Torre to return for 2006 season

Torre to return for 2006 season

NEW YORK -- After a week of soul-searching, Joe Torre came to the decision that he wanted to continue managing the Yankees, but he wasn't ready to make any final decisions until he heard that George Steinbrenner wanted him back.

So Torre flew to Tampa on Monday to meet with the Yankees' owner, accompanied by team president Randy Levine. The meeting, which also included Levine and general partner Steve Swindal, lasted less than an hour.

Torre left Steinbrenner's Legends Field office with the feeling that he was still the man for the job, so he ended a week of speculation Tuesday by announcing that he would return for his 11th season in the Bronx.

"I still want to manage here," Torre said. "And I'm satisfied that George feels he still wants me to manage here."

"Joe and I had a great meeting yesterday," said Steinbrenner in a statement. "We both look forward to bringing a championship back to New York and our great fans."

Throughout the year, Torre kept quiet when asked about his relationship with Steinbrenner, saying that he would address it after the season. The repeated criticism, second-guessing and statements through the media took their toll on the manager, who decided he needed to clear the air with Steinbrenner before speaking to the press.

"We did a lot of talking, and all of this stuff is behind us," Torre said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with having disagreements and being able to sit there face-to-face, talk about it and go on.

"I didn't want guarantees," he added. "I just wanted to clear the air on everything that was part of my unhappiness, anger, frustration -- I guess you can put all of those things under one heading. We talked about how we're going to go on from here."

Among Torre's primary complaints were the constant criticism of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, the second-guessing of his managerial moves, such as leaving Alan Embree in to face Chicago's Paul Konerko in an August game, as well as team execs feeding questions to YES Network reporters instead of calling Torre to ask them over the phone.

"I just wanted, for my own satisfaction, to find out if he still trusts me with his team," Torre said. "Not only the fact he said he did, but the way he said it was very comfortable. It wasn't forced. The atmosphere was very positive for me yesterday.

"I don't think there's anything I'm carrying forward from this year or the past 10 years that's going to be the straw that broke the camel's back," added the manager. "I'll keep doing what I do, and hopefully I'll still have the fire in my belly to do it."

As soon as Torre and Levine got on the plane, the conversation gave Torre an idea that things would work out for him.

"Randy told me, 'We want you back,'" Torre said. "That sort of broke the ice."

This may have been the most challenging season of Torre's 10-year tenure with the Yankees. His team endured an 11-19 start and a slew of injuries to the pitching staff.

After winning 95 games and an eighth consecutive American League East title, Torre and the Yankees were beaten in five games by the Angels in the Division Series, bringing their season to an early finish.

"To win the division, I was very proud of that," Torre said. "But on the other side of the coin, what enabled us to win the division just ran us dry at the end. We had to play every guy, every day, and we needed to win every single game."

Torre struggled with his decision over the past week, shutting himself out of all things baseball. He didn't watch the ALCS at all, and tuned into the NLCS for the first time on Monday night.

After spending the week with his wife, Ali, and their daughter, Andrea, Torre decided that the meeting with Steinbrenner was a necessity before he would make a final decision on his future.

"It was a waffle; it was going back and forth," he said. "The one thing I've learned is that when you're tired, you shouldn't make many decisions, because it's not going to come out real good. I was tired. I took the time to hang out at home, do what we do around the neighborhood, but I couldn't help from thinking about it quite often."

Following the loss to the Angels, Steinbrenner released a statement congratulating Los Angeles of Anaheim and its manager, Mike Scioscia. Many people felt the statement was a thinly disguised shot at Torre, who was not mentioned by the owner.

"I was assured that wasn't the case," Torre said. "That happened at the time I was out there with scrambled eggs in my mind. That bothered other people who are close to me more than it bothered me."

Lou Piniella, whose name has come up as a potential replacement for Torre, was not mentioned during the meeting on Monday.

"I don't dislike Lou because people ask me about him hovering over there," Torre said. "If George wants Lou, or anybody else to manage, that's certainly his prerogative. The fact that he's available, it's never really bothered me."

Last week, when Stottlemyre announced that he would not return, he cited the division between the New York and Tampa factions of the Yankees' organization as a reason. Torre acknowledged that the issue came up in the meeting, saying that there would be a conscious effort made on all sides to resolve that problem.

"It has to be, as opposed to their opinion and their opinion, it has to be conjoined in some way," he said. "To me, it's all about communication."

Torre isn't naive enough to think that Steinbrenner will stay silent the first time the Yankees go through an extended losing streak next season, but he hopes that the behind-the-scenes chatter will fade away.

"Hopefully we can all do a better job in not having it fester up like it did this year," Torre said. "If something happens, address it right now. If you have a question to ask, get it answered right now."

Torre has two years remaining on his deal, and while he hasn't ruled out managing beyond 2007, he admitted Tuesday that this will likely be his final contract, saying, "My guess would be that this would be it."

To win a fifth championship would wrap up his career, which started as a player in 1960, with a nice bow. For him, there's no better place to do it than in the Bronx.

"You want baseball to be fun, but the fun comes from winning," Torre said. "As far as I'm concerned, you have the best chance of winning here."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.