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Inside Column: Shame of the Yankees

Bill Brink and Chris Hine | Friday, October 19, 2007

The news that Joe Torre is leaving the Yankees, although somewhat expected, is still painful to those of us who have grown up Yankee fans. Torre was responsible for some of the best memories of our childhood – four World Series championships, six American League pennants and 10 division titles.

In a baseball era tainted by cheaters, Torre was a model of how a man, much less a professional baseball figure, should carry himself. He never lashed out at his players, never criticized his boss and always gave back to the community. He was a man under constant pressure, but he never let you know it.

The win-now mantra prevalent in sports today finally caught up to Torre. Four championships in 12 years and a playoff appearance every season he donned the pinstripes should have erased any doubt about Torre’s job security. The Yankees’ maniacal owner, George Steinbrenner, has breathed down Torre’s neck for some time, and finally got his chance to let him go, to move on, to contend again.

Did he do it? Nope.

Rather than do the honorable thing – thank Torre for his services but tell him the team was moving on – the Yankees offered Torre a one-year, $5 million contract – a salary cut of more than $2 million – with incentives that could have made it worth $8 million. Why the salary cut? To account for recent playoff failures, according to Yankees brass.

Apparently even the classiest sometimes get no class in return. With the way ownership treated Torre, it would have been more respectful not to offer him a contract at all. They made him an offer he had to refuse.

So Torre did what any successful, self-respecting manager would do – he said no. He doesn’t need to prove anything; his record speaks for itself. Why pander to the people who disrespect your accomplishments?

As great a ballpark as Yankee Stadium is, it’s a shame that Torre wasn’t given the chance to manage in the new Yankee Stadium, which will be ready for the 2009 season. Just one of the many things the Yankees didn’t take into consideration.

Another side effect they glossed over is the fact that Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte may now leave the team because Torre is gone. If the owners want to win championships, losing important members of the team isn’t the way to start.

The contract offered to Torre was a good one in itself; it still made Torre the highest-paid manager in baseball. But the contract didn’t take Torre’s past into account, a necessary step when dealing with a figure of Torre’s stature in Yankee lore.

People in the Yankees organization have tried to get him fired for the past couple of years. In doing so, they resorted to backstabbing and reduced their dignity in the process. Torre will leave the Yankees with something much more than four World Series titles – his pride. We wish we could say the same for others in the Yankee organization.