Yankees had discussed $4.5M offer for Torre in spring
Posted: Tuesday October 23, 2007 12:31PM; Updated: Tuesday October 23, 2007 1:49PM
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Joe Torre spins a great story. In fact, he's an even better public speaker and broadcaster than in-game strategist. Torre's so persuasive, in fact, that after his emotional hour-long press gathering the other day, he had half of New York believing that the Yankees insulted him with their $5 million guaranteed offer (with incentive clauses for another $3 million) and the other half believing that he was fired.
There's no question that he believed he was wronged, that he felt insulted by the Yankees' offer, which would have kept him baseball's highest-paid manager with a chance to double any other manager's pay and earn his way back for a 14th season. And that's OK.
But to run the Yankees you need to be as tough as Torre used to be. And as one Yankees official noted, Torre was starting to be afflicted by a thin skin. Perhaps that's understandable, fueled in part by club owner George Steinbrenner's ill-timed tirade in the Bergen Record. But Torre's ability to deal with all that extra stuff is one of the things that made him great.
Torre can feel hurt if he wants by the take-it-or-leave-it stance of Yankees' decisionmakers. But for the record, it should be known now that their recent offer was actually better than the one discussed in spring, months before the team bowed out in the first round for a third straight postseason.
Back then, SI.com has learned, the Yankees and Torre were talking about a one-year $4.5 million extension with Steve Swindal, the son-in-law who signed Torre to his lucrative $6.4 million-a-year deal, and Torre was receptive to the offer. But that extension fell apart after Swindal was arrested for a DWI on Valentine's Day and Swindal's marriage to George Steinbrenner's daughter, Jennifer, subsequently disintegrated. The Yankees hierarchy decided it would be best to let all four of its major stars (including A-Rod, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada) play out the season under their current deals.
At the time, according to people familiar with those talks, Torre told his bosses that it was his great goal to be able to close out the old Yankee Stadium.
Yet when his superiors gave him a chance to do just that last week -- at $500,000 more than what had been discussed in the spring -- Torre took it as an insult. An opportunity to close out the stadium was offered as a one-year extension, but he wanted a second year that would have guaranteed that he'd open new Yankee Stadium, as well.
Torre's 'insulting' incentive package
Torre called the incentives offer "insulting.'' Yet, in past contract talks Torre requested and received similar incentive packages to the ones the Yankees offered in this round of talks, just for a lot less money. Torre won monster contracts in past negotiations by pointing out how he kept winning the postseason wars, Ken Davidoff of Newsday reported on Monday. So it's inconsistent that Torre often took the position that the playoffs are only a "crapshoot." (Especially since the Yankees paid $200 million for the right to believe otherwise.)
The pricey Yankees crapped out in four straight playoff series, beginning with the disintegration in 2004, which still resulted in a three-year extension for Torre. As for this most recent ouster, one competing AL exec said, "Looking at Cleveland's lineup, the Yankees should have been in there [in the ALCS] against Boston."
Despite the string of recent playoff disappointments and bosses with high standards, Torre's superiors didn't really have the stomach to fire the iconic manager. So while a World Series appearance would have guaranteed 2009, something less than that didn't come close to ensuring a pink slip.
The belief here is that Torre could have managed forever if he so chose.