Friday, October 19, 2007 Updated: October 20, 4:03 PM ET
No longer defined by pinstripes, Torre embarks on post-Yankee life
By Amy K. Nelson ESPN.com
RYE, N.Y. -- Joe Torre entered the room at 2:02 p.m., wearing a navy blazer, pale blue shirt and maroon tie. His fingers were bare of World Series rings, just his wedding band adorning his left hand. His wife, daughter, son and two sisters accompanied him and sat in the second row as he stepped onto a dais awash in blue light against Yankee-blue velvet.
If this had been any other occasion, any other place, in the past 12 years, the colors, scene and roomful of reporters would have been apropos for the manager of the New York Yankees.
Joe Torre will be remembered as much for his unfailing leadership as Yankees manager than any number of victories or championships.
But this was Oct. 19, the day after Torre turned down an offer to remain manager of the team to which he brought, and in return was given, so much success, fame and fortune since 1996. And this was not Yankee Stadium but a ballroom in Rye, miles from Manhattan. It was filled for a man who had become a legend in the city in which he was raised. It was the setting for his departure.
"I'm a little uncomfortable, obviously," Torre said as he sat down and flashbulbs cracked, "for a lot of reasons."
One of them might have been the locale, a place in which he has no roots and which he entered knowing a barrage of questions would come about his sudden divorce from an iconic franchise.
More than 30 TV cameras, two dozen still photographers and 60-plus reporters filled the room, waiting to hear Torre's version of events. More exactly, why he no longer would manage a franchise that reached the postseason in each of his 12 seasons, won 10 division titles and won four World Series championships.
In classic Torre fashion, he appeared as honest and as open with the media as he could be. In a rare show of respect, he even addressed many of the Yankees beat writers by their first names. Torre didn't blast his former employer but provided a window into how he felt: as though he no longer was wanted.
"There's a certain trust that has to be earned and forged in order to have the commitment to follow," Torre said. "If somebody wanted me to manage here, I'd be managing here."
When he flew down to Tampa with general manager Brian Cashman on Thursday, Torre knew what the Yankees' contract offer would be: $5 million for 2008 plus incentives that could have increased the contract's value to $8 million, with a second-year option that would be guaranteed if the team reached the World Series. Cashman warned Torre the Yankees were unlikely to deviate from the contract offer. Torre still felt he owed it to himself and his bosses to have a face-to-face meeting, and he was hopeful that once he was there, a negotiation could take place.
He was wrong.
"I basically asked if they wanted me to manage this club and why," Torre said. "There really was no negotiation involved. I was hoping there would be, but there wasn't."
Instead, the meeting ended after 20 minutes, with Torre first shaking the hand of owner George Steinbrenner, then the hands of the rest of the men in the room: Steinbrenner's sons Hank and Hal, team president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost and Cashman. Then Torre flew back home without a job.
At his press conference Friday, he would not admit to feeling bitter, but some of his answers revealed tension and frustration, especially with the way in which the Yankees tied incentives and a second year to making it to the World Series.
"I had been there for 12 years," Torre said. "I didn't think motivation was needed. ... The incentives I took as an insult."
He also added that he felt as if he had just one or two allies in that room in Tampa, and when pressed, could name only Cashman. He said he couldn't be sure if there was anyone else who supported him -- an indication of his relationships with the rest of the organization's hierarchy.
"It was apparent to me, there were a number of people in that room who certainly spent some time putting together an offer," Torre said, "who didn't really waver off their opinion, off their decision, about how to go about their business.
"There was maybe a person or two that wanted me back."
That wasn't enough to make that happen. Although the reality seemed to have hit him, it clearly was too soon for him to accept the finality of his decision. He still spoke at times with the word "we," and his voice cracked when he spoke about his family and his relationships with Yankees players.
Torre said he won't go back to Yankee Stadium to clean out his office. It would be too emotional for him; an assistant will do it instead. He isn't sure what he will do next, but at 67, he still is happy to listen to offers to manage if they come. When asked if he will return when the new stadium opens in 2009 or at some point for Old-Timers' Day, Torre offered his only "no comment" of the afternoon.
He even left a door open to coming back, saying he wasn't a "fortune teller" but that there would need to be trust in order for that to happen. Clearly, that trust does not exist. With the hurt feelings and disappointment he expressed, his return is hard to imagine.
He then stressed his affinity for his players and coaching staff, whom he will miss the most. He said he has very few regrets, and what he'll look back at most fondly was winning four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000. He said he felt that would be his legacy.
"I can't tell you how appreciative I am of this now that it is over," Torre said of his rings and his record, second all-time in wins as a Yankees manager. "I can look back and really appreciate what company I'm in."
What he couldn't do was suggest who will take his job, his office and his perch in the Yankees' dugout. He knows Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi are favorites, and he said that, as former Yankees, they both are very aware of what they would step in to. He did say the new manager should take steps to insulate his players, since the pressure that comes with the job can create much distraction.
Torre then concluded his press conference, many members of the media applauding him. As he walked out of the ballroom with his wife, Ali, on his arm, he stepped into a new life in which he will have to take on a new identity -- one he will forge on his own, one that no longer will be defined by the Yankees.
Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com.