Torre declines Yankees' contract offer
Manager walks away, ending 12-year reign as skipper
NEW YORK -- Joe Torre's 12-year run with the Yankees ended on Thursday in a Legends Field conference room, as the manager walked and left a contract offer for 2008 on the table.
In a surprising turn of events, Torre flew to the club's Spring Training home in Tampa, Fla., only to reject a one-year contract offer, effectively closing his successful managerial tenure with the club.
"We respect Joe Torre an awful lot," said team president Randy Levine. "He is a great, great person and a great Yankee. All we could do together as a group is make him the offer that we thought was the best for the New York Yankees. We respect him and he's entitled to his own decision."
The offer would have paid Torre a base salary of $5 million, with $1 million bonuses for each level of the postseason the Yankees reached next season, Levine said.
Those bonuses would have meant that Torre could have earned as much as $8 million in 2008. Levine said that if the Yankees made it to the World Series next season, his contract would have vested for 2009, with a base salary of $8 million.
Yet Torre -- after 12 consecutive postseason appearances, four World Series titles and 1,173 regular season victories for New York -- was not interested. Torre will address the media in a press conference Friday at 2 p.m. ET in Rye Brook, NY.
"The decision stands on its own," Levine said. "We all believe as one that this was the best way to go. We obviously wanted Joe Torre to come back; that's why we made him the offer. We respect his decision not to go forward. We thought it was a fair offer."
Now, the Yankees will have a new face and voice in the dugout for 2008, the final season of the current Yankee Stadium before moving into a new facility across the street. The search to fill an hours-old managerial vacancy will commence immediately.
"This is a difficult day, because of respect for the work that this man has done," said general manager Brian Cashman, who left Tampa on Wednesday only to return on Thursday with Torre and COO Lonn Trost in tow.
"At the same time, we're all willing to undertake the challenge ahead of us to find the next man who's best suited to represent this franchise in that dugout. It's an enormous position."
And it was for Torre, who won six American League pennants and finished as the second-winningest manager in franchise history. By the close of his managerial tenure, Torre was extremely well-compensated for his service, earning $7.5 million for guiding the Yankees to a 94-victory season in 2007.
In conversations meant to gauge Torre's state of mind and willingness to return for 2008, volleying back and forth concepts and ideas, Cashman said that Torre brought up the idea of traveling to Tampa in the event there was interest on the Yankees' behalf of bringing him back.
But Cashman said that he did not believe Torre had made up his mind to reject the Yankees' offer before leaving his Westchester, N.Y., home on Thursday morning, flying to Tampa on his own suggestion for what proved to be a fateful face-to-face meeting with team brass.
"I don't think he got on that plane knowing either way," Cashman said.
The Yankees had just concluded two days of organizational meetings in Tampa in which, among other topics, they tackled the issue of who should serve as the club's manager next season.
Steinbrenner said in an Oct. 6 interview that Torre was not likely to be asked back if the Yankees failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and the club fell in four games to the Cleveland Indians days later.
Steinbrenner's son, Hank, defended the Yankee motto in a conference call with reporters from Tampa.
"The point is, the objective of the Yankees -- since the '20s -- has been to win the championship every year," Hank Steinbrenner said on Thursday. "Just ask what the objective of [Vince] Lombardi was, or [Bill] Belichick with the Patriots. None of us think we're going to win the championship every year, but that's the goal. Period."
As he addressed the Yankees' playoff exit on Oct. 8, Torre said that he did not want to think about the idea that he may have managed his final game.
"This has been a great 12 years," Torre said. "Whatever happens from here on out, I'll look back on these 12 years with great, great pleasure."
In lengthy meetings held on Tuesday at Steinbrenner's gray-brick estate and on Wednesday at Legends Field, though, the Yankees reversed course, agreeing -- unanimously, Levine said -- to offer Torre a deal to remain on.
Hal Steinbrenner said that he did not believe his father's statements to the Bergen (N.J.) Record had influenced the club's decision to offer a performance-based scale.
"I cannot speak for George as far as the comments, but as far as I'm concerned, they did not play a part," Hal Steinbrenner said.
Torre's winning legacy
|Over 12 seasons, Joe Torre managed New York to 12 playoff appearances. His consistent success has him in high standing on the Bombers' all-time managerial wins list.|
"Joe was very respectful," Levine said. "He was the dignified man he's been since all of us have known him. There was no acrimony. We had a very open discussion and he declined the offer."
Torre was hired by the Yankees following the 1995 season, replacing Buck Showalter. The move initially was not received well in New York, which remembered the Brooklyn-born Torre from when he was manager of losing Mets teams from 1977-81.
That changed quickly, however, as the 1996 Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves, rebounding from an 0-2 deficit, in the World Series -- their first world championship since 1978. Torre's Yankees went on to win three more World Series over the next four seasons, from 1998-2000.
But the Yankees had not reached the World Series since falling in the 2003 Fall Classic, and had not advanced to the ALCS since 2004, when they blew a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox.
As evidenced by their offer on Thursday, the Yankees had expected to continue their pursuit of a 27th World Championship with Torre calling the shots. Instead, it will be someone else's turn.
"Nobody knows what the future will bring," Levine said. "All we can tell you is that we're going to go to work immediately on trying to find the new manager for the New York Yankees."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.