Torre uncomfortable with pay cut, incentives in deal

Updated: October 21, 2007, 4:16 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

RYE, N.Y. -- Joe Torre told his side of the story Friday, saying the pay cut and performance incentives in the New York Yankees' one-year contract offer were an "insult."

"I just felt the contract offer, the terms of the contract, were probably the thing I had the toughest time with -- the one year for one thing, the incentives for another thing," Torre said of his reasons for declining the offer. "I've been there 12 years and I didn't think motivation was needed."

"We knew exactly what was expected here," he said. "So, I just didn't think it was the right thing for me, I just didn't think it was the right thing for my players."

Torre, who won four World Series with the Yankees and made the playoffs each of his 12 seasons, on Thursday turned down a one-year offer that would have cut his base pay to $5 million, a reduction of $2.5 million, but offered
$3 million in performance-based incentives and an $8 million option for 2009 if the Yankees won the 2008 AL pennant.

He wanted a face-to-face meeting with team management, saying he thought that was important. So Torre took a morning flight Thursday to Tampa, Fla., with general manager Brian Cashman, who had told him of the club's offer Wednesday night.

Cashman asked Torre if he was taking the trip to make a deal or say goodbye. Torre said he wasn't sure.

Nelson: Changing (pin)Stripes

Joe Torre will have to step into a new life, where he'll have to build a new identity, one which will no longer be defined by pinstripes and an interlocking "NY". Story

Torre, who had just completed a $19.2 million, three-year contract, turned down the deal after meeting with team owner George Steinbrenner, his sons Hal and Hank, team president Randy Levine and others.

Torre said the Thursday meeting went 20 minutes and that there was no negotiation on the proposed contract terms. He would not disclose what terms he offered to manage the team during the meeting, other than that the team did not budge from its offer.

"The fact that somebody is reducing your salary is just telling me they're not satisfied with what you're doing," Torre said Friday in a hotel ballroom with a small army of media members in attendance. "There really was no negotiation involved. I was hoping there would be, but there wasn't.

"If somebody wants you to do a job, if it takes them two weeks to figure out, yeah, we want to do this, should do this, yeah, you're a little suspicious."

Asked if he would return if the team reconsidered, Torre said he wasn't expecting that to happen. He said committment, not money, was the biggest factor.

"I like to work with people -- there's a certain trust that has to be earned and forged in order to have the commitment to follow," Torre said. "I can't answer that question because I don't anticipate it happening. If someone wanted me to manage here, I'd be managing here."

"Yes it was a very generous offer," he added, "but it wasn't the type of commitment that 'we're trying to do something together,' as opposed to 'let me see what you can do for me.'"

End To An Excellent Era

Joe Torre's 12-year tenure in the Bronx contrasts the Yankees' body of work in the decade before he was hired. A look at those periods in franchise history:

Last 23 seasons
  1985-95 1996-2007
Managers 9 1
W-L 886-826 1,173-767
Win Pct. .518 .605
Postseason appearances 1 12
WS titles 0 4
AL pennants 0 6
AL East titles 1 ('94 strike yr.) 10

Cashman informed the Yankees' coaching staff Friday the team is undergoing a search for a new manager, and the coaches have permission to seek employment elsewhere, because there is no guarantee they will be kept once a new manager is picked.

With 2,067 regular-season wins, Torre is eighth on the career list and was third among active managers behind the St. Louis Cardinals' La Russa (2,375) and the Atlanta Braves' Bobby Cox (2,255).

Torre indicated he might not be done managing, either.

"That depends on sitting with someone and discussing what the job is. I still feel the energy level," he said. "Right now my contract [with the Yankees] runs till Dec. 1 ... I'm free to listen right now."

At Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Terry Francona delayed his interview on a workout day in the AL Championship Series so he could watch the start of Torre's news conference.

"It's unbelievable that -- it's almost like 'The Bronx is Burning,' " Francona said. "You're watching something unfold that's just unbelievable."

The toughest part, Francona said, was watching Torre wait to learn of the Yankees' decision.

"To do it very publicly, which Joe had to endure, I think was very difficult," Francona said.

Would Torre return to Yankee Stadium for a ceremonial role, such as when Yankee Stadium closes in 2008 and its successor is opened in 2009?

"I'm really not prepared to comment on that," he said.

Torre's departure could influence the thinking of several key players on whether to return to the Bronx. Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and potentially Alex Rodriguez all face decisions on where they will play next spring.

"I love Joe Torre to death," Pettitte told Houston's KRIV-TV on Friday. "He meant the world to me. I hate that he's not going to be the manager.

"I have a big decision to make if I want to play again next year. I figured I would give myself a month to make the decision."

Under Torre, the Yankees went 1,173-767, trailing only Joe McCarthy (1,460) for wins among Yankee managers. Of those, he said the team's run of World Series success stands out.

"That World Series run we had was incredible. You don't realize until you lose a three-game lead like we did against Boston [in 2004] how important it is to keep momemtum on your side," he said. "To win 14 straight World Series games was pretty special.

"Watching Charlie Hayes catch that popup, the magical year of '98 and to follow it up in '99 and beating the Mets in 2000, which I thought we needed to do that because even though the Mets could have been a better team than us, the Yankees could never lose to the Mets. You have to be on both sides to understand how important that is. And I've been on both sides."

Torre never had much success as a manager before landing in New York, and when he replaced Buck Showalter, many predicted he would be gone in no time. But he turned out to be a rock and a buffer to the blustery Steinbrenner and brought stability to a team accustomed to turmoil. The Yankees won the World Series in 1996, his first year as their manager. They won again from 1998-2000, running off 14 World Series game wins in a row, and advanced to Game 7 of the Series in 2001, when they failed to hold a ninth-inning lead at Arizona.

Since then, despite baseball's largest payroll, there has been only frustration: A first-round loss to the Angels in 2002, a World Series defeat to the Marlins in 2003 and a painful collapse in 2004, when they allowed the Red Sox to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the AL Championship Series.

They lost to the Angels in five games in the first round in 2005, were eliminated by the Detroit Tigers last year and were knocked out by Cleveland this year.

"I've been very proud over the last 12 years to be a part of an organization that did very special things," he said, thanking Steinbrenner, his players and the team's fans for their support. "I took this job when I was 55 years old and my goodness, it's been the most exciting time of my life professionally, doing what we've been able to do in New York."

The Brooklyn native was the 1971 National League MVP and a nine-time All-Star. Before joining the Yankees, he had unsuccessful managing stints with the Braves, Cardinals and New York Mets -- the three clubs for which he played over a 17-year career.

Signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1960, Torre was second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1961. With the Cardinals, Torre led the NL in batting average, hits and RBIs in 1971, the year he won the MVP. Four times, he finished among the NL's top 10 in batting average, hits, RBIs and on-base percentage.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.