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One more year

Boss decides against firing Torre; A-Rod gone?

Posted: Tuesday October 10, 2006 11:55AM; Updated: Tuesday October 10, 2006 3:40PM
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Also in this column:
• A-Rod's future
• Pujols vs. Beltran, Part II
• More news and notes

George Steinbrenner's ultimate decision to keep Joe Torre as manager has ramifications throughout the Yankees clubhouse and baseball.

Torre returns as a lame-duck manager, but if he can survive a moribund playoff performance and a sixth straight titleless season, perhaps the message is out: he can survive anything.

Steinbrenner was upset not only by his team's lifeless performance but also by Torre's placid dugout demeanor while the Yankees flopped.

From here on, the moniker Teflon Torre applies.

Meantime, Steinbrenner's call to keep Torre means many things to many people, both inside and outside the Yankees family.

Here's a closer look at the effect of Steinbrenner's call on the major players:

Brian Cashman: The real power hitter
While Steinbrenner declared that it was his call on his way to Tampa, and it always ultimately is, general manager Cashman gets a major assist for saving Torre. Steinbrenner took input from all his high-level baseball people on Monday, and it's known that Cashman, Torre's most consistent supporter, once again went to bat for the 11-year Yankee manager.

Steinbrenner may be mellowing with age, as he listened to Cashman, who advised against a knee-jerk reaction. Cashman presented reasons to keep Torre after it became apparent the team's lifeless playoff performance had all but convinced Steinbrenner a change had to be made.

While Cashman doesn't exactly have full autonomy, he certainly has the Boss' ear. It's obvious he retains a significant say-so.

Cashman had a few points in his favor, not the least of which are the four rings Torre's won and the $7 million remaining on his contract. Yet, it's clear Steinbrenner's first inclination was to make Torre pay.

A-Rod's future
Embattled superstar Alex Rodriguez surely was looking forward to the possibility of his mentor Lou Piniella taking over the team after his relationship with Torre inexplicably imploded this year. Perhaps A-Rod and Torre can both grin and bear each other another year, perhaps not.

Torre has told people Rodriguez is the problem with the team, and Torre certainly seemed to be sending that message when he batted one of the all-time great talents in the No. 8 hole in the elimination game, a move that was said to "flabbergast" A-Rod. It certainly didn't inspire him. While Rodriguez wouldn't say anything publicly, he is said to have viewed the demotion as an insult.

It isn't clear why Torre believes Rodriguez to be the problem, beyond the fact he pretends things are going well for him when they aren't (if that's it, I say big deal). Perhaps the problem is nothing deeper than Rodriguez's tense relationship with Torre favorite Derek Jeter (as if it isn't enough being the most clutch player in baseball, Jeter is also the teacher's pet). Or maybe it's Rodriguez's own superb relationship with Piniella, whose presence as a managerial free agent has been hanging over Torre's head since he left the Devil Rays.

Torre's last-second reprieve doesn't give him authority over player personnel matters, and this is one area where Torre and Cashman may disagree. But Rodriguez's continuing October failure may yet make him the next big winter issue.

Rodriguez has maintained he loves New York and badly wants to remain a Yankee but did leave the door slightly ajar when he said in the losing clubhouse that he'd consider consenting to go if his bosses are "dying to be rid of me.''

If they are "dying" for him to go -- and the evidence isn't in yet -- Rodriguez is believed to want to be close to his winter home in Miami, which means he'd favor the Marlins or Braves (two teams without big money to spend) over the Angels or Dodgers (teams that are seen as the most likely pursuers).

At least three teams are said to have shown interest in A-Rod already.

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