Last week Joe Torre stepped down as manager of the Yankees after 12 seasons. Taking a look back, it was a remarkable run: 12 seasons, 12 playoff appearances. 6 AL pennants and 4 World Series titles. He was as big a reason for their sustained success than anyone. He became a legend. Almost as soon as Torre stepped down Joe Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Tony Pena threw their hats into the ring, hoping to take over the reins. Each claims to be uniquely qualified and outstandingly confident. Yet the question begs, should any of these candidates really want to be manager of the Yankees?
The Yankees may be one of the most famous sports franchises in the world, and managing the team might be a lifelong dream for the candidates involved. Yet with the situation at hand, anyone who takes over as manager is destined to fail.
Looking back historically, the next Yankees manager has a tough road ahead of him. Does the name Gene Bartow ring a bell? He succeeded John Wooden as coach of the UCLA Bruins in 1975. And that’s what he’s known for. It doesn’t matter that he went 52-9 with a Final Four appearance during his two years at UCLA. Even that type of winning couldn’t get him out Wooden’s shadow. The stories of George Seifert, Bill Guthridge, Phil Bengston, and Tim Floyd all add to the difficulties of following a legend.
Successfully following Joe Torre is almost an impossibility. Torre’s mandate as manager was to win a World Series every year, and that won’t change with the new guy. Moreover, think the media was bad with Torre? The scrutiny the new manager is sure to face will be enormous. Every decision he makes will be seconded with everyone wondering what Torre would have done.
As for the actual results on the field, the next guy is damned whatever the outcome. If he loses, he’ll be reminded that Torre was a winner. And if he wins, he’ll be reminded that Torre won more.
The legend of Joe Torre will long reside over the Yankees, as it should. Becoming manager of the Yankees may be an honor, but as a necessity it will also involve dealing with such a predecessor. So if Girardi, Mattingly, and Pena are smart, they won’t become the next manager of the Yankees. Instead they’ll be like Trey Hillman, and go build a legend of their own somewhere else.