Managerial decision time: Torre should walk away

OTHER VOICES

The Kickoff

October 17, 2007|By WALLACE MATTHEWS | WALLACE MATTHEWS,NEWSDAY

There really is only one way for the association between the New York Yankees and Joe Torre to end, if not well, then at least to everyone's satisfaction.

And that is if Joe Torre takes it upon himself to walk away.

Yesterday, the Yankees tabled for at least one more day a determination of Torre's fate. That means at least one more day of uncertainty, one more day of tabloid vigils on his front lawn, one more day spent as a dead manager walking.

Instead, he can be a live manager walking away. And probably, walking into another job before the end of the week.

It would be the ultimate stick-it-to-the-man maneuver, a chorus of "Take This Job and Shove It" blasting out of the Yankee Stadium loudspeakers. It would make Torre a bigger hero in this town than he already is. He's not good enough for them? No, they're no longer good enough for him.

More importantly, it would allow him to leave the Yankees with his dignity intact rather than his hat in hand.

For Torre, this has been the perfect storm, the managerial job from heaven performed under working conditions from hell. Somehow, he made it work better than anyone ever has under the rule of George Steinbrenner, and for 12 years. But once it becomes obvious that powerful people in your organization don't want you around anymore, it no longer works.

And that obviously is the case, otherwise we're not even having this conversation right now. Probably, there are even more of them this year than there were last year, when general manager Brian Cashman was able to call off the mob for one more year.

But this time, it is possible not even Cashman can forestall the inevitable. It's not even a sure bet that he wants to. If only out of self-preservation, Cashman, too, might have fallen in line with the Fire Joe faction.

That is why the best move for Torre would be to fire the Yankees first.

There never has been a Yankees managerial tenure that ended well. After seven World Series championships, Joe McCarthy quit in 1946, disgusted with Larry MacPhail, and back in 1960, when George Steinbrenner was still fetching coffee for his daddy, Casey Stengel was getting kicked to the curb by Dan Topping and Del Webb for having the nerve to lose a World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates and turn 70 in the same year.

It happens to all of them, and it will happen to Torre. Perhaps it will be next year at this time, or after a slow start in 2009, in the new ballpark. Or perhaps it will be as soon as July, if the Yankees once again find themselves languishing 9 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox at the All-Star break. If he sticks around, he gets fired. It's as simple as that.

Is that how Joe Torre wants his Yankee career to end? Unlike McCarthy and Stengel, he can still write his own finish to this story.

I know the money is good and the perks are better, but there comes a limit, even for $7 million a year.

Already, he has been publicly humiliated by his employer, more than any of us could imagine or would want to bear, for two years running. What makes him think that will ever change?

It's obvious that even if he is given another reprieve, Torre is on death row, in a perpetual state of double secret probation, and the first slip-up (read: another failure to win the World Series) and he is out of there.

Who would want to work under those conditions? They might as well mount a guillotine blade over his office door.

The funny thing is, there's no logical reason to fire Torre. Last year, maybe. But having led his team to a second-half charge into the playoffs after the season appeared lost on Memorial Day, Torre certainly earned the right to come back. That is, if what he has done since 1996 wasn't enough.

Because the truth is, if you laid the resumes of the five leading candidates for the job - Tony La Russa, Don Mattingly, Joe Girardi, Bobby Valentine and Torre - on a table and removed the names, one would jump out at you. The one with the 12 straight playoff appearances, 10 division titles and four World Series championships over the past 12 seasons.

That would be Torre's. And if that's not good enough to keep him the job, what ever will be?

So why not beat the Yankees to the punch? Walk away, Joe, while you still can walk, because somewhere in Tampa, Fla., there are people looking to cut your legs off. And sooner or later, they will.

Wallace Matthews writes for Newsday.

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