Sometimes, even Joe Torre can make the wrong moves
Updated: Sunday October 28, 2001 2:26 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
PHOENIX -- During the course of the past, say, six years or so, there's not much the New York Yankees have done wrong.
Still, every once in a while something goes awry. Every so often a game comes along -- even for the Yankees -- in which nothing seems to go even remotely right.
That has to be the only explanation for Saturday night's debacle in Game 1 of the World Series.
"When the game's over with, everybody gets to be a smart guy," said the Yankees' David Justice. "All I know is I didn't do a good job tonight."
No, given a chance to play right field by manager Joe Torre -- who benched ailing regular Paul O'Neill -- Justice was 0-for-3 and dropped a fly ball in the outfield. Worse than that, maybe, is he left his manager open to a lot of second-guessing.
Maybe Torre should have played O'Neill, who hit .417 in the American League Championship Series, instead?
Maybe O'Neill could have managed a hit?
Maybe O'Neill, admittedly affected by a recent broken foot, would have caught that long fly ball that Arizona's Steve Finley hit in a four-run third inning that effectively buried the Yanks?
"Justice has been a good outfielder for us," Torre said after the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees 9-1. "He's caught up to a lot of balls. And he got to that ball. O'Neill may have more experience catching it because [Justice] has DH'd a lot. But I think at this point, physically, he may be able to get to more balls than O'Neill because he's got two sound legs."
Justice, in fact, did catch up to the ball. He looked ready to make an easy catch, almost a semi-basket catch, on the warning track. Then it deflected off his glove for the two-base error.
"I knew I was close to the wall, and I just took my eye off it," he said. "I've made catches like that so many times. I just missed it."
The decision to start Justice was made, in large part, because of his success against Arizona starter Curt Schilling. Justice had hit .357 against Schilling.
On Saturday, Justice struck out all three times he came to bat.
The decision to start Justice isn't the only one that went wrong for Torre. Twice he called for intentional walks in the game. Twice, he paid for it.
In the third inning, after he called for a walk of Mark Grace with two outs, catcher Damian Miller doubled down the line to drive in a run. In the fourth, he called for a walk to Reggie Sanders. Finley followed with a run-scoring single.
"I've been very fortunate that a lot of the stuff I've done has worked," Torre said. "But I understand there's the other side of this thing. You do what you think is right at the time and live with it."
Torre also may be criticized for the decision to start Mike Mussina in Game 1. Lefty Andy Pettitte had just won the MVP of the ALCS with two wins in his two starts. Both Mussina and Pettitte -- not to mention Roger Clemens and Orlando Hernandez -- had plenty of rest after the Yanks clinched the AL pennant Monday.
Mussina, who had a seven-game winning streak stopped Saturday in his first Series appearance, looked way out of whack against Arizona. He threw 63 pitches in his three innings, gave up five runs (three earned) and took the loss.
"Not throwing anything where I wanted to is obviously what happened," he said. "I just had no control of anything. I was getting too much of the plate all game."
Torre said after the game he would have no trouble using Mussina again in this Series. Pettitte is scheduled to start Sunday, with Clemens and Hernandez next in line.
"I have a great deal of trust in all of them," Torre said.
Sometimes, no matter what a manager does, things just don't work out. Even for the Yankees.
"A lot of my moves worked," Torre joked, "but for the other team."