Will Torre be retained?
Support for manager may be growing in New York
Posted: Sunday October 14, 2007 2:51AM; Updated: Sunday October 14, 2007 2:51AM
Some Yankees decision-makers have been paying close attention to the reaction of players and fans, and a few people close to the situation are actually beginning to wonder whether Joe Torre is as gone as Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said he would be.
Support for Torre is still said to be "thin" among club officials. Yet, with George Steinbrenner no longer atop the hierarchy as the ultimate decider, questions are surfacing about whether his heirs to the throne -- namely the junior Steinbrenners -- will have the courage to fire the legendary Torre, no easy thing.
Steinbrenner's elder son Hank, who may actually have the final say, mentioned in interviews shortly after the storied club's quick exit that "nothing lasts forever," an apparent hint that Torre could be on his last legs. But while club sources report that Hank Steinbrenner's early polling of execs has been decisively in favor of making a change at manager, the mere fact that he's taking surveys is being seen as a sign there's uncertainty.
With former son-in-law Steve Swindal, a Torre supporter, removed from his post, and general manager Brian Cashman, a longtime Torre ally, likely expending his bullets with his successful plea last year, Torre's strong backers are dwindling. Even so, it isn't easy to fire a future Hall of Famer. Another potential holdup could be that Don Mattingly, the most likely heir to Torre's throne, has not only been publicly endorsing Torre but crediting Torre with teaching him most of what he knows.
Club president Randy Levine has said it's too early to start speculating what might happen at the organizational meetings, which are expected to begin Monday night.
Other top Yankees people swear they will not allow the "inmates to run the asylum," meaning the publicly supportive players will not force their hand regarding Torre. Although, they've repeated that mantra enough that others are wondering whether they are weakening on their resolve to end the Torre era. At the least, key club officials are gauging the reaction.
Yankees brass privately has expressed doubt that long-time Yankees stars Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada would ultimately forsake good Yankee offers out of allegiance to any manager, even Torre, and wonder also how heavily to weigh comments from players accepting the blame for the seventh postseason failure in seven years. Even Alex Rodriguez, who's had no better than a spotty relationship with the manager, was effusive in his praise for Torre.
If there is one player in position to pressure the Yankees, it's probably Andy Pettitte, who's been expected to exercise his $16-million player option but could conceivably use the opt-out right to wrangle a new multi-year deal. As one competing executive said, "The Yankees absolutely have to have Pettitte. If he were a free agent, he might get a three-year deal''
Club underlings sense that the outpouring of love for Torre among fans could also impact the decision. The Yankee Stadium crowd chanted "Joe Torre'' in the innings before Cleveland closed them out.