Blood on their hands
Yanks look disorganized, cowardly after Torre's exit
Posted: Thursday October 18, 2007 7:01PM; Updated: Friday October 19, 2007 12:20PM
CLEVELAND -- When he was robust and running the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner never minded a little blood on his hands. He swung his firing axe decisively and often. I was there in Chicago at old Comiskey Park when Dale Berra cried into his dirty sanitary sock when Steinbrenner fired his father, Yogi, only 16 games into the 1985 season. Steinbrenner was rash, but he took the heat for it.
Cruel? Maybe. But on Thursday, the New York Yankees, with Steinbrenner's health rendering him little more than a figurehead, descended into a far darker and disrespectful place. Under the leadership of president Randy Levine, who commandeered the news conference yesterday as if general manager Brian Cashman and Steinbrenner's two sons, Hank and Hal, didn't exist, the Yankees let corporate cowardice be their guide. This is a peek at life after George.
Levine's Yankees are proud of themselves today because they think they ran Joe Torre out of New York without getting blood on their hands. They think you are dumb enough to believe that Torre was not fired, that they really, really wanted him back, but that, golly gee, Torre turned down their offer.
But there is blood everywhere on Levine and the boys, remnants of a sloppiness and covertness the Boss never knew. They spent three days crafting a contract offer they thought would strike just the right balance: just good enough for public relations purposes, but insulting enough that no man of Torre's pride and accomplishments would ever accept. Torre is the most successful manager in modern baseball history. He has delivered the Yankees to 12 consecutive postseasons. The next longest active streak by a franchise? That would be one. His Yankees crashed out of the first round of the postseason this year because a swarm of bugs attacked a rookie pitcher and the winningest pitcher of the past two seasons threw a total of 5 2/3 innings in two starts in the American League Division Series. Such episodes defined the unpredictable nature of postseason play.
So here is how Levine & Co. treated the Hall of Fame bound manager: They offered to cut his pay by 23 percent -- so insulting that the players' association has rules against such a huge cut for its members -- to bring him back for only one year (which keeps their sniping of a lame-duck manager in play) and to throw in "performance bonuses" (which are unprecedented even for the least accomplished managers) based on a postseason model that any baseball observer with the least bit of sense understands is more random than controllable.
One year? Goodness, Charlie Manuel, Joe Maddon and Ozzie Guillen were given multiyear contract extensions! No manager of Torre's resume or dignity would have accepted those conditions and Levine, who wanted Torre out for years, knew it. It wasn't the money; Torre doesn't need it. It was knowing that your employers don't want you, knowing that if another season began 21-29, as this one did, the snipers and leakers would be firing away with impunity. How could Torre ask for respect from his players when his bosses did not respect him?