Torre hit .363 with
the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971 and .289 the following season, giving him a
deep understanding of the ebb and flow of performance. With veteran players
especially he operates like an old fisherman checking the tide charts,
believing that the worst of times only means the best is to come. Rodriguez
will hit, he thought, and he kept telling his third baseman exactly that.
placidity ended, though, when Giambi asked to talk to Torre in Seattle.
"Skip," Giambi told Torre, "it's time to stop coddling
For all the scorn
heaped upon Giambi for his ties to the BALCO steroid scandal, he is a strong
clubhouse voice because he plays with a passion that stirs teammates and even
opponents. This season, for instance, he reprimanded his former Oakland A's
teammate, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, for occasionally showing up late to
games out of frustration over another losing Baltimore season. "You're
better than that," he told Tejada. So Giambi's gripe about Rodriguez
sounded an alarm with Torre.
said made me realize that I had to go at it a different way," Torre says.
"When the rest of the team starts noticing things, you have to get it
fixed. That's my job. I like to give individuals what I believe is the room
they need, but when I sense that other people are affected, teamwise, I have to
find a solution to it."
confidence in Rodriguez was eroding as they sensed that he did not understand
how much his on-field struggles were hurting the club. Said one Yankees
veteran, "It was always about the numbers in [ Seattle and Texas] for him.
And that doesn't matter here. Winning is all you're judged on here."
Before Giambi went
to Torre, he had scolded Rodriguez after a 13-5 win in Boston on Aug. 19. Irked
that Rodriguez left four runners on base in the first three innings against a
shaky Josh Beckett, Giambi thought A-Rod needed to be challenged. "We're
all rooting for you and we're behind you 100 percent," Giambi recalls
telling Rodriguez, "but you've got to get the big hit."
"What do you
mean?" was Rodriguez's response, according to Giambi. "I've had five
hits in Boston."
"You f--- call
those hits?" Giambi said. "You had two f--- dinkers to rightfield and a
ball that bounced over the third baseman! Look at how many pitches you
"When you hit
three, four or five [in the order], you have to get the big hits, especially if
they're going to walk Bobby [ Abreu] and me. I'll help you out until you get
going. I'll look to drive in runs when they pitch around me, go after that
3-and-1 pitch that might be a ball. But if they're going to walk Bobby and me,
you're going to have to be the guy."
Giambi's pep talk, Rodriguez said he could not remember what was discussed,
though he added, "I'm sure we had a conversation.")