Excerpt: Torre recounts his bitter final day (cont.)
So that was it. The 12-year Torre era had come to a nonnegotiable end. Torre's run ended with a meeting that took little more than 10 minutes. As Torre got up from his seat in Steinbrenner's office, Hal Steinbrenner said to him, "The door's always open. You can always work for the YES Network."
Torre was too stunned to speak, caught between bemusement and anger. Did the Boss's son really just dangle the consolation of working for the Yankees-run regional television network after the Yankees refused to negotiate with the second-winningest manager in franchise history?
Torre shook the hands of everybody in the room, starting with George. The old man took his dark glasses off and said, "Good luck, Joe."
"Thanks again, Boss," Torre said.
Lopez was the only one who walked out of the room with Torre toward the elevators in the reception area of the fourth-floor offices. But then Cashman appeared.
"Joe, Lonn and I won't be flying back with you," Cashman said. "We'll be staying here."
Seeing Cashman suddenly reminded Torre of something: that two-year proposal he had made to Cashman over the phone in advance of the meeting, the one with the buyout in it. The offer had never been discussed in Steinbrenner's office. Torre figured Cashman had already presented it to the other executives, and he was curious as to what happened to the proposal.
"Cash," Torre asked, "they had no interest in that buyout proposal, the one I gave you over the phone?"
Cashman looked at Torre oddly, as if this were something new. "Uh, I really didn't understand it," Cashman said. "Remind me, what was it again?"
"Two-year contract, whatever the number. If they fire me during the first year, they pay me both years. If they fire me after the first year, they pay me some reduced amount we can talk about."
Cashman walked back into Steinbrenner's office.
Torre was incredulous.
"I'm thinking, Well, s---! He never told them!" Torre said.
They had spent 12 years together, Cashman first as the assistant general manager under Bob Watson and then as the general manager of three consecutive world championship teams with Torre as the manager. Torre had presented Cashman with the lineup card from the clinching game of the 1998 World Series, the one in which those Yankees established themselves as one of the greatest teams of all time with a record 125 wins, postseason included. Torre and Cashman had shared dinners and champagne and laughs and arguments. Twelve years. It was an eternity in baseball for an executive and a manager to work together.
But at the moment when Torre was searching for some way to save his job and turned to Cashman in his moment of need, Cashman did not so much as pass on to his bosses a proposal from Torre -- a simple one, too, one that was not at all difficult to understand. Twelve years together, and it ends like this.
Come to think of it, Torre thought, Cashman had said nothing during the entire meeting. Cashman was the general manager who had persuaded Steinbrenner after the 2005 season to put in writing that Cashman would have control over all baseball operations. The manager is a fairly important part of baseball operations. And when the future employment of the manager was being discussed, how was it that the empowered general manager had nothing at all to say?
"Cash was sitting right over my right shoulder," Torre said, "and never uttered a sound the whole meeting." Cashman, for his part, says simply, "It was Joe's meeting."
Only much later did Torre start to put the picture together of what had happened to his working relationship with Cashman. The personal falling-out they had in 2006 spring training over philosophical issues, Cashman's decision not to bring back longtime center fielder Bernie Williams when his contract expired in 2006, his submission of odd lineup suggestions based on stats, his lack of regard for Ron Guidry as a pitching coach, his detachment from the "they" who were making an offer to Torre, his failure to offer any comment or support in the meeting that decided Torre's future, his failure to personally relay Torre's proposal to find a way to reach an agreement to the Steinbrenners ...
Where could Torre find support in the end? His old ally, Swindal, thanks to one DUI charge, had been run out of the organization and the Steinbrenner family. George was not fit enough to deal directly with Torre himself. And now Cashman had retreated to silence with Torre's job on the line.
"I thought Cash was an ally, I really did," Torre says. "You know, we had some differences on coaches, and the usefulness of the coaches. I know he didn't think much of Guidry. And [former bench coach Don] Zimmer. You know, Zimmer didn't trust Cash, and I disagreed with Zimmer vehemently for the longest time. Then, you know, you start thinking about things ... I have a, I don't want to say it's a weakness, but I want to trust people. And I do trust people until I'm proved wrong. And it's not going to keep me from trusting somebody else tomorrow, because it's the only way I can do my job."
Torre still held out faint hope that the two-year proposal could be the pathway to an agreement. He waited by the elevators.
"It was a last-ditch effort by me to remind them, 'Does this make any sense for us to get together?'" Torre says. "There weren't any cross words. I didn't say things to them in anger or anything. It was more like, 'If that's the way you want it, that's the way it is.' It was just trying to move a little bit and give them an offer that maybe they could live with. I just wanted to make sure before I did walk away that I gave them every opportunity to keep me."
Not more than 30 seconds after Cashman left Torre at the reception area, Cashman came walking back to him. It took less than a minute for the Steinbrenners, Levine and Trost to consider the idea.
"No, they have no interest in doing that," Cashman told Torre.
No interest. Rejected in less than a minute. That was it. It was done. The Torre era officially was finished. He stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the ground floor. A strong feeling washed over him.
"Relief," Torre said, "a feeling of relief." The relief came from knowing it was a very easy decision. He flew back home alone.
From the book The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
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