By Jason Keidel
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He trotted out to the mound, planted himself a few feet in front of the rubber and hurled a ball a little wide of home plate. But it was right on the money by any other metric.
Joe Torre’s presence at Yankee Stadium on Monday was both comforting and haunting. A corporeal bridge to the good times and great teams, Torre also reminds us how far the Yankees have fallen.
Even when he stopped winning World Series, Torre still had his mail forwarded to October, where you at least had a puncher’s chance.
You know where this is going. And you know it’s bad when your highlight came before the game.
Sure, it’s one game of 162, a fraction of a fraction, but Monday’s 6-1 loss to Toronto italicized all the concerns we had about the Yankees — pitching, offense, and defense.
The Yanks got three hits in 29 at-bats. They got one homer from Brett Gardner, who is hardly known for his electric lumber. Third base, where Alex Rodriguez once roamed with great alacrity, was erratic.
People will point to the tender applause A-Rod received as some cosmic sign of inclusion and prosperity. Wait until his first road game or next 0-for-5 with two double plays.
No ovation masks the fact that the Yankees owe countless millions to a glorified, humiliated DH who is only here because the Yanks don’t have the cultural capital to cut him loose and eat his contract.
Their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, pitched like his elbow already snapped. The Blue Jays had a conga line of runners dashing around the diamond. The Yankees’ bullpen was stirring by the third inning — not exactly a game that fit the oddly blue skies and warm air.
When Torre’s teams faltered in April, we were reassured by his bio, by the endless, autumn runs.
But with this, now their third year without making the playoffs — you can book it now, they won’t see the postseason — the glory, Torre years are shrinking in the rearview mirror.
And unlike the entire time it was impossible to forget about Torre, who made his way upstairs and spent an inning with the broadcast team. Seeing the old skipper with David Cone only made the memories more poignant and painful.
I know, the Yankees can still win 95 games and run away with the AL East. But does anyone really foresee anything other than a dark fall in the Bronx?
Meanwhile, the Mets won in Washington. Some of us said this was a year of transition, a torch being handed from the Bronx to Queens. The Nationals are still better than the Mets, but the Amazins are now more interesting than the Yanks, which is their first such designation in more than two decades.
It’s not necessarily fair to compare the Torre teams to this woeful facsimile. These Yankees have half the talent and temerity of the ’90s dynasty. And Joe Girardi can only play the deck he has.
It’s just so jarring to see how many faces aren’t there anymore, the monoliths who made the Yankees, well, the Yankees. No George Steinbrenner. No Jeter. No Mo. No Bernie. No Andy. No Zimmer. No Torre.
No team trades on its history like the Yankees. But it cuts both ways. It’s a funnel to their, and our, better days. And it highlights how different these days have become.
At least Torre looked fit, and full of energy. That’s a lot more than we can say about his old ball club.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel