Torre explains his decision to leave
Former Yanks skipper unhappy with length of offer, incentives
RYE BROOK, N.Y. -- In his final move as Yankees manager, Joe Torre walked to George Steinbrenner's side of a Legends Field conference room, shook the owner's hand and thanked him for trusting him with his club for 12 seasons.
With that parting gesture, Torre found a door and headed for home. Leaving the Yankees' one-year proposal hanging in the air of that fourth-floor room, Torre explained on Friday that it was an offer he just could not accept.
It would not be good for him or for the team, he said, to have a manager without job security. And so ended one of the most successful managerial runs any franchise will ever see.
"I just felt that the terms of the contract were probably something I had the toughest time with," Torre said during a press conference at the Rye Town Hilton, near his home in suburban Westchester County. "The one year, for one thing; the incentives for another thing. I had been there for 12 years, and I didn't feel the motivation was needed.
"I just didn't think it was the right thing for me, or the right thing for my players."
Torre, who guided the Yankees to four World Series titles, six American League pennants and a postseason berth in all 12 seasons, was given word of a contract offer on Wednesday and -- on his own suggestion -- traveled on a charter plane to the club's Spring Training complex in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday to meet with club officials.
During the flight down, Torre was accompanied by general manager Brian Cashman and chief operating officer Lonn Trost. He left Florida alone, having ultimately declined the offer, which would have paid him a base salary of $5 million with $1 million bonuses for each level of the postseason the Yankees reached next season.
With those bonuses, Torre could have earned as much as $8 million in 2008. If the Yankees made it to the World Series next season, his contract would have vested for 2009, with a base salary of $8 million.
Sitting at the center of a ballroom on Friday afternoon, underneath two crystal chandeliers and backed by a midnight-blue curtain, Torre looked out at more than 200 reporters and media people and unfolded a sheet of paper, his voice cracking periodically as he choked out a set of prepared remarks.
That opened an hour-plus exchange with reporters in which Torre offered public thanks to Steinbrenner, his players, coaches and support staff, as well as the fans who supported his Yankees as they reached the postseason in each of his seasons in New York.
"You could feel their heartbeat," he said. "It's a very special place to play baseball and to manage baseball, and just to be a part of the whole Yankees scene. It's been very special, and I'll never forget it."
His good-byes complete, Torre did not burn bridges, but he clearly put his tenure in pinstripes in the past tense. He admitted that he had bristled at the idea of the clauses tacked on to the end of the deal, which team president Randy Levine described on Thursday as "motivation."
"The incentives, to me, I took as an insult," he said. "We basically get to the postseason, and all of a sudden, we're satisfied with where we've gotten? If we hadn't started this run, being in five of the first six World Series, I don't know how to say that one is never enough, or two is never enough. You're constantly driving, because you know that's the standard you've set for yourself.
"But there really was no negotiating. I was hoping there would be."
The 67-year-old Torre, who has managed in the Major Leagues for 26 seasons, said that a negotiation might have led to a different result.
"I was obviously discouraged with the fact that they would never move off the offer they made, that they never got to a negotiation," he said. "I don't know if that was the purpose.
"Five million dollars is a lot of money, and I'm not going to sneeze at that. I'm not going make that this year, so it's certainly not something I take for granted. But the fact that someone is reducing your salary, it's telling me that they're not satisfied with what you're doing. ... Two years certainly would have opened the door to have further discussion, but it never happened."
Torre sidestepped the question of whether the offer was intended to be rejected, and said that he thought there was "probably a person or two" in the room on Thursday who wanted him back as manager -- certainly not the "unanimous" decision Levine insisted was made during a conference call on Wednesday.
"The decision stands on its own," Levine said during the call. "We all believe as one that this was the best way to go. We obviously wanted Joe Torre to come back; that's why we made him the offer. We respect his decision not to go forward. We thought it was a fair offer."
Torre later singled out Cashman as one of those voices of support, thanking the general manager for their close relationship and for helping to save his job after a disappointing first-round exit in 2006.
The Yankees had just concluded two days of organizational meetings in Tampa in which, among other topics, they tackled the issue of who should serve as manager next season. The drawn-out nature of the proceedings prompted some to speculate that Torre's chances of returning may have been helped, but Torre had a different viewpoint.
"If somebody wants you to do a job, if it takes them two weeks to figure out, 'Yeah, we want to do this, we should do this,' you're a little suspicious," he said.
Given the Yankees' history of bringing back managers during the ownership of George Steinbrenner -- Billy Martin had five stints as skipper, and Lou Piniella, Gene Michael and Bob Lemon each had two -- Torre was asked if he would consider returning if the team had a change of heart.
"I can't say that. I'm no fortune-teller," he said. "I don't anticipate seeing that happen, based on the fact that if someone wanted me to be managing here, I'd be managing here. It was a generous offer, but it still wasn't the type of commitment of trying to do something together, instead of, 'Let's see what you can do for me.'
"It's not totally money. It's commitment, and commitment is a two-way street."
Most probably, the Yankees will have a new face and voice in the dugout for 2008, the final season of the current Yankee Stadium before the team moves into a new facility across the street. The search to fill an hours-old managerial vacancy will commence immediately.
"This is a difficult day, because of respect for the work that this man has done," Cashman said on Thursday. "At the same time, we're all willing to undertake the challenge ahead of us to find the next man who's best suited to represent this franchise in that dugout. It's an enormous position."
It certainly was for Torre, who finished as the second-winningest manager in franchise history. By the close of his managerial tenure, he was extremely well compensated for his services, earning $7.5 million for guiding the Yankees to a 94-victory season in 2007.
"I was very much in peace with my decision," he said.
Torre did not reject the idea of managing again in another uniform, saying that he was open to listening to offers. He declined comment when asked if he would return to Yankee Stadium in future ceremonies; he planned to send an assistant to clean out his office for the final time, saying that he wanted to leave the memories there.
"I feel very blessed that I've been able to do this in this town," he said. "It's something they'll never take away from me or my family."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.