Blood on their hands (cont.)
Posted: Thursday October 18, 2007 7:01PM; Updated: Friday October 19, 2007 12:20PM
Torre spent hardly an hour in Tampa yesterday with the Yankee brass. Does anyone regard that as real negotiating, a good-faith effort to bring him back? And Torre came to Tampa on his own accord, implying that the Yankees were prepared to low-ball him by telephone. Classy. And did Cashman, as he told reporters, really share a plane ride with Torre from New York to Tampa and, despite all the time and success they shared, not warn him of the ambush waiting for him at Legends Field with specifics of the contract?
If the Yankees wanted to fire Torre, they should have just fired him after the ALDS, laying responsibility on him for a "failure" to get to the World Series seven straight years. It was the way of George. It was certainly their right. You could argue that Torre didn't deserve it, but you had to respect the dictatorial right of Steinbrenner, even as the Yankees cling to this "World-Series-or-bust" mentality that has long been rendered obsolete in the revenue-sharing age. Instead, under Levine, they took the cowardly way out and think they are slick enough that you won't notice.
It was interesting to hear Levine assume command on the conference call. Hank, except for a lame football analogy ("I'm sure if you asked Vince Lombardi ...,'' he said), and Hal, who briefly showed an ability to decisively say nothing, were eclipsed by Levine's bluster. Were the sons not taking command from their father? Is this not their inheritance, their responsibility? And wasn't this the first major policy decision in which they were supposedly taking daily control? So, too, was Cashman diminished. As one veteran GM told me last week, "If Brian has it written into his contract that he has authority on all baseball operations decisions, where has he been? Why hasn't he said anything about Torre?" It's apparent now that in his heart Cashman didn't really want Torre back, a sea change from where he was in May, when as the heat grew on Torre from that slow start, Cashman told Steinbrenner, "It's not Joe's fault. If you want to fire anybody, fire me!"
Cashman has fancied himself a Billy Beane-Theo Epstein wanna-be, an intellectual GM known for running an efficient system, especially when it comes to player development, rather than just a guy who writes checks. He has traded veterans for prospects, embraced sabermetrics and surrounded himself with young number-crunchers who get jazzed about PlayStation tournaments. The more he has put his self-worth in the image of cutting-edge GM the less Torre and his old-school ways became relevant.
"There may be some surprising names that show up," Cashman said about the search for Torre's successor. Sure, Cashman would love to go all cutting-edge on the Yankees and get somebody young and unknown like Trey Hillman, the former Yankees minor league manager who is now in Japan. But would the Steinbrenners and Levine dare let Cashman replace Torre with a no-name? And if they thrust Don Mattingly, who is a nice guy and a "true Yankee" but hardly sabermetric-friendly, on Cashman, how much further is Cashman diminished? We've already heard Hank tell us that he personally insists that Joba Chamberlain start next season. Are these Cashman's baseball operations any more?
Whatever happens, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada just earned themselves a boatload more money. Do you really think Levine's Yankees are going to let Rivera and Posada leave town, too? They need to sign them more than ever. This day is the official end of an era for the Yankees. The Torre era -- four world championships and six pennants in 12 years -- is over, with Torre taking with him the same dignity he brought to the job and the franchise. He didn't want the job under these conditions. What does that say about these Yankees?
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