'Yankee Years' creates stir in New York

Updated: January 26, 2009, 3:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

An upcoming book co-written by Joe Torre, which caused a stir in the New York media and elsewhere Sunday, describes how players referred to Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez as "A-Fraud" and delves into his relationship with teammate Derek Jeter.

"Back in 2004, at first Rodriguez did his best to try and fit into the Yankee culture -- his cloying, B Grade actor best," the book says, according to an excerpt obtained by 1050 ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand. "He slathered on the polish. People in the clubhouse, including teammates and support personnel were calling him 'A-Fraud' behind his back."

The excerpt continues: " 'He was phony,' said Mike Borzello, the former Yankees bullpen coach and one of Rodriguez' close friends, 'and he knew he was phony. But he didn't know how to be anything else at that time. Then he started to realize what it is all about and what people feed off of, and thought, 'Hey, I can really be
myself.' "

Seven pages later, in the same chapter, the book says, according to the excerpt obtained by Marchand: "In his own way, Rodriguez was fascinated with Jeter, as if trying to figure out what it was about Jeter that could have bought him so much goodwill. The inside joke in the clubhouse was that Rodriguez' pre-occupation with Jeter recalled the 1992 film, 'Single White Female,' in which a woman becomes obsessed with her roommate to the point of dressing like her."

The book, "The Yankee Years," debuts Feb. 3. It is co-written by Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci. It is published by Doubleday. While Torre is the co-author, the book contains both his thoughts and independent reporting, according to Verducci.

In an interview with SI.com, the Web site Verducci writes for, the author took issue with New York newspaper characterizations of Torre's feelings toward the Yankees. Verducci and Torre collaborated earlier on "Chasing the Dream," Torre's 1997 memoir.

"I think it's important to understand context here. The book is not a first-person book by Joe Torre, it's a third-person narrative based on 12 years of knowing the Yankees and it's about the changes in the game in that period," Verducci told the site. "Seems to me the New York Post assigned this third-person book entirely to Joe Torre and that's not the case. In fact, if people saw that Post story they probably noticed there are no quotes from Joe Torre in it. Joe Torre does not rip anybody in the book. The book really needs to be read in context."

"It's a much larger book about the Yankees," Verducci continued. "Not only how the game changed around them, but the growth of information analysis, revenue sharing, growth of intellect in front offices, changes in Red Sox ownership, the Steroid Era, etc."

Reports in Sunday's New York Post and New York Daily News said that, in the book, Torre is critical of the team he managed to four World Series titles. According to the Daily News, the book says that Torre felt betrayed by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman "on several fronts," a stark contrast to Torre's former stance, in which he said Cashman supported him throughout 2007 negotiations that ultimately failed.

According to the newspapers' accounts, Torre's displeasure with management goes beyond the widely reported 2007 meeting in which Cashman met with the Steinbrenners to discuss Torre's future as manager, a talk in which the GM was said to have remained neutral as the drawbacks to extending Torre's tenure were discussed.

In a later confrontation with Torre, Cashman confirmed he was quiet when the subject of offering Torre his desired two-year deal instead of one came up, the book says.

When reached by ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney on Sunday, Cashman said that he had spoken to Torre by phone. He said that the manager told him to wait for the book to come out, that they are friends and will always be friends.

"Joe was a great manager for us," Cashman said. "I'm glad he called me. I'm very comfortable with my relationship with him."

In October 2007, as he announced he wouldn't return for the Yankees, Torre had said: "I think Brian Cashman wanted me back. We have a close relationship. We felt we worked hard at trying to get this thing straightened out."

In another part of the book, it says -- according to newspaper reports -- that during spring training in 1999 owner George Steinbrenner learned the manager had prostate cancer before Torre even had a chance to inform him.

After completing a three-year, $19.2 million contract with the Yankees, Torre signed a three-year, $13 million contract to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers in November 2007, the same month the book deal with Verducci was announced.

His Dodgers deal came two weeks after he walked away from the Yankees when they offered a one-year contract worth $5 million plus $3 million in performance incentives he termed "an insult.''

"I don't think incentives are necessary," he said then. "I've been here a long time and I've never needed to be motivated. Plus, in my [previous] contract, I get a million-dollar bonus if we do win the World Series, so that's always been there."

One source familiar with the book told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that it's "inaccurate" to suggest that Torre used it as a forum to get even with the Yankees or settle old scores.

The source said some of the controversial angles being reported in the New York tabloids have been taken out of context or "overblown."

"Joe is very honest in the book,'' the source told Crasnick, "but he doesn't make any personal attacks. In terms of him name-calling, that's not his style.''

The book is not a first-person tell-all, but rather, a third-person narrative by Verducci, who interviewed dozens of players and team personnel while researching for the book, the source said.

According to The New York Times, Verducci and Torre delve into the period following the Yankees' 2001 World Series loss to Arizona, during which the likes of complementary stars Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius and Chuck Knoblauch reached the end of the line and were replaced by what Torre describes as "big boppers" such as Jason Giambi in 2002, who Torre believed "wasn't part of what we prided ourselves on: playing well defensively."

Two years later, Rodriguez was on the scene.

Rodriguez's presence "made for a whole different dynamic in the Yankees' clubhouse, the book says, according to The Times. "Whether hitting 450-foot home runs or sunbathing shirtless in Central Park or squiring strippers, Rodriguez was like nothing ever seen before on the championship teams of the Torre Era: an ambitious superstar impressed and motivated by stature and status, particularly when those qualities pertained to himself."

Torre is currently in Hawaii. According to the Daily News, he is scheduled for the "Late Show With David Letterman" on Feb. 3, as well as a book signing that day at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.

"Smart people will judge the book upon actually reading it and not reading preliminary reports prior to its publication," Verducci told SI.com.

Information from ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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