Stottlemyre leaves Yankees, backs Torre vs. Boss

Updated: October 13, 2005, 7:03 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Almost certain he's stepping down after 10 years as New York Yankees pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre had harsh words Wednesday for George Steinbrenner and the owner's treatment of manager Joe Torre.

Mel Stottlemyre
Stottlemyre

Speaking in the Yankees clubhouse where he's spent 21 seasons as a player and coach, Stottlemyre said he interpreted Steinbrenner's statement following the Yankees' elimination by the Los Angeles Angels as a slap at Torre. Steinbrenner said Tuesday: "I congratulate the Angels and their manager on the great job they've done."

"I laughed when I saw it," Stottlemyre said. "My first thoughts were, 'What about Joe? Joe had done a hell of a job, too.' To congratulate the other manager and not congratulate your own after what he'd done this year, I laughed."

A Yankees coach since Torre took over as manager following the 1995 season, Stottlemyre criticized the schism between the team's New York and Tampa, Fla., offices and said Torre's job status shouldn't be questioned.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous," he said. "I've been here with Joe for 10 years and this has by far been the toughest year for him, and it's the best job he's done. He's done a good job year in and year out -- this year the job he's done was really special because he had a lot of things to battle through."

Steinbrenner had nothing to say Wednesday, spokesman Howard Rubenstein said.

Torre, signed through 2007 and owed $13.1 million, did not appear in the clubhouse Wednesday, and Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone was unsure when the manager would make his end-of-season summation.

General manager Brian Cashman, whose contract expires at the end of the month, also wasn't in the clubhouse and didn't return a telephone call.

Third base coach Luis Sojo said that after the Angels beat the Yankees 5-3 in Game 5 on Monday night in Anaheim and advanced to the AL Championship Sseries, Alex Rodriguez came to the coaches' room and apologized for his hitting .133 (2-for-15) with no RBI in the playoffs.

"He blamed himself," Sojo said. "I think he took it personal. ... He said, 'I'm sorry, guys.' ... He felt like he let us down."

Speaking as clubhouse attendants packed boxes of players' belongings and equipment, Stottlemyre revealed that he decided to resign in May, which is when criticism began as the Yankees slumped to an 11-19 start, their worst in 39 seasons.

Stottlemyre has threatened to leave after several seasons but came back each time. He said the second-guessing had a "cumulative" affect over the years.

"I found it weighed a little bit on my thinking off the field. Basically, that's why I made my mind up," he said.

"It's a very difficult decision, but I guess I didn't forget very easily what went on during the course of the year," he added, his voice filling with emotion.

Without going into specifics, he made clear there was a split between the team's two offices.

"Sometimes you have to satisfy two separate groups of people, and it shouldn't be that way. It should be you should just have to satisfy one group," Stottlemyre said. "Something needs to be done to have everybody always on the same page."

He said that if he spoke to potential replacements for himself, he wasn't sure whether he would recommend the job. He also said criticism got to Torre during this season.

"I think it affected him a little bit more this year, much the same way it did me," he said. "I think after a period of time it's going to wear on anybody."

While he hasn't spoken with Steinbrenner since spring training, Stottlemyre said criticism had filtered down. He said he would give the owner advice if Steinbrenner would listen.

"Nothing I would like more than [to] sit down 30 minutes for a conversation with him. He'd probably understand how I feel," Stottlemyre said. "That won't happen."

He contrasted his departure with that of bench coach Don Zimmer, who criticized Steinbrenner when he left after the 2003 season.

"I'm leaving happy," Stottlemyre said. "It may not sound like I am. Zimmer didn't leave happy. In that sense it's much different."

Only a few players were in the clubhouse to clean out their lockers. Reliever Tanyon Sturtze talked about the team's charter flight home after the final loss, a departure delayed for 3½ hours at the Ontario, Calif., airport by mechanical problems, then interrupted by a stop in Houston to change crews.

"That was the most miserable night ever," he said.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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