- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2009

The revelation in a forthcoming book by Joe Torre that teammates of Alex Rodriguez often called him A-Fraud is beneath the dignified and classy manner of the former manager of the Yankees.

That nugget of dirt is possibly the handiwork of Tom Verducci, who collaborated on the book with Torre and is said to have interviewed dozens of players and team personnel to flesh out the facts from the fiction.

But it is Torre’s name that will boost the book’s sales after its release next week, and so it is Torre who bears responsibility for its content.

A-Rod undoubtedly has an incriminating postseason record, but he still won lots of regular-season games for Torre and the Yankees and had nothing to do with the acrimonious events at the end.

The book, “The Yankee Years,” also claims A-Rod was obsessed with shortstop Derek Jeter, his so-called rival.

You could say it takes an obsessive type to know one; Torre’s decision to publish a book at this time is at odds with his fair-minded persona.

He could have waited until he was out of baseball or only marginally connected to it before providing the gossip that gives a book its selling element. He certainly did not do it for the money. You would like to think that Torre’s financial future was resolved long ago and that he is merely in the legacy-enhancing phase of his career.

As it is, Torre already has had the last laugh, judging from last season. Torre managed the Dodgers into the playoffs, while the Yankees missed the postseason without his steadying influence.

That development was not lost on New York’s baseball media, and it had to sting the Steinbrenners, brothers Hank and Hal, who erred in not being more gracious in their last round of negotiations with Torre, all things considered, notably the four World Series championships, the 12 consecutive playoff appearances and 10 division titles.

Torre said he felt insulted by the one-year contract offer, which came with a pay cut. And he said he felt especially piqued that general manager Brian Cashman, whom he believed was his supporter, did not back him during discussions with the Steinbrenners.

All that is fair enough. And yet, even if most of the book is so much mush, Torre has not done himself any good with these well-placed shots.

He came to define the Yankees in a positive way that the volatile Billy Martin never could. He stayed above the fray in good times and bad. That was one of his qualities - the seeming ability to be impervious to the bombast of the controversy-seeking tabloids and owner George Steinbrenner and sons.

Torre could absorb the blows from all sides and, in effect, act as a buffer for the players. He was steadfast, the anti-Martin, able to brush off the petty asides and start anew each day. Yet this book - at least the initial details of it - suggests that Torre is trying to settle old scores.

If so, his is a largely unnecessary exercise. The New York media gave him a hero’s send-off after the 2007 season. No recrimination was needed. His side of the story was aptly told at the time of his departure. He was the good Joe, the decent Joe, the humble Joe who succumbed to the villainous Steinbrenners.

Now Torre is picking at old wounds, contradicting who he was. He will be explaining anew next month, when he embarks on his book tour, which includes a stop on the “Late Show With David Letterman.”

Regardless of the context, why allow the A-Fraud tidbit to see print? Is that fair to a player who helped you claim a few of those more than 1,100 victories with the Yankees?

Wasn’t it Torre who voiced the notion that success in the regular season should have been part of the evaluation process in his farewell press conference in October 2007?

It seems Torre allowed others to judge A-Rod in the way that the Steinbrenners judged him at the end.

After all, Torre came to be in the throes of his own postseason drought.

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