About Three reasons Yankee Boss did the flip-flop
|October 12th, 2006||#1|
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Three reasons Yankee Boss did the flip-flop info
Joe made case for job, was owed $7 million & Lou wasn't right fit
Make no mistake: Joe Torre is still squarely in George Steinbrenner's cross hairs.
All the proof you need is in the Boss' statement yesterday announcing his manager was staying for the final year of his contract.
Torre was as good as fired Sunday and would have been let go this week had it not been for a series of conversations that caused Steinbrenner to reluctantly relent. Two of them were directly related to Lou Piniella, whom Steinbrenner had determined was the only manager he could replace Torre with.
First was a conversation Steinbrenner had with his son-in-law, Yankees general partner Steve Swindal. Swindal negotiated Torre's last contract, which, at $7 million per year, makes him the highest paid manager in the game. And as Swindal pointed out to Steinbrenner, Piniella was going to cost at least $5 million a year, which would mean the Yankees would be paying $12 million for a manager next year. Steinbrenner listened and presumably gulped hard, but still didn't consider that a deal breaker for changing managers.
The second circumstance was a phone conversation Steinbrenner had Monday with Torre in which Torre appealed to him to let him try to straighten out the factious Yankee clubhouse and figure out why the team played so dispassionately in getting knocked out of the playoffs in four games by the Tigers.
Torre cited the 11 years of service he's given to Steinbrenner and made it clear he wanted to work for that $7 million.
The third and probably most important reason why Steinbrenner took his finger off the firing button had to do with Piniella. By Monday, Steinbrenner had been getting some uneasy vibes from his Yankee people about Piniella, whom he has often called his "adopted son." Though Yankee GM Brian Cashman offered only positive words about Piniella when Steinbrenner consulted with him over the weekend, the Boss knew Cashman had already designated Don Mattingly as his choice to replace Torre. Steinbrenner himself foresaw Mattingly as the eventual Yankee manager and with the relationships Mattingly has already developed in the clubhouse it would seem like an easy transition.
On the other hand, the loyalty of the key Yankee veterans - Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada - to Torre could potentially make for a difficult transition for an outsider like Piniella - especially considering Piniella's close relationship with Alex Rodriguez, whom he managed for six years in Seattle. Presumably, Rodriguez, who has been isolated in the clubhouse because of his longstanding freeze with Jeter, will be moved over the winter, but the perception remains that he is one of Piniella's favorites.
As one close friend of Steinbrenner's explained yesterday: "Lou was the only guy George could consider for replacing Torre, but it was clear to him there was an undercurrent of resistance to Lou in both the front office and the clubhouse. In the end, George just had too much affection for Lou to bring him into that situation."
And while it could be pointed out that there was far greater resistance for Steinbrenner's bringing in Billy Martin four more times after his initial firing in 1978, Steinbrenner's relationship with Piniella is much closer.
So while there was initial contact between the Yankees and Piniella's agent, Alan Nero, last Saturday, over the next two days Steinbrenner reluctantly concluded it wouldn't work - although he didn't reach his final decision to retain Torre until he woke up yesterday. If he'd hired Piniella, everyone would know it was his guy and what if Piniella failed to deliver a World Series as well?
So Torre comes back with hardly a vote of confidence. If anything, Steinbrenner's statement was not an endorsement of Torre as much as it was an indictment.
"I expect a great deal from you and the entire team," Steinbrenner said threateningly. "I have high expectations and I want to see enthusiasm, a fighting spirit and a team that works together."
In his venting last week - before the division series with the Tigers was even over - Steinbrenner cited the fact that he'd stayed completely out of it this year, at Torre's behest, and that he'd given Torre everything he asked for. But what especially galled him was the way his team seemingly didn't care. He didn't want to hear about the pitching. He wanted to know why he cared more than his $200 million team did. That's Torre's edict - to reinstate "enthusiasm, a fighting spirit and a team that works together." The first sign it's not happening, Steinbrenner has made it clear he won't hesitate this time in pushing that button.