The opener of tonight’s Yankees-Rays series would be intriguing enough without any pregame ceremonies: The teams have the two best records in baseball — though Minnesota’s getting awfully close — and they’re separated by just a half-game in the standings. Likewise, tonight’s pregame ceremonies — in which George Steinbrenner’s monument will be unveiled — would be intriguing without any special guests beyond the late owner’s family. (Bud Selig is set to escort Steinbrenner’s widow, Joan, out to Monument Park.)
But Joe Torre’s return (along with Don Mattingly, plus the usual assortment of Yankee greats) is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the evening. Just days ago, Torre wasn’t thought to be welcome at Yankee Stadium, what with his messy 2007 contract negotiation, his departure for Los Angeles, and the book he wrote with Tom Verducci. But any Joe Torre ban — you’ll recall that he wasn’t mentioned during the old stadium’s closing ceremonies — is over now, and sooner than we’d have expected. Perhaps he won’t overshadow Steinbrenner on a night dedicated to the Boss — overshadowing George Steinbrenner isn’t an easy thing to do, after all — but Torre will get awfully close tonight.