Why Are They Famous?
Joe Torre: Character vs. Character
By Jabulani Leffall
Oct 12, 2007

A character (read George Steinbrenner) is someone or something thought up by an imaginative or not so imaginative creator for use in an omniscient or omnipotent manner.

In this way, a person can re-invent his or herself as a character, casting themselves in their own teleplay, pretending to be something they’re not or, as most people do (read George Steinbrenner) making themselves better than they truly are by immersing their whole being into a template they conjured and filling in the blanks as they go along. 

This is a blolumn about a terrible injustice that could take place as soon as today, or next week or sometime before the New York Yankees Baseball Club hits Tampa, Fla. for spring training – the dismissal of Joe Torre as manager. As usual, bear with your boy. When sports topics are on the agenda, comparing and contrasting is compulsory, at least for me.

Now, a person of character (read Joe Torre), is one on whom people base their thoughts, feelings and assumptions in forging yarns both real and imagined. In the words of one Quentin Tarantino, who wrote a character called Winston Wolf, played by Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction, “Just because you are a character doesn't mean you have character.”

Thus, what we have is a stark juxtaposition of moral standing between the hunter (read unfortunately George Steinbrenner) and the hunted, Joe Torre. An owner can do what he wants, he's the owner. But this is fair-weather management indeed, even for Steinbrenner. 

See, folks out there in cyberland, before you can even discuss, analyze or dissect the possibility of the possibly imminent firing of Joe Torre you need to really ingest the deep distinctions between these two men.

You have to comprehend how a man who in 12 seasons went to the World Series six times, won that series four times, won the division 10 times, beat cancer, domestic violence, family tragedies, divorces, can be cast aside at a whim or even threatened like a two dollar……calm down J.

Okay, ponder how a man, who as a player showed that a little guy with no athletic ability can succeed by simply working his ass off, can be invalidated after emerging as a champ in a third of his playoff appearances with the Bombers from the Boogie Down.

Lastly, convince me of the merits of downgrading a man who failed miserably in another league with other teams but triumphed in a second act that few of us get to be mentioned in the same breath as immortal leaders such as Casey Stengel, Vincent Lombardi, General George S. Patton and, uh, Jesus of Nazareth. No? Not Jesus? Okay, well definitely Stengel, Lombardi and the man who pissed in the river on the Rhineland. How can this type of man be fired unceremoniously or threatened with expulsion just to placate another’s ego?

I’m not done dagnabbit! But before I continue, I actually dig George Steinbrenner. How can you not admire a person who bought something for $10 million and turned it into more than $1 billion? It’s just that firing Joe Torre is so “in-character,” for Steinbrenner and that shows poor character.

While we await Joe Torre’s fate – well some of us, as those Red Sox fans are too busy still watching baseball – I want to end by telling you that this isn’t just about the musings of a rabid Yankee fan, whose family is from the Bronx and who also happens to be a loudmouth cynic of a jaded cultural critic with a soapbox to stand on.  

This Torre v. Steinbrenner issue is about power, this is about our microwave society, about all of our idiot bosses who under appreciate those of us who grind, praise themselves for bringing us on when we shine and unceremoniously dismiss us when we don’t make them look good. This is about how one can kick ass and it still not be good enough, about how everyone loves you when they’re getting something from you but few love you when you’ve given everything you’ve got. Read that sentence again and think about it.

No, I’m not done by a long shot. So let’s look further at the dissimilarity of the two. One is a raving, eccentric, cantankerous but shrewd, rich and finicky stooge voiced by Larry David in such Seinfeld episodes as The Calzone, The Hot Tub, and The Caddy. This person is also hilariously phoned-in by Oliver Platt in ESPN’s The Bronx is Burning as if the mini-series was one long Saturday Night Live skit.

The other is a man of admirable sternness when on the field and a rare emotional dignity off the field.  Joe Torre exudes cool and never appears to lose his composure, a heart-under-the-sleeve man’s man who tears up in the locker room not like a self-righteous d-bag or a cry baby but like someone who, as he has said, doesn’t spike the ball, doesn’t do ballet dances or stand like a statue when he hits a home run or vanquishes an opponent.

This year Joe Torre got his 2000th win and became the first major league manager to win 2000 games, having had 2000 hits as a player.

What’s Georgie Porgie’s milestone(s)? Changing the manager of the New York Yankees 20 times in his first 23 seasons as owner (including sacking that poor bastard Billy Martin five times). He’s also run through 11 general managers in the last thirty years. Guard your grill Brian Cashman (current Senior Vice-President and General Manager) he may be looking at you soon.

Steiny, take it from me. Billy Martin, Dallas Green, Buck Showalter and Lou Piniella are one thing. This is Joe *&&&$! Torre! It’s classless to fire him and even more classless to make him wait for your decision just months away from winter meetings and curveball’s throw away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Florida, which will happen before ESPN’s Stuart Scott, can think of more ways to look like somebody’s daddy trying so desperately to be hip.

You want to shake things up homeboy, cut your more than $216 million yearly payroll and get some people who want to play instead of people who want to shoot commercials and smile for Page Six. Assemble a baseball team and not a band of mercenaries in pinstripes. But you won’t do that will you? You’ll do what your character “The Boss,” would do and that, even with your proven acumen and winning track record, shows poor character.



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