Today would be a good time to again appreciate what Mike Mussina did last year. He decided to retire, had one of the best seasons of his career and followed through with his plans in an understated, dignified manner.
I write that because this latest news involving Joe Torre is another reminder of how rarely it ends well in sports these days.
Bernie Williams has held a grudge against the Yankees for the longest time because they refused to give him a contract he clearly didn’t deserve. Andy Pettitte went back on his words and is fighting for every dime. We have Roger Clemens, once the greatest pitcher of his generation, living in embarrassed seclusion in Texas hoping federal marshals aren’t knocking on his door.
Doesn’t make Old Timers’ Day in 2015 sound especially fun, does it?
Now we have Torre, the man who restored the luster to a faded powerhouse, prostituting himself for the sake of a book and another few million.
When the smoke clears, the supposedly gory details of The Yankee Years will prove not so gory. Book publicists are good at what they do and some reporters are only too glad to take a baited hook. It beats actually doing any work.
But Torre clearly traded some secrets for money. Nobody wanted to read another warm tale about his brother in surgery or Don Zimmer cracking jokes, so Joe and Tom Verducci threw a few players and team executives into the fire. Verducci is an elegant writer and a terrific reporter. The book will be compelling and 100 percent true.
But that’s not really the point. We wanted Bernie Williams Day at the old Stadium. You’d like to see that old warhorse Clemens in Tampa teaching Phil Hughes how to bust somebody inside. And many Yankee fans would weep at the sight of Torre getting his number retired, fat tears running down his face again as Mo, Jorgie, Tino, Paulie and the Captain gather around.
Good luck with seeing that any time soon. They Yankees might as well give No. 6 to Ramiro Pena in spring training. Joe took his long-simmering feuds public, giving his critics ammunition that will last for years. How often do you think Randy Levine has said, “I told you so” today?
This stuff will not impact the 2009 Yankees for a second. If they do care — and most will not — they’ll pretend they don’t. Alex Rodriguez has been called every name in the book in this town. That some teammates also think he’s a fraud will make him laugh. He’ll be collecting $20 million in 2017 while half of those dopes will be begging to do card shows at some Hilton in Jersey.
It just never ends well. Maybe it’s the money that saps them of their dignity. For others it’s the attention or the lifestyle. But our heroes so rarely walk away at the right time. They kick and scream and claw.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking it will change. It could get very ugly when Derek Jeter’s contract expires. Or if Mo decides he want to keep pitching in 2011. You want to be the guy who tells Posada he can’t catch anymore? Wear his mask when you break that news.
Torre is not the best person I ever covered. I had more pleasant one-on-one conversations with Joe Girardi in a month last season than I had with Torre in a year But Torre understood how his job related to my job better than anybody else. Readers benefited from that. Once again, he is showing how well he knows the media landscape. Torre picked a great writer and served up the details that will sell books by the truckload. The convertible he drives around in those commercials couldn’t stay on the high road.
But we never should have expected it would. Mike Mussina is the exception, not the rule. If there is money to be made, it’s their right to try and make it.
Root for the laundry, that’s the best you can do. Just root for the laundry.
Speaking of money, it looks like Pettitte has agreed to take some from the Yankees. A one-year contract is in the works. More on this as it develops.