Steinbrenner To Torre: Win, or Else
Monday, October 8, 2007
NEW YORK, Oct. 7 -- The New York Yankees and Manager Joe Torre were dealing with not only an elimination game Sunday night, as they faced the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, but also a strongly worded ultimatum from owner George Steinbrenner, who implied Torre would be fired if the Yankees lost the series.
"His job is on the line," Steinbrenner said in a telephone interview with the Bergen (N.J.) Record, which printed the comments in Sunday's newspaper. ". . . 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 is making $7 million this season in the final year of his contract. He has led the Yankees to the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons in New York and took them to four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000, but the Yankees were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.
In a pregame news conference Sunday, Torre said: "For me to be sitting here and answering additional questions that I wouldn't have had to answer -- as I say, that's part of what you do here. Is it comfortable at times? No, it's not. But . . . I can't let it influence what my job is."
Torre said he was not aware of the story until being told by a Yankees employee upon arriving at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
"Whether I think it's right, wrong, fair, foul or whatever is really not the point at this point in time," Torre said. "Right now, I have a job to do."
General Manager Brian Cashman declined to address Steinbrenner's latest comments, but said of Torre: "I think Joe has been very consistent throughout his career here. He's done a great job for us. . . . We all know what's at stake here. Nobody is promised tomorrow, myself included."
Torre got an endorsement Sunday from Indians counterpart Eric Wedge, who said: "Joe Torre, to me, is one of the greatest managers of all time. I think he's a fantastic human being, and I've got nothing but respect for him."
In the interview with the Bergen Record, Steinbrenner also criticized umpire Bruce Froemming, the crew chief whose decision it was to play through a sudden infestation of midges at Cleveland's Jacobs Field in Game 2 -- a game the Yankees lost after giving up the tying run in the eighth inning during the infestation.
"The umpire was full of [expletive]," Steinbrenner said. "He won't umpire our games anymore." Froemming was working the left field line Sunday night for Game 3. . . .
After the Yankees scored just four runs and batted .121 in the first two games of the series, Torre tweaked his lineup in Game 3, putting slugger Jason Giambi at first base, benching slick-gloved first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz and dropping Hideki Matsui from fifth to seventh in the order.
"Our ballclub scoring four runs, [with] three of them on home runs, is not our identity," Torre said.
The Los Angeles Angels began their series against Boston without their most significant offseason acquisition, center fielder Gary Matthews, who was hobbled by a knee injury. They ended it without left fielder Garret Anderson and first baseman Casey Kotchman. Anderson left Sunday's Game 3 after two innings with a worsening case of conjunctivitis in his right eye. Kotchman was never in the lineup because of what the club termed a "non-baseball related medical condition." He missed most of 2006 with a viral syndrome.
Anderson's replacement, Reggie Willits, went 0 for 2 with a walk, while Kendry Morales, who filled in for Kotchman, went 0 for 4 as the Angels were swept.
Staff writer Barry Svrluga contributed to this report from Anaheim, Calif.