braves Years
"Torre made the Braves out of spring training in 1961 and signed a contract for the major league minimum of $7,000. He needed a car in Milwaukee, and veterans Warren Spahn (bad breath), Del Crandall (bad tipper) and Joe Adcock (disgusting habit of not flushing the toilet) advised him to go to the Selig Ford distributorship, where Bud Selig would take care of him. Indeed, Selig (nice shoes but cheap haircut) set Torre up with a magnificent ebony 1961 Ford Galaxie Starliner, complete with a Thunderbird 292 V-8, three-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission, power steering, and electric windshield washers for just $2,599, nearly $200 off the sticker price. The problem was, when Selig delivered the sedan, it came with an additional $50 charge for TruCoat sealant. Torre complained that he didn't want the TruCoat and had explicitly asked that they leave it off, but Selig countered that if Torre didn't get it, he would have oxidation problems due to the harsh Wisconsin winters 'and that will cost you a heck of a lot more than $50.' When Torre refused to pay, Selig said he would ask his boss what could be done and left the sales floor for five minutes. When he returned, he said that due to the special circumstances of Torre being a Brave and all, he could knock $15 off the cost of the TruCoat. Frustrated and anxious to get to the stadium for batting practice, Torre relented and paid the additional $35 but vowed he would never buy another car from Selig.
"Torre drove the car for only two weeks, however, before Eddie Mathews (wore white after Labor Day) backed into it in the players' parking lot."
The New York Mets Years
"Torre received his first managerial opportunity on May 31, 1977, when he replaced Joe Frazier (who still owes Torre $10 from cab fare to Candlestick Park one day) as the Mets' player-manager after the team had lost twice as many games as it had won. Naturally, Torre's managerial genius sparked an instant turnaround -- the Mets won his first game 6-2 -- and he soon retired as a player to turn his full attention to managing. The sad fact, however, was the Mets' roster was saddled with has-beens and never-weres such as Ed Kranepool (would say he wanted to go out for dinner on the road, but then never call), Bruce Boisclair (who favored loud slacks), Nino Espinoza (who had an annoying laugh) and Dave Kingman (who hated children and dogs). Worse, against Torre's better judgment, Mets general manager Joe McDonald (who was a close talker) traded their one star, Tom Seaver (who thought his %^&* didn't stink), over a salary dispute. Even with Torre's inspired guidance, the Mets finished in last place that season, as they did the next two seasons, and never finished higher than fifth in a full season before Torre was fired in 1981 by general manager Frank Cashen (who would fart, then blame it on Mookie Wilson)."
The Atlanta Braves Years
"Back in 1982, the first year Torre had a big league roster talented enough to respond to his managerial genius, he opened the season with a record 13-game winning streak and guided the team to a nine-game lead in late July. With attendance rising, owner Ted Turner (who conveniently always left the bar just before it was his turn to buy a round) decided to increase capacity by removing Chief Nok-a-Homa's teepee. The team promptly lost 19 of its next 21 games and dropped four games behind the Dodgers before Turner (who loved to play that old 'Pull my finger' gag) reinstalled the teepee and Torre led them on a division-clinching stretch run. It was only many years later that a wiser, cancer-hardened, more introspective and worldly Torre asked himself, 'Why the @#%& would Ted Turner or Major League Baseball ever allow such an insulting, officially sanctioned thing as an actor posing as a Native American named Chief Nok-a-Homa and dancing around a teepee? And to still endorse the tomahawk chop? And yet they had the gall to suspend John Rocker? Good lord, talk about hypocrisy and double standards.'
"At the time though, Torre merely thought, 'I wish Bob Horner would mix in a salad or two.'"
The St. Louis Cardinals Years
"In his own way, Ozzie Canseco (who never rewound his videotapes all the way when he returned them) was fascinated with Jose Canseco. Ozzie imitated Joe to the point that during the 1992 season it became difficult to tell the identical twin brothers apart -- except of course when Ozzie tried to hit a curveball or slider or fastball or changeup or, for that matter, hit anything, even in batting practice, or run the bases (the brothers were remarkably similar when it came to dropping flyballs). The inside joke in the clubhouse was that Ozzie's preoccupation with Jose recalled the 1988 film 'Twins' in which Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito were supposedly twin brothers separated at birth."
