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Torre has all of Majors buzzing

Torre has all of Majors buzzing

The news that Yankees manager Joe Torre turned down a one-year contract to return to the club for his 13th season in 2008 had a ripple effect throughout Major League Baseball on Thursday.

Torre rejected a $5 million guaranteed base salary, which would have been a $2.5 million cut from what he earned this past season.

"It's too bad," said Bobby Cox, whose second tenure with the Braves began in 1990, giving him the longest current tenure among Major League managers. "I thought [Torre] was the Manager of the Year in the American League this year. I'm not running their organization. But I would have taken him back in a heartbeat.

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"It's going to be strange [if he's not managing anywhere next season]. We associate Joe with the Yankees. You just never know in this game. I hate to see it. Joe is a top-notch quality person and top-notch quality manager."

The Yankees have been to the playoffs 13 years in a row and Torre, 67, guided them there the last 12 times. Along the way, they won the World Series four times and made it there six times, but not once since losing to the Marlins in 2003.

Since the bottom dropped out when the Yanks let the Red Sox escape from an 0-3 deficit in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the pressure has been steadily mounting. And recently, with the Yanks on the precipice of being knocked out in the first round for the third consecutive postseason, this time by the Indians, principal owner George Steinbrenner said that Torre's job was in jeopardy, particularly at the current price.

Torre not only became the victim of his own success, but he also was victimized by a marketplace in which Major League managers are no longer earning his type of dollars. Boston skipper Terry Francona, for instance, is in the first season of a two-year $4.05 million extension that paid him a base of $1.65 million this year. The Indians' Eric Wedge, his counterpart in the current ALCS, is being paid in the $1 million range for 2007.

Lou Piniella, who was signed to manage the Cubs last winter, is the second highest paid manager in baseball. He earned $3.5 million this year.

Thus, Torre, despite the cut, would still have had the highest salary of any manager in baseball. And with $1 million in incentives for making each round of the playoffs, he could have earned $8 million, $500,000 more than he made this season. Plus his contract for 2009 would have vested at $8 million had the club ascended again to the World Series.

Piniella, when reached at home by phone in Tampa, said he wasn't surprised at the turn of events.

Torre's winning legacy
Over 12 seasons, Joe Torre managed New York to 12 playoff appearances. His consistent success has him in high standing on the Bombers' all-time managerial wins list.
Rank
Name
Years
Record
1Joe McCarthy1931-46 1,460-867
2Joe Torre1996-2007 1,173-767
3Casey Stengel1949-60 1,149-696
4Miller Huggins1918-29 1,067-719
"Not really," said Piniella, a former manager, general manager and player under Steinbrenner. "The reason I say that, is it just dragged on too long. I knew that the chances of everything coming together were remote. He's done really nice things over there. First of all, he was a heck of a baseball player. His early managerial career wasn't all that good, but when he went to New York [with the Yankees], things clicked. He's made himself a Hall of Fame manager, that's what he's done. He's had a lot of success."

"I'm sure [Torre] was frustrated with the whole thing, especially after Steinbrenner said, 'Win this game or you're gone.'," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, when reached by phone at his home in San Antonio. "He's accomplished too much and he's too distinguished a guy to put up with that. He's not some first-timer rookie out there. Who knows what all went into it? Who knows what he was looking for as opposed to what they offered? He's accomplished way too much. If he didn't feel good about it, then he did the right thing."

Nowhere did the news of Torre's departure have more of an impact than in Cleveland on Thursday night, where the managers of the Red Sox and Indians were preparing their clubs for Game 5 of the ALCS. Cleveland leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can wrap up its third AL pennant since 1995 with a victory at Jacobs Field.

"I just actually heard about it a couple minutes ago," Francona said. "I guess I hope that however it came down -- and nobody knows except Joe and whoever he was dealing with -- I hope Joe is happy. He deserves respect. And I think you're going to hear people in baseball, in every area of baseball, say very, very kind, respectful things about Joe the next couple days. They're all deserved."

"I've got all the respect in the world for him as a person, player and manager," said Wedge, whose Indians beat Torre's Yanks last week in a four-game AL Division Series. "I believe a person who's accomplished all he's accomplished should manage as long as he wants to. He's one of the greatest managers of all time. What's as important as anything is he treats people the way they ought to be treated. But it is what it is."

Torre had an 18-year career catching and playing first base for three teams, all in the National League, and was a .297 lifetime hitter. But those Braves, Cardinals and Mets clubs never made the postseason. His 26-year managerial career began in 1977 with the Mets, and ironically he also managed the Braves and Cardinals, only making the playoffs once during 14 seasons with those three teams -- in 1982 when Atlanta was swept by St. Louis in the NL Championship Series.

His 12-year tenure with the Yanks that began in 1996, matches the Cardinals' Tony La Russa, for the second longest managing spans in the Major Leagues behind Cox.

Torre's Yankees winning percentage of .605 (1,173-767) brought his career numbers to .539 (2,067-1,770). But the team's player payroll consistently has been the highest in the Major Leagues, topping off at $215 million this past season, one at the end of which they lost to $61 million Cleveland.

In the end, the combination of the winning and the money spent made expectations almost unattainable.

"Joe Torre will be a Hall of Fame manager," said Jim Bowden, the general manager of the Nationals, when reached by phone in Washington, D.C. "One of the best of our time. I wish him the best of success. It's a decision that he made for his family. I respect the Yankees for making a decision that is the best interest of their club. I hope it works out for both of them."

Nationals manager Manny Acta believes Torre has become a symbol of the Yankees.

"I think it is a delicate situation," Acta said. "The fans of our generation, whenever they hear Yankees, they think Torre-Jeter. If this is the end, he leaves a great legacy."

Kenny Williams, the general manager of the White Sox, whose own team has been on the skids since winning the 2005 World Series, summed up the mood best for nearly everybody.

"We should all be so fortunate to have accomplished what he has in the game and been as classy in doing so," he said.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters Carrie Muskat, Scott Merkin, Anthony Castrovince, Jordan Bastian, Mark Bowman, Ian Browne and Bill Ladson contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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