By now you've probably caught some wind of Tim McCarver's comments about Joe Torre during Saturday's Yankees-Rays game. McCarver has made it clear for years that he's not afraid to sound like a total buffoon when a microphone is near his face, but he really stepped things up a notch on Saturday. For those of you who might not have caught his comments yet, here they are:
"You remember some of those despotic leaders in World War II, primarily in Russia and Germany, where they used to take those pictures that they had ... taken of former generals who were no longer alive, they had shot 'em. They would airbrush the pictures, and airbrushed the generals out of the pictures. In a sense, that's what the Yankees have done with Joe Torre. They have airbrushed his legacy. I mean, there's no sign of Joe Torre at the stadium. And, that's ridiculous. I don't understand it."
Yes, friends, Tim McCarver actually compared the way a professional baseball team treated a former manager with the way the Nazis and Stalin treated people. Tune in next week when he draws a comparison between the way Charlie Manuel manages his bullpen and the way Pol Pot ran Cambodia!
Anyway, McCarver was rightly and roundly criticized for his massive lack of perspective and apologized on Monday. He said it was "inappropriate" to compare the Yankees to the Third Reich but still tried to defend the point he was trying to make.
"In my opinion, the underlying point here remains true: Yankees management has erased Joe Torre from their history. I don’t think the Yankees have embraced the image of Joe Torre."
Funny that someone who has such a problem with the Soviet style would use a phrase like "embrace the image" to make his case. The cult of personality is strong in McCarver.
At any rate, he's dead wrong about the whole Torre issue. There are pictures of Torre among the many, many pictures of other Yankees around the new Stadum and he was featured during the video tribute to George Steinbrenner this weekend. Nobody has been given number six since Torre left in 2007 and it's hard to believe that anyone will get it before the Yankees hold a formal ceremony to retire the number.
Do they hold nightly tributes to the man's legacy or his role in the four titles? No, but you hear a lot more about Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio than you do about Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy too. That's just the way things go, but McCarver isn't friends with Huggins or McCarthy so he could care less about them.
Anyone with half a brain knows why the Yankees haven't formalized the retired number or held a Joe Torre Day just yet. One reason is the book that he wrote, a book that was embarrassing to members of the Yankee hierarchy and a pretty clear sign that bad feelings can be a two-way street when you end a long relationship. Nothing was done that can't be glossed over but these things take some time.
Torre is also still managing in the big leagues, a point McCarver would probably concede makes it hard to honor him even if he wasn't managing a team in Los Angeles with a fairly long history as a Yankee rival. Something worth remembering the next time McCarver talks about the great Bob Gibson and how baseball was better in the good old days when guys weren't friendly with people on other teams.
Casey Stengel didn't get his number retired until after he was finished with the Mets and it is hard to accept any argument that posits Torre as more deserving of this kind of celebration than Stengel. It's hard to use those kinds of historical precedents when they don't help your friend, though. Far better to compare people who own a baseball team with those who murdered millions.
It hasn't even been three full years since Torre left New York which makes any conversation on this front premature. If 2015 rolls around without anything changing then we'll have a real issue that needs some attention.