Questioning St. Joe

The AFL Pitching Debate
Buster Olney thinks Joe Girardi is a good fit for the Yankees

So Joe Torre. Let’s talk about him. It’s been hours days.

In the aftermath of Torre’s dismissal/firing/decision to quit, the New York sports media, ready to collectively fire Joe in May, were anointing him a saint. He was the Manager Who Stood Up to Steinbrenner. He stuck by his guns and made fools of those Steinbrenner sons and Randy Levine. Hell, even we got into the act last week.

But what if Joe isn’t exactly the saint he was made out to be? He did, as many of you are wont to point out, turn down a $5 million offer to manage the Yankees for another year and could have made up to $8 million. He claims he was insulted by the incentives, but I’m beginning to doubt the man.

Take a look here. In April of 2004, Joe Torre signed a three-year contract extension with the Yanks that carried him through this season. As part of the deal, he would be retained as a senior adviser with the club – the one he called “the last major league team I’m going to manage” – for six years following his retirement. But that’s not the important bit.

The important bit focuses around incentives. Tyler Kepner wrote: “He will also receive bonuses for winning the American League pennant or the World Series, as he did in his last deal.”

Well, well, well. That certainly changes things quite a bit, doesn’t it? Was Joe Torre really that insulted by an incentive-laden deal this year if he had basically been managing on an incentive basis for the duration of his last two Yankee contracts? I find that hard to believe.

Meanwhile, last night on Bob Costas’ show, as Cliff Corcoran details here, Torre said he would have taken an incentive-based deal with a pay cut had the Yankees been willing to offer a second year.

So then, this whole issue boils down to one of two things. Torre, who had long seen the writing on the wall, must have known the Yankees wanted him out of New York, but he wanted to go out on top. So when they publicly offered him a pay cut and a one-year deal, he highlighted the incentives – something in all of his deals – as the kicker for him. He was able to look good while backing out of a deal he probably just should have accepted. With an unstable ownership situation, Torre would most likely have kept his job in 2009 also had the Yankees made the playoffs next year even without a World Series ring. That’s one.

The second piece is pride. Joe Torre always wanted to be the last Yankee Manager at the old stadium and the first at the new one. When the Yankees couldn’t yet guarantee him that experience, he bailed. While the team didn’t need help in making themselves look bad, he took the contract negotiations public and came out unscathed. I’m beginning to think we should question the purity of St. Joe as the Yankees move forward with their managerial search. He surely is not that innocent.

The AFL Pitching Debate
Buster Olney thinks Joe Girardi is a good fit for the Yankees
  • kris

    No, but let’s not be naive here. Joe wanted to hurt the Tampa stooges as much as he could. But somebody else said it best: Whom would you rather have next to you in a foxhole? Randy Levine? Hank? Joe?

  • steve (different one)

    don’t you get it, the incentives are insulting when they come with a $5M base salary. when they come with a $7M base salary, they are wonderful.

  • eddie s.

    guilty-as charged!

  • steve

    i didn’t know he had incentives on his last contract ? what were they? the same as this one, million per series?

    • Travis G.

      yeah, it was the same $1 million bonus for each level reached: LDS, LCS, WS, and winning it.

  • Brian

    I think that Torre highlighted the incentives as a cover for something more to the point that he was not wont to say, that is, he was generally uncomfortable with the transition in leadership, perhaps the Hank-Hal ascension, the likelihood of Randy Levine’s spotlight becoming brighter, etc. And, he got way too much sympathy from the celebrity crowd for his own good, making it seem like his own “thanks, but no thanks” approach was akin to a more dignified form of the bird.
    Either way, I have to believe that change will be good for the Yankees. I’m much more optimistic about that than I was a week ago, only because you realize it needs to happen at some point. Joe G, Mattingly, whoever it is, I can get behind. They are the friggin Yankees. I have to believe the circus that is the Knicks won’t apply.
    My question is: who does Brian Cashman want for manager, all other decision-makers excluded? I’d love to know though I never will.

  • Mike R.

