Answer: When the team hasn’t won a title in the past seven years. The Yankees are officially done, having been put out to pasture by a more talented, balanced, and overall superior Cleveland Indians club. Cleveland dominated the 4-game series in virtually every department–they hit nearly 100 points higher, their bullpen was much better, and the advantage in run-scoring hits with 2 outs was overwhelming (14 – 2) and a sure sign of the Tribe’s consistently clutch hitting (and NY’s lack of it). New York’s heart of the lineup (2 -6, Jeter through Matsui) on the other hand, couldn’t even hit .200. Meanwhile, the Yankees #1 starter, Chien-Ming Wang, was atrocious, lasting only an inning and a third in a must-win Game 4 contest after getting knocked around in the opener and taking the loss in Game 1. The 2006 Cy Young runner-up’s ERA for this year’s playoffs: 19.06! Ouch.
So George’s team has now lost 13 of their last 17 playoff games. Their starting pitchers are 2 – 8 in those games with an ERA close to 7.00, and have lasted an average of less than five innings. You’re not gonna win shit that way–no wonder they’ve had early exits to the Angels, Tigers, and now Indians in the last three years since they had that legendary collapse against the Red Sox in 2004. But does Joe Torre deserve to be fired? I don’t think so.
Torre has had an amazing 12-year run as Manager of the Yankees. Every season he’s taken them to the playoffs, six times to the World Series while winning four championships. Twice he’s been voted Manager of the Year, and it’s possible he’ll even get it again this year after guiding the team to the Wild Card (and almost catching Boston) after an horrendous 21 – 29 start to the season. He cannot make the pitches and he cannot get the clutch hits any more. What he can do is use his wisdom and experience and calm to blend their promising young players with the veterans that deserve to stick around. A-Rod, Giambi, Clemens, Mussina, maybe even Jorge and Mariano may be retired or elsewhere next year–Joe should be in the dugout guiding the Yankees or he should step away and not give Steinbrenner the satisfaction of making good on his threat. And if that happens, will we be looking at Tony LaRussa in pinstripes?