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Yankees manager not 'politicking' for extension

11/1/2003 - New York Yankees

NEW YORK - Next year could be Joe Torre's last as manager
of the New York Yankees.

After a draining season in which the Yankees fell two wins short
of the World Series title, Torre said Friday he isn't seeking an
extension. He also let owner George Steinbrenner know earlier in
the week that he was unhappy with some of the events during a
season in which the owner repeatedly applied public pressure.

"This is the last year of my contract," Torre said during a
telephone conference call. "I am certainly not politicking for an
extension. I do not know if I'm going to do it after this year."

Following the 2001 season, Torre agreed to a three-year contract
worth about $16 million. After the Yankees were eliminated by
Anaheim in the first round of last year's playoffs, Steinbrenner
stepped up the pressure.

Earlier this week, Torre let the owner know his thoughts during
a meeting in Tampa, Fla., with Steinbrenner, team president Randy
Levine and general manager Brian Cashman.

"I talked about some of the things I didn't appreciate as far
as the statements and some of the things that went on all year. It
was basically a one-sided conversation," Torre said. "I did it, I
believe, in a diplomatic way."

Torre took over as manager after the 1995 season and led the
team to four World Series titles in his first five seasons. But the
Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2001 Series to Arizona, failed to get
past Anaheim last year, then lost this year's Series to Florida in
six games.

Steinbrenner could not be contacted to respond to Torre's
remarks, according to Howard Rubenstein, a spokesman for the owner.

Much of Torre's time in Tampa was devoted to a discussion of the
coaching staff. Bench coach Don Zimmer quit, saying he would never
work for Steinbrenner again, and hitting coach Rick Down was fired.

Zimmer had been with Torre for all eight seasons, and Torre had
hoped to persuade him to stay.

"I think Zim is gone," Torre said. "I talked to him Sunday.
He seemed pretty determined that he didn't want to come back here.
We're certainly going to miss him."

Torre didn't try to talk Steinbrenner out of firing Down.

"I understand that when things don't turn out as well as you
would like them to, there's a certain rearranging of furniture you
do just for the sake of change," Torre said, adding that he may
leave the choice of Down's successor to others. "Unless I have a
severe objection, it's easier for me to have someone else make that
decision."

Torre hopes pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre comes back, and said
third-base coach Willie Randolph and first-base coach Lee Mazzilli
are welcome to return.

Stottlemyre said Sunday he felt "personally abused," and
decided the team's early season decision to send pitcher Jose
Contreras to the minor league complex rather that Triple-A
Columbus, overruling the manager and pitching coach.

Stottlemyre, who has talked of retirement after recent seasons,
wants to talk to his family before deciding on 2004.

"We certainly want him back, everybody was on board, as far as
that goes," Torre said.

In his first comments since immediately after the loss to
Florida, Torre said many of the key decisions for 2004 had not been
made. It's possible that Bernie Williams could move from center
field to left, and that Alfonso Soriano could switch from second
base to the outfield.

"Bernie asked me one time this year after he came back from the
knee surgery if I was thinking of moving him to left field," Torre
said. "I think Bernie's sense is that may be one of our options.
We haven't gotten deeply into it."

While Soriano hit .290 during the regular season with 38 homers
and 91 RBIs, he slumped badly in the postseason, batting .206 with
one homer, nine RBIs and a record 26 strikeouts in 68 at-bats.

"It's a shame that over a week or 10 days or two weeks that we
determined this kid didn't have a good year," Torre said, adding
that he thought Soriano could develop into a very good second
baseman.

"I think in order to put Soriano in the outfield, you have to
have a viable alternative to second base, and we don't have that
right now."

Torre said the Yankees are "very serious" about re-signing
Andy Pettitte, who is eligible for free agency, but said it depends
on "how long, how much money?"

Heading into the offseason, Torre's primary concern is the
starting rotation.

"Obviously, if we don't have Andy Pettitte, we don't have Roger Clemens, we don't have David Wells, we have to find people to
replace those people," he said. "That's the reason we've been
successful, that we've been able to pitch better than everybody
else."

Clemens is retiring, and the Yankees haven't said whether
they'll exercise Wells' $6 million option.

Right now, New York's rotation includes Contreras and Mike Mussina. Jon Leiber spent all of this year recovering from
reconstructive elbow surgery, and Jeff Weaver could be back despite
a year in which he went 7-9 with a 5.99 ERA and gave up the homer
that lost Game 4 of the World Series.

Torre attributed Weaver's downfall to the constant rumors he
would be replaced in the rotation by Contreras, which did happen.

"He's got a great arm, and I still think he's got a bellyful of
guts," Torre said. "I think he can figure prominently in our
starting rotation."