    There is an old saying in Spanish. “Callado te ves mas bonito”. Which translates to “You look prettier when you shut up.”

    This applies here more than ever. The Yankees looked good in all of this because they offered Joe Torre a deal that would keep him being the highest paid manager in baseball with the potential for a raise and he turned it down. It was Joe’s decision not to come back, not their’s. Cue Randy Levine shooting his mouth off with his unneccesary “We believe in motivation” crap, and BOOM Joe Torre was back to being the victim.

    Now Joe Torre has decided to go on his media tour talking to any and everyone who will hold a mic and listen and people are getting tired of it and starting to see that Torre isn’t so innocent in all this.

    The winner here is the first to shut the hell up and move on. Who breaks first?

    • Brian

      I bet it’s the Yankees. If Joe is in his “Yogi Berra freeze-out” mode, it’ll be much more publicized and much more sympathetic of Joe’s role in the Golden Era of the late 90’s Yankees. What would be awesome is if the Yankees stop talking about it, start winning again, and render Joe’s reign as one that needed ending anyway. That will shut everyone up, I’d guess.

      • Mike R.

        We are on the same page. I was thinking the same thing.

  • Rob

    Cot’s had Torre getting a $1 million bonus for winning the Series this year.

    Otherwise I agree – Torre wanted two years while the Yanks were offering one. Hard to bridge that impasse. But Torre should have known that if they made the playoffs again it was going to be just as hard for the Yanks to fire him.

  • rbizzler

    While I know that it is lame and somewhat of a cop-out, it does seem that a proper explanation of the situation lies somewhere in the middle of where both sides are camped right now. First off, I think that Torre is being sincere when he said that the one-year deal was a sticking point for him. People have pointed out that he was willing to accept a one year offer in the Spring as evidence that Joe is being a bit hypocritical. I think that the big difference is that that offer was made by Steve Swindal (ostensibly with backing from Cash), and has little to do with the Tampa folks that Torre despises. The recent offer would have again left Joe at the mercy of the SteinBROTHERS and Levine, a proposition that he didn’t look forward to. Hence, Joe’s reluctance to accept the deal.

    Also, Joe was upfront about the incentive clauses when he was on HBO. I think the sticking point, once again, is the fact that they were offered by people whose baseball acumen Torre did not respect. It is clear that Torre is not a fan of the Tampa contingent and that he wants to use the goodwill that he enjoys with the media (and fans) to stick it to them on the way out the door. I say more power to him and thanks for the memories.

    It is time to move on though…

  • http://GulfSouthConference Eric SanInocencio

    The incentive clauses don’t bother me too much, whether he did or didn’t receive them isn’t at the heart of the issue for me. The problem I have with the “insulting” contract offer is that the numbers involved still would have made him the highest paid manager in the major leagues.

    People bring up the analogy concerning what we would do if we were offered our same job at a 33 percent paycut, but that logic doesn’t apply in this instance. We can’t accurately make that correlation because we weren’t already the highest paid at our position by over 200 percent. The money does matter.

    If he thought 1 year at 5 million plus incentives is insulting, that what is 3 years at 9 million going to look like? This is the most I feel he can expect to receive from any other team. I pray to be that “insulted” one day in the future.

    Joe had an ego, plain and simple. The Yankees (his boss) had every right to wait as long as they wanted to assess the situation. You can argue Joe has gotten more from the Bronx than he has given in the past 12 seasons. He went from a career under .500 manager to a first ballot hall of fame skipper because in part of where he had his success.

    Tough to feel pity for the man that has made that much over that time. He’s survived his share of incidents that should have cost him his job (giving up a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox for the first time in baseball history is a good start). So, farewell Joe, but don’t play the victim card here.

    There is no victim. This is a business.

    • Relaunch

      Very well said. I’m tired of hearing the “Joe Torre got screwed” comments with an insulting offer.

