Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is it End-of-Story for Joe Torre?

Will George Steinbrenner fire Joe Torre after losing in the AL Division Series to the Cleveland Indians? Georgie Porgie said that Torre was gone if the Yankees didn’t come back and win the series, which they lost in four games, but was it an idle threat or just a lame attempt to rally the troops?

George and Joe are very different people, in my opinion. The fact that they’ve been working together for so long is amazing, I believe.

The two men possess very disparate qualities -- Torre is a class act and a wonderful human being. Steinbrenner is a slime ball.

Torre has established throughout the years that he is a compassionate, respectful and thoughtful human being. Steinbrenner has a reputation for being a conniving, loudmouthed bully who uses his money and power to get whatever he wants.

Joe should just walk away from the Yankees. He’s won world championships and will probably end up in the Hall of Fame for what he’s achieved as a manager. What more does he have to prove?

This appeared in the New York Times earlier this week:

In his news conference late Monday night, Joe Torre tried to dissect another Yankees playoff loss and explain what it meant for his future. Watching on a television in the manager’s office as Torre choked up, the coaches struggled with what they were seeing.
“Joe treats everybody with respect, whether you’re a batboy, a coach or a trainer,” said Larry Bowa, the third-base coach. “He does everything the right way. What he has to go through, after all that he’s done, it doesn’t seem right. But we’ve all been in baseball for a long time. That’s the process.”
The painful process of parting with a manager was enough to make Bowa and the others teary on Monday. A day later, as the coaches and some players packed up their lockers at Yankee Stadium, Torre was a no-show and George Steinbrenner, the principal owner, was silent.
His only statement came through his publicist, Howard Rubenstein, who said Steinbrenner was flying home to Tampa, Fla., and had nothing to say for now. Steinbrenner will seek opinions on whether to offer Torre a new contract, but his public decree before Game 3 of the division series — that Torre would lose his job if the Yankees lost the series to Cleveland — resonates.
If Steinbrenner lets Torre go, as expected, most people around the team believe the front-runner to succeed him is the bench coach, Don Mattingly. Others believe Joe Girardi has a chance, and Tony La Russa — like Lou Piniella last year — is the biggest name on the managerial free-agent market.
Mattingly yesterday would not directly address whether he would want Torre’s job, but he said he had always made it clear that he would like a chance to manage. Yet he knows that replacing Torre, his close friend who won four World Series, would be an extraordinary challenge.
“I would think it’s like following John Wooden or somebody,” Mattingly said yesterday. “The guy’s won championship after championship, and he’s in the playoffs every year. It’s pretty much a no-win situation for someone to come in here and be able to experience what he’s done. It’s not going to happen. So as far as coming in here and taking on that job, it’s not necessarily a great situation.”
Girardi was Torre’s bench coach in 2005 before taking over the Florida Marlins and winning the National League Manager of the Year award. He clashed with management and was fired, but he is still widely respected, especially by General Manager Brian Cashman.
When Steinbrenner wanted to fire Torre last fall, Cashman interceded and saved Torre’s job. Torre had a year remaining on his contract then, but the deal is up now, and Cashman would not say if he would still recommend Torre.
“I’m not going to comment, in fairness to the process, until I have a chance to sit down with ownership,” Cashman said yesterday, adding later of Steinbrenner: “He’s always picked the manager here. Obviously, I had a great deal of input in last year’s process, so we’ll see. You can’t get ahead of the process.”
The Yankees are planning their annual organizational meetings, and before he left for Tampa, Steinbrenner’s son Hank, a senior vice president, told The Associated Press that no decisions had been made.
“I really do like Joe a lot,” he said. “I have a lot of admiration for him.”
Torre stayed at his home in Westchester County yesterday, speaking by phone with Cashman, Mattingly and others. Torre contacted the Yankees’ media relations director, Jason Zillo, because photographers were camped on his lawn, even though he had pleaded for privacy in his news conference.
The idea of La Russa replacing Torre would seem to appeal more to the vintage Steinbrenner, who craved the biggest name, than the Steinbrenner of today. La Russa’s contract with the St. Louis Cardinals is also expiring, and the Cardinals are without a general manager.
“You know how rumors are; anyone can start one,” said outfielder Shelley Duncan, whose father, Dave, is La Russa’s pitching coach. “Even my dad would tell you there is nothing substantial until action starts to take place. None of that has happened. Joe is our manager.”
Steinbrenner, 77, has a warm spot for ex-Yankees and has always held Mattingly, a former Yankees captain, in high regard. Four years ago, he called Mattingly at his farm in Evansville, Ind., making a personal appeal for him to coach the Yankees’ hitters after eight years of retirement.
When Mattingly was given the bench coach job last October, after Lee Mazzilli was dismissed, he was seen as the clear heir to Torre. Players believe Mattingly would have a similar style.
“He’s got a great baseball mind,” first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. “He and Joe were both great players. Sometimes you lose how hard this game really is, but Joe and Donnie didn’t lose that. Usually, the longer it is since you played, the better player you were and the easier the game was to you. But with those guys, they never make you feel like they’re talking down to you.”
Mientkiewicz and the other players who showed up yesterday expressed support for Torre, praising him for steering the Yankees to the postseason after a 21-29 start. Mientkiewicz revealed that Torre “let us have it” during a team meeting in Toronto in May, just before the turnaround began, and another first baseman, Andy Phillips, said he could not contemplate the Yankees without Torre.
“I refuse to think that way right now,” Phillips said. “I won’t let that thought enter into my mind.”
Most important, of course, is how seriously that thought is bouncing around the brain of Steinbrenner, who must decide — officially — whether to part with the most popular and successful manager he has had.
“His reign so far here has been terrific,” Cashman said of Torre. “You’d sign up for it right now, if you could find that. It’s been magical and it’s been incredible through ’07. What goes on going forward, in ’08 and beyond, is the discussion topic on the tabl

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