Fuck Joe Torre

With his spurning of the Yankees’ contract offer, Joe Torre has tarnished his previously pristine imagine.

Only in American sports would a potential two-year, $16 million deal be deemed unfair and scoffed at. In fact, only in the Yankee realm would a manager be offered an incentive-laden contract that would allow him to pocket $5 million even if the team fell on its face. The proposed contract stipulated that if the Yankees made the playoffs, Torre would get an extra million, and an additional million for each round the team advanced.

Lou Piniella, the league’s second-highest paid manager, made $3.5 million last season, and 22 managers make less than $2 million per year. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has had comparable success to Torre, will make $4.2 million this season. His job requires longer work hours and more strategy than Torre’s, and he coaches in a league with a restrictive salary cap that would kibosh any hope of a $200 million team payroll.

Torre was paid $7.5 million to squeeze into a uniform, make out a lineup card, watch baseball for three hours while sipping Bigelow green tea, make pitching changes when it was obvious the pitcher needed to be changed, and play nice with the media afterwards. The hardest part of his job was avoiding boredom during the 162-game season.

But the Yankees front office, the ol’ Evil Empire, was rancorous in its dealings with Gentleman Joe. How cruel of them to have offered him a one-year deal that would have made him the highest paid skipper in the majors. After falling short of the organization’s goal – a championship – for seven years, including three consecutive first round exits, it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect the Yankees to maintain status quo.

Whether or not the Yankees’ offer was perfunctory or done as a PR move, it was an offer that Torre should have accepted, and would have, if he didn’t consider a $5 million deal insulting. He felt that he was above being on the managerial hot seat; above a possible pay cut. He took it as a big enough insult that he walked away from his dream job.

Torre also played the “Upper Hand” game on his way out. In the 10 days between Steinbrenner’s edict and the Tampa meetings, Torre could’ve opted to retire or leave – his contract was up, after all. He didn’t, because he wanted the Yankees to (a) kick him to the curb, which would elicit the sympathy of the fans, most of whom consider him a deity, and have them unleash their anger on the front office, or (b) come to him humbled and make an offer that he could refuse. In either scenario, he would walk away with upper hand and the support of the fans.

It has and will continue to be said amongst fans: “Well, of course he walked away. He values dignity over money. And after George came out and disrespected him like that, no amount of money was going to bring him back.”

The Yankees may have played the PR game, but Torre played it even better. But he smeared his once-spotless veneer in the process.

On Saturday, Hank Steinbrenner defended the front office and its decision:

“Where was Joe’s career in ’95 when my dad hired him?”
“Let’s not forget what my dad did in giving him that opportunity — and the great team he was handed.”

“You can’t take credit for success when you’re going good, and then not take at least some of the blame when things change.”

Word up. Torre got credit for skippering a team that had the highest payroll in the sport for every season that he was at the helm. He got credit for the four World Series titles. So why doesn’t he get some of the blame for the seven consecutive failed seasons, four of which ended in embarassing first round ass-kickings?

“You don’t make an offer bluffing. What if he says yes?” Steinbrenner added.

That was a good response to the people saying the offer was just a perfunctory “save face” move. Even if it was, that’s a great fire-back. And if it was, it’d have been like calling someone you don’t want to talk to. You hope to get the voicemail, but you know they could pick up and you’re stuck in a shitty conversation. And in this case, they’d have been stuck with a manager they didn’t want. Not a smart business move. Why risk bringing back a guy they don’t want, making him the highest-paid manager in the league (still) and, if the incentives were met, have him for another two years at $16 million? Just to look like nice guys? If you dislike a mother fucker that much, you don’t want that scenario being a possibility.

If I were Hank, I’d have gotten at Joe even more. I’d have pointed out specific instances where his mistakes cost the team — and there were a lot — and aired his arrogant ass out. These people worry about perception and the reaction from the public (most of whom make judgment based on who they like) too much.


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