Report: Boss says Torre's job on line
Steinbrenner doubts skipper will be back if Yankees lose
NEW YORK -- Joe Torre's Yankees must advance to the American League Championship Series for the longtime manager to keep his job, owner George Steinbrenner said on Saturday.
Speaking in a telephone interview with The Record of Hackensack, N.J., which published his remarks on Sunday, Steinbrenner said that Torre's 12-year run at the helm is at stake as the Yankees face a 0-2 deficit to the Indians in the American League Division Series.
"His job is on the line," Steinbrenner told the newspaper. "I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don't think we'd take him back if we don't win this series."
Torre, who has managed the Yankees since 1996, is earning $7 million this year. He is not under contract for the 2008 season, making him a notable potential free agent in a Yankees group that includes Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and perhaps Alex Rodriguez.
"It's that time of year," Torre said. "It's what we do here. I've been here for 12 years. You try to do what you need to do, and that's make sure you concentrate on what you need to concentrate on.
"Comments from above are certainly within someone's right to do that, there's no question, but for me to respond to it or feel more pressure from it -- then I think I'm doing a disservice to this organization.
"I'm here to win ballgames and manage a ballclub. I do the best I can, and if it's decided it's not good enough, well, we've been here before. Then it's time for them to make a decision."
Steinbrenner told The Record that Torre has "been good for us over the years," and the Yankees have made the playoffs in each of Torre's 12 seasons. But they are facing first-round elimination for the third consecutive season on Sunday.
New York is pinning its Game 3 hopes on 45-year-old Roger Clemens, pitching opposite Cleveland's Jake Westbrook as the Indians try for the series sweep at Yankee Stadium. Torre said that the topic of Steinbrenner's comments did not come up in a pregame meeting he had with his players, sensing that the personality of his club was "fine."
"Everybody seemed pretty loose," Torre said. "To me, when you're in the situation I'm in, your job is always on the line. I don't think that's any secret. If that's fair or unfair, that's not for me to decide. That's for someone else to decide. We just talked baseball out there. I don't think that's fair to add something more than we need to have."
Addressing reporters on Saturday, Torre looked at the Yankees' 0-2 deficit and said that the club needed to find out what it is made of, and that it cannot take time to feel sorry for itself.
The 77-year-old Steinbrenner, who has reserved his words in recent years, instead opting to release most of his commentary through public relations man Howard Rubenstein, agreed with Torre's assessment.
"I think that's a good statement," Steinbrenner said. "They'd better show what they're made of."
Torre said that he understands criticism from Steinbrenner and the Yankees front office is a fact of life in the Bronx.
This is not the first time he has come under fire in 2007 -- through Rubenstein, Steinbrenner offered a vote of confidence for Torre following the club's lackluster 21-29 start, while putting general manager Brian Cashman "on a big hook."
Torre, who last spoke with Steinbrenner directly to go over the Yankees' ALDS roster, said that he had not been offered any such ultimatums -- win or else -- earlier in the season.
"This time of year, it's always the same question," Torre said. "It was last year for a number of days after we lost to Detroit [in the ALDS]. It's certainly not something you enjoy having to put up with, but the fact of the matter is that it's what goes with the territory."
In a wide-ranging interview with The Record, Steinbrenner also had choice words for umpire Bruce Froemming, the crew chief who opted to continue play in Friday's Game 2 despite swarms of small winged bugs, called midges, that unnerved rookie closer Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning as Cleveland tied the game, which eventually ended in 11 innings with the Indians winning, 2-1.
"He won't umpire our games anymore," Steinbrenner said of Froemming, who is retiring after this season.
Steinbrenner also acknowledged Rodriguez's future, as the probable American League MVP remains hitless in this ALDS (entering Sunday's action) and in his last 19 postseason at-bats.
"I think we'll re-sign him," Steinbrenner said of A-Rod. "I think he's going to have a good run the rest of the [postseason]. I think he realizes New York is the place to be, the place to play. A lot of this [postseason] is laying on his shoulders, you know, but I think he's up to it."
Steinbrenner told the newspaper that he maintains full control over the Yankees, despite published reports of his failing health.
"I'm doing all right," Steinbrenner said. "I'm fine."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.