Yanks' Torre takes a walk

Manager rejects incentive-laden contract offer

October 19, 2007|By Dom Amore | Dom Amore,HARTFORD COURANT

Joe Torre, one of the most successful managers in the long history of the New York Yankees, walked away from the job yesterday, spurning an unconventional offer from the team's owners that was likely designed to prompt him to do just that.

"We respect Joe's decision," said team president Randy Levine, who gave the Yankees' side of talks with Torre in a conference call with reporters. Torre will hold a news conference today in Rye Brook, N.Y.

Torre, 67, managed the Yankees for 12 seasons, the longest stint in the job since Hall of Famer Casey Stengel in 1949- 1960. Torre won 1,173 games with the Yankees, second to Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy's 1,460. Torre's teams reached the postseason every year, most recently as the wild-card entry in the American League. The Yankees won the World Series in four of Torre's first five years, and reached the Series in six of his first eight, but since losing the American League Championship Series in 2004, they have not advanced past the first round.

"We know we can't win the World Series every year," said Hank Steinbrenner, older son of owner George Steinbrenner and, by appearances, the new dominant voice in management. "But that's our goal. Anything less than that has to be considered unacceptable."

Torre's bench coach, popular former Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, is considered the leading candidate to take over as manager. Joe Girardi, a former Yankees catcher and Florida Marlins manager, could also be a candidate. General manager Brian Cashman said the process will take time and might have some "surprises."

Torre declined to speak to a group of reporters gathered outside his house in suburban Harrison, N.Y. His wife, Ali, said their time in New York had been fun.

"It's always difficult to say goodbye," she said, "but there's always hello."

Torre, who took the job in 1996 at a salary of $333,000, has been the highest-paid manager in baseball history since 2001, when he signed a $5 million-a-year contract. Over the past three years, his salary increased to $7.5 million, more than twice as much as the next-highest-paid manager, Lou Piniella of the Chicago Cubs.

After the Yankees held two days of high-level meetings this week at team headquarters in Tampa, Fla., Torre went there yesterday and was offered a one-year deal guaranteeing $5 million with incentive clauses. He would have gotten $1 million if the Yankees made the playoffs, another $1 million if the Yankees advanced to the ALCS and another if they reached the World Series. If Torre and the Yankees had reached the World Series, he would have gotten an extension to 2009.

Torre, who did not comment before or after flying home, objected to either the cut in salary or to the incentive clauses, which are unusual in baseball, because they could prompt a manager to overuse pitchers to win the game or series on which his money or job depended.

"We'll let Joe speak for himself," Levine said. "We thought this was a win-win situation for everyone. Joe would still have been the highest-paid manager in baseball, and he would have the opportunity to make more money than he does now. We felt we needed to put him on a performance-based mode, which is the case with most of us."

During the Yankees' recent playoff loss to the Cleveland Indians, owner George Steinbrenner, who hired and fired managers 20 times between his purchase of the team in 1973 and Torre's arrival in 1996, told a reporter from The Record of Hackensack, N.J., that Torre's job was "on the line" and he would probably not be brought back if the Yankees lost the series.

But the Yankees organization is in transition. George Steinbrenner, 77, has unspecified health problems, and reports this week indicated that his sons Hank, 50, and Hal, 38, were assuming larger roles in the organization. Daughter Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal and son-in-law Felix Lopez also were involved in discussions this week, as were Levine, who runs day-to-day operations in New York, Cashman and chief operating officer Lonn Trost.

Cashman, considered a Torre supporter, said, "This is a difficult day."

After the Yankees were eliminated Oct. 7, a tearful Torre said goodbye to coaches and players, telling them his time with the Yankees was the best of his life.

The next day, Mattingly, 46, said the man who replaces Torre will be in a "no-win situation." That fueled speculation that Mattingly did not want the job, and as 10 days passed and public sentiment seemed to favor Torre - there was a rally for him in Times Square - it seemed certain Torre would be offered a new contract, possibly a two-year deal.

Instead, the Yankees prepared this offer and Torre rejected it.

"I hope Joe is happy," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said in Cleveland before Game 5 of the ALCS. "I think he deserves the respect. I think you're going to hear people in baseball, every area of baseball, say probably very, very kind, respectful things about Joe the next couple days. And they're all deserved."

Dom Amore writes for the Hartford Courant. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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