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by Harold Friend
It was the greatest collapse in baseball history from the Yankees' perspective, but it was the greatest comeback ever from the Red Sox' perspective. The Yankees won the first three games of the second round of the 2004 playoffs, yet the Red Sox won the World Series. Yankees' manager Joe Torre told the media that if he could have a second chance he would not manage any differently. Teflon Joe would not change one lineup decision, pitching move, or strategic approach.
No Sleep After Game 7
Joe Torre admitted that he didn't sleep the night after the Red Sox won the seventh game, but it wasn't because replaying the series kept his mind too occupied to sleep. Torre didn't leave Yankee Stadium long after the game had ended, went home, ate some food, and finally went fell asleep about 4 a.m.
Torre Would Not Do Things Differently
"We had a one-run lead going into the ninth inning of game 4. It's still a situation I'm satisfied with, especially with our bullpen. We had a two-run lead going into the eighth inning of Game 5. That's our strength and we weren't able to close it. I don't think there's anything I'd go back and redo."
When to Bring in Mariano Rivera
It's easy to second guess, but managers are forced to first guess. When a team wins, questionable decisions are lost in the victory, but not when a team loses. Torre was first criticized for bringing in Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning of Game 4 with the Yankees ahead, 4-3. Torre believes in trying to finish off a team when it's down, an approach that was not questioned when it worked, but this time, it failed. Mariano pitched a scoreless eighth, but the Red Sox tied the game in the ninth and won in 12 innings.
Torre Claimed Rivera Helped Dave Roberts
When Rivera entered the game, Dave Roberts, who went in to run for Millar, was the runner on first. In his infamous book recently released, Torre claimed that Rivera should NOT have thrown over to first base because, according to Joe, Roberts was stiff and chilled from sitting on the bench. Torre indicated that by throwing to first three times, Rivera helped Roberts warm up and loosen legs as he continued to get back to first base. Roberts stole second and scored the tying run on a Bill Mueller single.
In Game 5, Torre was criticized for NOT bringing in Rivera earlier. The Yankees were leading in the eighth inning, 4-2, when Tom Gordon entered the game. David Ortiz hit a home run, Kevin Millar walked, and Trot Nixon singled. Torre brought in Mariano, who allowed only a sacrifice fly, but it tied the game, and the Red Sox won it in the 14th inning.
A Forced Decision
Torre was asked why he hadn't brought in Mariano after the Ortiz home run, or even after Gordon walked Millar. Joe said that he hoped to use Mariano for only part of the eighth inning because there might be a sixth or seventh game. "Then when it got to first and third, I thought this is the only chance I have of trying to save this run because he's capable of doing it. I sort of forced myself to do it."
Give the Red Sox Credit
When two evenly matched teams played, the loser always believes that doing something differently could have prevented the loss. The truth is that the Red Sox beat the Yankees. They were the better team and claiming the Yankees choked does a disservice to the Red Sox, a fact that was proved when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the World Series.
Not Torre's Bleakest Experience
One cannot overestimate the magnitude of the Red Sox comeback, but Joe Torre possesses a perspective that most fans and those in the media lack. Torre said that suffering the Red Sox' four game sweep after the Yankees won the first three games was not his bleakest experience. Losing Game 7 to Arizona in 2001 was worse.
Joe Torre was right. Losing to the Red Sox in 2004, no matter how the games unfolded, prevented the Yankees from getting the CHANCE to win the World Series. Losing Game 7 to Arizona in 2001 prevented them from WINNING the World Series.
JACK CURRY. (2004, October 22). In Hindsight, Torre Has No Regrets. New York Times (1857-Current file),D5. Retrieved May 18, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 1058723002).
Madden, Bill. "Can You Trust Joe? Torre's Tell-All Raises Doubts About All He Holds Sacred." New York Daily News. 21 February 2009.