Torre says he 'still wants to manage' Yankees

Updated: October 20, 2005, 9:52 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- At first, Joe Torre didn't want to make any decisions after the New York Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs.

"I was tired. I was exhausted. I was disappointed, and I didn't know what I wanted to do," he said.

And when the manager arrived Monday to board a private plane that would take him to his meeting with George Steinbrenner, he still wasn't sure about his future.

"If I sensed that they were thinking something different than I was, we were going to have to find a way to split up," he said Tuesday.

Then, while takeoff was delayed for an hour by mechanical problems, Yankees president Randy Levine told him: "We want you back."

"That sort of broke the ice," Torre said.

After meeting with Steinbrenner for 45 minutes to an hour in Tampa, Fla., Torre was sure he wanted to return for his 11th season as Yankees manager.

"We didn't use the word love, but it was pretty warm," Torre said. "It was something more than cordial."

Leaving New York's minor league complex Tuesday, Steinbrenner praised Torre.

"It makes me feel very good. It really does," Steinbrenner said. "He's a good man. I like him. I understand him. I understand what he's after. I'm very happy to have him."

Steinbrenner hopes general manager Brian Cashman stays, too. Cashman's contract expires at the end of the month.

"We want Brian to return if we can get him," Steinbrenner said.

Asked whether he thought there was a good possibility Cashman would stay on the job, Steinbrenner responded: "I do."

Torre said he still was leaning toward retiring when his current contract expires after the 2007 season. After he arrived in Tampa, he felt positive vibes from Steinbrenner even before the start of Monday's 3 p.m. meeting at Legends Field.

"As I was going through the parking lot, he was pulling up in a car and he said, `Hi Joseph,' " Torre recalled. "Just little things that he does as opposed to what he says go a long way with me."

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Angels in the first round of playoffs last week, Torre held a one-hour news conference at Yankee Stadium. He wore gray trousers, a blue dress shirt with no tie and a sports jacket, looking less tense than during the final months of the season.

As the 65-year-old manager addressed the future, he didn't have on any of the four World Series rings he earned with the Yankees, a sign of the past.

Torre, who has managed New York to eight straight AL East titles, described his mind after the Oct. 10 loss to the Angels as "scrambled eggs" and spent several days with his family thinking over his future.

"I realize I still want to do this thing. I still want to manage," he said. "There's only one place to manage in my estimation. It's been the best time I've ever had, these 10 years."

Torre led New York to four World Series titles in his first five seasons, but the Yankees have not won the World Series since 2000.

Torre contacted Cashman and general partner Steve Swindal -- Steinbrenner's son-in-law -- on Saturday to suggest the meeting. Torre and Levine traveled from Westchester County Airport for the session with Steinbrenner, which also was attended by Swindal.

"I just wanted to pretty much clear the air on everything that was part of my unhappiness or anger or whatever you want to call it, frustration. I guess you can put all those things under the same heading," Torre said. "I just wanted to pretty much, for my own satisfaction, to find out if he still trusts me with his team."

He was angered by Steinbrenner's public criticisms during the season, especially when the owner bashed pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who is leaving, and second-guessed Torre's decision to have left-hander Alan Embree pitch to Paul Konerko of the White Sox on Aug. 9. Konerko hit a solo homer that gave Chicago a two-run lead in a 2-1 win.

"It just rubbed me the wrong way," Torre said, "I'm a year older. I'm a year crankier. It could have been the combination of the two.

He said the criticism became "very personal." His wife, Ali, noticed how it bothered him.

"He was jumpy, irritable," she said.

Dissent within the Yankees organization developed as the team got off to an 11-19 start, its worst since 1966. New York didn't clinch the division until the next-to-last day of the regular season and finished 95-67.

"It wasn't a lot of fun," Torre told Steinbrenner.

"Yeah, it wasn't," he said Steinbrenner responded.

Given all that, Torre said he needed "to hear that they want me to do what I do."

"I had to not only hear it," he said, "but hear the tone in which it was said."

Torre said the last week should be revealing to Yankees' observers.

"For all these people who say you sit in that dugout and you look nice and calm, I think you're finding out something different," he said. "There's a lot of stress involved."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press