Thursday, October 18, 2007
Torre 'couldn't agree to' proposed contract
By Buster Olney
ESPN The Magazine
As the Yankees' organizational meetings broke up Wednesday afternoon and general manager Brian Cashman prepared to fly back to New York, his cell phone rang. It was Joe Torre calling, to ask whether it would helpful, as his future with the Yankees was decided, for him to fly to Tampa and meet with the Steinbrenners face to face.
The Steinbrenners agreed. Torre had been told by Cashman over the last 72 hours what the forthcoming offer might be, but as Torre and Cashman flew to Tampa Thursday morning, Cashman asked the manager if he would accept. "Honestly, I don't know," Torre said.
George Steinbrenner was in the room when Torre sat down with Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman and team president Randy Levine. It was Hal Steinbrenner who spelled out the offer to Torre -- a one-year base of $5 million, with $1 million bonuses based on how far the Yankees advanced in the playoffs. The Steinbrenners explained their rationale for cutting his base salary 29 percent -- the team hadn't met the organization's goal of winning the World Series for seven seasons.
Torre was rewarded for past successes when he negotiated a new deal a few years ago, and in the proposed contract, his salary -- still the highest for any manager -- would come down for recent playoff failures.
Torre responded, in his measured tone, "Listen, I hear what you're saying, but that's something I couldn't agree to."
The Steinbrenners said that Torre would always be part of the family, and Torre and the Steinbrenners stood up. There were handshakes, and no tears, and after 12 years as Yankees manager, Torre walked away.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. He updates his Insider blog each morning on ESPN.com.