Of course, it was Joe Torre's fault that Javier Vazquez struggled in his first stint with the New York Yankees. Why didn't I think of that?
At least that's the explanation featured in a New York Post story by Mike Puma*. As a journalist, it bothers me when a reporter allows himself to be used as a vehicle for spinning someone's version of the truth.
Never mind the fact that Vazquez had the best year of his career in the weaker National League. Never mind the fact that he's been traded five times. Never mind that his own manager questioned his abilities as a big-game pitcher. Yes, it was Ozzie Guillen who is known to be a talker, but that doesn't mean he's wrong.
In Torre's book the Yankee Years, which he co-wrote with Tom Verducci, he had interesting things to say about Vazquez. On page 306, Torre talks about choosing Vazquez for the All-Star team after he went 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA in the first half in 2004 and his initial reluctance to trade Vazquez for Randy Johnson when Brian Cashman first mentioned the possibility. Torre was mystified why he fell apart in the second half, going 4-5 with a 6.92 ERA, and he eventually did lose his manager's confidence. But that doesn't make it Torre's fault that he struggled.
Torre, by his own admission, favored players such as Derek Jeter. But his manager liking other players more doesn't mean that Vazquez couldn't succeed. And the fact that this is even mentioned now that Vazquez is coming back to the Bronx lends more credence to the argument that Vazquez is soft.
* The original version of this post referred incorrectly to Joel Sherman as the writer of the Post story. Sherman wrote a separate column about Vazquez.
Thanks to Kevin Ward via Wikipedia for the photo.