    • rbizzler

      The insulting part (to Joe) was not what was offered, but who was doing the offering. This whole thing was orchestrated by people that Joe did not respect and that is the problem (although Cash’s indifference speaks volumes). He blatantly said on HBO that the money was not an issue but the length of the contract was as he didn’t want to be held hostage by the process all over again ext year. You can say what you want about him still being the highest paid manager, but if your job review came up and suddenly people who had no idea what your job entailed were passing judgment on you, you would no doubt be pissed (ie insulted). The difference is that Joe has the financial stability to walk away.

      Like I said before, good for him, and let’s all move on.

  • DaBXBomber

    This may be another example of Joe going to the press to get his way, discredit the Yankee front office, or in this case become a sympathetic figure. Highlighting the incentives this time around? Doesn’t that remind you of going public with the “Joba rules?” I’m not taking sides here … but I just don’t agree with how Joe handled some things … he’s not above reproach.

  • steve

    i was always curious, did his salary add into the payroll ? i mean they just took 7 million off the books, that can go towards arod … zing !

  • daneptizl
  • Loweeel

    By calling the family of the Yankees intern who was tragically killed by a Drunken Masshole on Sunday morning, even after he stepped down as manager, he will always be “Saint Joe” to some of us. Maybe he didn’t handle this as best he could, but he certainly could have been a lot worse. And he is a true class act as a human being.

  • Jamal G.

    To be honest I don’t think it was the contract itself that made him reject it. Maybe he thought that when he signed that incentive-laden deal in 2004 and he still didn’t “succeed” to The Boss’s goals then the Yankees front office would realize that its not motivation he needs and incentives, that he manages the same way with or without them. So for the Yanks to do the incentive things in back-to-back deals, then he felt insulted as saying that I did it once, why am I going to do it again? I don’t have to prove myself to you. That’s what I think it its.

    Also Randy Levine being a little prick and saying in public that the Yankees needed a “motivational contract” this time around didn’t help things either.

  • Steve S

    I think the reality is the Yankees, and specifically the Steinbrenner’s have invested a tremendous amount of money in this franchise. And as much as we dont like it, its a business and Joe Torre was not treated unfairly. He had every right to do what he did, but he doesnt have the right to cry about it afterwards. The fans may have an unrealistic expectation that they win the world series every year. And thats why Arod got treated so poorly. But the bottom line the people who can actually grasp to that goal are the people who are signing those checks, more than $600 M in the last three years. And more than a $1 Billion since 2000. I dont understand how people can argue that it would have been “classier” for them to fire Joe, rather than what they did. Perhaps they knew he would say no, but ultimately Joe Torre had a chance to wear that uniform and he walked away.

  • barry

    With George’s Brats running things I don’t blame the man. 12 years working for a bunch of arrogant pricks has to instill a little bit of resentment. Money is obviously not an issue with Joe Torre, the man is set for life. However taking a paycut is an insult, no matter how you look at it, i don’t know if anyones said that to you but I’m still in college and I quit a job for a 50 cent paycut its an insult especially when you bust your balls for someone. Overall it is important to remember Joe as the guy that we all loved and if he’s going, I think there is still a slim chance he’ll be back once they realize that Don is the ideal guy but maybe he needs some more tutoring. We’ll see where this goes but either way I refuse to think anything less of Joe Torre.

    • Relaunch

      Please stop writing from your laptop when you are in bed with Torre.

      • Ben K.

        Unnecessary. People are allowed to have opinions that differ from yours.

        • Relaunch

          Thanks for the heads up but when people are repeatedly making excuses for Joe like he has done nothing wrong, it is unacceptable.

  • Tano

    I seriously doubt that Torre has had incentives, at least nothing in the 1m range.

    Dont y’all remember Levine saying “we wanted to MOVE TO an incentive based contract”? I got the distinct impression from that that this was something new, either completely new, or effectivly so (maybe there was a 100K bonus or something like that…)

  • Eric Young

    Here’s another article on Torre’s past incentive-laden contracts:

    The Times columnists are quite a bit late to bringing us facts–long after they and other media outlets splashed the Saint Joe vs. the Satanic Steinbrenners/Levine storyline–but at least they’re getting around to it in their small way.

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