The Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham
You want evidence as to why the New York Yankees should move on from the Joe Torre Era into what I think should be the Joe Girardi Era?
Two words: Dave Leitao.
Leitao is the Joe Girardi of UVa. basketball – a get-in-your-face coach who expects his players to work harder than they’ve ever worked in their lives, and even harder tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.
The third-year coach took over for Pete Gillen, who will serve as our Joe Torre here in the sense that he was known as being a “player’s coach.”
Player’s coaches obviously work – in the case of Torre, for example, we’re talking four world championships; USC football coach Pete Carroll is another highly-successful player’s coach.
The hardliners have their own successes – Bear Bryant at Alabama comes to mind; Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots in the NFL.
The key is knowing when to put a player’s coach in place and when to have a red-ass guy in the big job.
Lou Piniella with the Chicago Cubs is another good example – Lou’s derriere is as red as that spot on Jupiter, and not surprisingly he was able to light a fire under Chicago and get them to baseball’s postseason this year.
I thought the Yanks should have hired Sweet Lou to replace Torre after the 2006 season – the red-ass taking over for the player’s guy, the idea being that a manager like Piniella would shake things up in what has become in my mind an overly comfortable Yankees clubhouse.
Look at what Leitao has been able to do in two years in Charlottesville – taking basically a watered-down roster of players from the Gillen era to an NIT and then an NCAA Tournament in his two years at UVa.
Which is to say, Leitao was able to do a lot more with Gillen’s guys than Gillen himself was able to do.
I look at Joe Girardi and think he could be the spark that the Yankees need to take baseball’s most storied franchise back to the promised land.
And so when I hear that player’s guys like Don Mattingly and Tony LaRussa are in line for a shot at the job if and when Torre is let go, I have to shake my head.
I mean, really, one player’s coach for another one? That’s the way to guarantee a slide into irrelevance right there.