Torre Won't Return As Yanks' Manager

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 19, 2007

CLEVELAND, Oct. 18 -- The Joe Torre Era in New York, 12 years and 12 postseason appearances in length, came to an end Thursday when the embattled manager of the Yankees rejected a one-year contract offer from the team, 10 days after the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs. There will be a new manager in the Bronx next season, and possibly a radical new look to the Yankees' roster.

"We respect his decision," Yankees President Randy Levine said during a conference call with reporters in which the team announced the split. "We appreciate everything he's done. It's now time for the New York Yankees to move forward. We will be doing that very, very quickly."

The Yankees' offer to Torre, who led the team to four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000, reportedly was for $5 million guaranteed -- which still would have made him the highest-paid manager in the game, but which represented a 33 percent pay cut from the $7.5 million he made in 2007 -- with $1 million bonuses apiece for reaching the playoffs, the American League Championship Series and the World Series.

Speculation on Torre's replacement has centered on a pair of popular ex-Yankees: Don Mattingly, a six-time all-star during the 1980s and 1990s who was Torre's bench coach this season, and Joe Girardi, a former Yankees catcher who was the 2006 National League manager of the year for the Florida Marlins.

The news of Torre's exit reverberated around Jacobs Field here Thursday, as the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox were preparing to play Game 5 of the ALCS.

"I hope that however it came down . . . I hope Joe's happy," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said. "I think you're going to hear people in every area of baseball say very kind things about Joe in the coming days, and they're all deserving. I just hope he's happy."

A drama that had played out at an excruciatingly slow pace -- beginning with the Yankees' exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Indians on Oct. 8, and continuing through 10 days of nonstop Torre-related speculation that took the place of substantive news -- sped up considerably on Thursday.

Torre, accompanied by two Yankees executives, flew to Tampa, arrived at the team's offices at Legends Field at 1:30 p.m., and left shortly after 3 p.m.

By 4 p.m. the Yankees were announcing the split.

Owner George Steinbrenner, who publicly vowed not to bring Torre back if the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs, was reportedly in attendance at the meeting in which Torre rejected the contract offer.

"Joe was very respectful," Levine said. "He was the dignified man he's been since all of us have known him. . . . He just declined the offer."

General Manager Brian Cashman, one of the Yankees executives who flew with Torre to Tampa on Thursday, said he believes Torre was open to the possibility of returning when he boarded the flight.

"I asked him on the plane down. I asked him on the phone [Wednesday] night," Cashman told reporters. "And he honestly didn't know" what his decision would be.

Torre's departure from the Yankees could have an effect on the composition of the 2008 team. Three stalwarts from the 1996-2000 championship teams -- closer Mariano Rivera, lefty Andy Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada -- are eligible for free agency and have indicated, with varying degrees of certainty, that Torre's status with the Yankees might affect their own decisions on whether to return.

In addition, the Yankees are expected to begin negotiating a contract extension with third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who can exercise an opt-out clause in his contract and become a free agent.

The Yankees have said they will not negotiate with Rodriguez once he opts out of his contract.

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