NEW YORK -- Joe Torre was in his office at Yankee Stadium on
Tuesday, about to give the media his season wrapup, when general
manager Brian Cashman walked in and handed him his cell phone.
George Steinbrenner was on the line.
"He has informed me that I will be here as his manager next
year," Torre said about 15 minutes later.
And with that, Steinbrenner ended three days of speculation that
followed his team's second straight first-round exit from the AL
Ever since Detroit eliminated the Yankees on Saturday, reports
of Torre's imminent dismissal dominated New York media. When
Steinbrenner left Monday to return to Tampa, Fla., he said he still
hadn't made a decision.
Would he revert to his old ways, when he changed managers 20
times from 1973-95? Or would he stick with the revered Torre, who
led the team to four World Series titles in his first five years
but none in the six seasons since?
"Let's just say that he echoed support and commitment to having
me go on in this job," Torre said. "I felt comfortable with the
Steinbrenner recounted the talk in a statement issued through
spokesman Howard Rubenstein, saying he told Torre: "You're back
for the year. I expect a great deal from you and the entire team. I
have high expectations, and I want to see enthusiasm, a fighting
spirit and a team that works together. Responsibility is yours,
Joe, and all of the Yankees.
"Yes, I am deeply disappointed about our loss this year,"
Steinbrenner added. "We have to do better, and I deeply want a
championship. It's about time."
Since Saturday's loss, Steinbrenner spent his time listening to
the advice of his top executives. On Monday, Torre spoke with him
about 15-20 minutes, and told him: "If you feel in your heart a
change has to be made, go ahead and do it." After that phone call,
Torre said he felt more confident he would keep his job.
All the while, camera crews camped outside Torre's home in
"I thought I had the cure for cancer or something," Torre
The most likely successor for the 66-year-old Torre was Lou
Piniella, who served two terms as Yankees manager in the 1980s.
For two days, speculation about Torre's job ran nonstop. First
he was out; then he was in.
"I didn't read the paper," Torre said. "But I know my sisters
did and my brother did and wife did."
Torre has led the Yankees to 11 consecutive playoff berths and
nine AL East titles in a row, finishing in a tie with the Mets for
best regular-season record this year at 97-65. But despite having
baseball's largest payroll by a wide margin, the Yankees haven't
reached the World Series since 2003.
"When we go to spring training every year, we talk about
getting to the World Series. We don't talk about having a good
year, let's have a good record and all that stuff. It's getting to
the World Series. So you know going in what the requirements are,"
Torre said. "He requires a lot. He expects a lot and we know that.
You can't pick and choose the parts that you like about working for
George Steinbrenner. You have to understand the whole package, and
the whole package has been pretty damn good as far as I'm concerned
for 11 years."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said team executives gave
Steinbrenner their opinions on Torre. Steinbrenner informed them of
his decision just before telling the manager his job was safe.
"I believe he is the right man for this job at this point in
time," Cashman said.
Some of Torre's players lent their support.
Derek Jeter's agent, Casey Close, said the Yankees captain was
"thrilled by the news."
"Everybody knows the comfort level Derek has with Joe," Close
Piniella also backed Torre.
"I'm sorry he had to go through that rigamarole," he said.
"There was no need for that."
Torre, hired after the 1995 season, nearly quit after last
season, when his relationship with Steinbrenner deteriorated. But
the two got along well this year and there was no evidence of
interference by the owner.
Torre has one year remaining on his contract and is owed $7
million, the highest salary for a baseball manager. He isn't sure
whether he wants to manage beyond 2007.
"When you work here, you have to understand that every year may
be your last year," Torre said.
Late in the season and during the playoffs, he made several
controversial decisions. He moved right fielder Gary Sheffield to
first base when he returned from wrist surgery, and put Hideki
Matsui back in left in place of Melky Cabrera when Matsui came back
from a broken wrist.
His most debated move was to drop Alex Rodriguez, baseball's
highest-paid player at $252 million and a two-time AL MVP, to the
No. 8 spot in the batting order for the season-ending 8-3 loss to
Rodriguez went 0-for-3, dropping to 1-for-14 in the series, but
Torre said A-Rod "is one of the important pieces to this puzzle
here" and Cashman said the Yankees didn't intend to trade him.
"I hate to think that if I had just batted Alex fourth that
last game, we'd have won," Torre said.
Torre talked about how narrow the difference is between winning
and losing, citing when Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and
grabbed the ball, giving Jeter a home run in the 1996 AL
With 1,973 regular-season wins, Torre is 10th on the career list
and third among active managers behind Tony La Russa of the St.
Louis Cardinals (2,297) and Bobby Cox (2,171) of the Atlanta
Torre has the longest uninterrupted term for a Yankees manager
since Casey Stengel held the job for 12 years from 1949-60. The
Yankees have gone 1,079-699 under Torre, and he trails only Joe
McCarthy (1,460) and Stengel (1,149) for victories among Yankees
Across town, as he prepared for the NL Championship Series, Mets
manager Willie Randolph was pleased that his former boss was
"I didn't understand all the talk," Randolph said. "He
deserves to be back. He's done tremendous things for the
Detroit manager Jim Leyland thought Torre deserved to stay.
"Joe Torre should be managing the Yankees," he said, "and not
a lot of guys can do that."