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Wonder what the Dodgers will think about Torre's Yankees book?
The Los Angeles Dodger Year
"After toiling thanklessly for a dozen years in New York, Torre went to work everyday in Los Angeles counting his blessings that he was finally with an organization that had the underrated Casey Blake (a real blue-collar guy) and Blake Dewitt (class, pure class) as his third basemen instead of a pampered metrosexual obsessed with Derek Jeter. And that the hard-working Ned Colletti (what a standup guy!) was his boss instead of a general manager who would leave you dangling in the wind after 12 loyal years of work. And that the driven Frank McCourt (who I would want my daughter and my wife to marry) was the team's owner instead of an ego-driven blowhard who had everything handed to him in life and didn't appreciate all Joe did for the Yankees both on the field and off. Torre felt especially grateful to have a multi-year contract that recognized and rewarded his decades of managerial genius, and acknowledged that the only incentive he needed was winning (and $14 million in guaranteed salary).
"Then again, he did have to deal with Manny Ramirez (who always plays that damn rap music too loud)."
TELL YOUR STATISTICS TO SHUT UP
• Should baseball take a page from the NFL playbook and make the World Series more like the Super Bowl? Only to a certain extent. It makes sense to enhance the Series by bringing Hall of Famers in for big autograph sessions before each game, as well as an impressive Hall of Fame exhibit for the fans to tour, and a big name concert before each game. But that's about as far as baseball should go. It's certainly ludicrous to suggest that fans would be better served by moving the Series to a neutral, warm-weather site. That might significantly reduce the chances of a repeat of the Game 5 rain delay last October, but at what cost? Who wants the game's premier event at a neutral site where most fans won't have any chance to see it? And who wants the Series turned into the mega-spectacle that is the Super Bowl anyway? I've covered Super Bowls and I've lived in a city hosting a Super Bowl, and frankly, the Super Bowl isn't that wonderful an event to host, folks. The only people who would want to host a Super Bowl are hotel owners, off-duty cops, city council members, strippers and morons. Forget about all those wild parties you hear about -- you'll never get invited inside the velvet rope. What you will get is bad traffic, full restaurants and a downtown clogged by the sort of uber-rich executives who feel entitled to a $20 million bonus check even after their company lays off 7,000 employees. Who needs that? The most important improvement baseball can make to the World Series is to make it competitive again. Whether it's the expanded and lengthened postseason schedule or what, the past five World Series have ended in five or fewer games, killing ratings and any chance for excitement. There is nothing wrong with the World Series that a seven-game Series wouldn't solve.
• Lit Fans Bid Updike Adieu: Literature lost one of its greats last week when John Updike died at age 78. Aside from a Ruthian legacy of 60 books and two Pulitzers, Updike was the author of one of baseball's finest essays. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and read "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu", which originally ran in The New Yorker. Beginning with the famous lead, "Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark," Updike captured Ted Williams' final game from the vantage of the stands and put the writers in the press box to shame (then again, he did have a longer deadline -- the story didn't run until three weeks after the game). Williams, of course, homered in his final at-bat, and Updike describes his farewell beautifully. "He didn't tip his cap," Updike wrote. "Though we thumped, wept, and chanted 'We want Ted' for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters."
• Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio's whining about losing CC Sabathia to free agency got the topic of a salary cap back into the headlines again, but Baseball Prospectus has a superb take on why a cap wouldn't necessarily help small-market teams. For those of you without a BP subscription, Shawn Hoffman bases this opinion on the realistic premise that any salary cap would also come with a salary floor. That's mostly because, let's face it, the union would never agree to a cap without a floor, and partly because fans would desire a floor as well (few things frustrate fans more than their team refusing to spend money that it has). But a floor would be tied to overall revenue in baseball, and thus would require many of the teams demanding a cap to actually increase their spending, sometimes substantially. In some cases, that would be a good thing. In others, it would require a team in a rebuilding phase to sign veterans it doesn't want simply to reach the floor. Yes, there would be some benefits -- the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets would be limited in what they could spend. But essentially a cap (and floor) could hurt poorer teams by increasing their salary burden while taking away salary flexibility. And frankly, if Attanasio wants to improve Milwaukee's financial competitiveness, his team should stop wasting millions of dollars each year by over-paying for aging closers who have lost whatever effectiveness they once had.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.