After managing to keep the team in the spotlight a full week after being eliminated, the Yankees dropped the other shoe on Thursday by announcing that Joe Torre would not be returning as Manager in 2008. Strangely, but perhaps predictably, the team statement put it all on Joe, stating that an offer was made which the skipper turned down.
On the surface, the offer seems somewhat fair: one year, $5 million, with separate $1 million bonuses for reaching each tier of the post-season, totaling $8 million if the Yankees make the World Series (make, not win it.) Should that occur, an option for a second year kicks in.
Until Torre makes a public statement, we’re left to speculate as to why he turned down the deal. Maybe he wanted a longer deal. Maybe he got the feeling that if the 2008 team started 21-29 like the 2007 team did, he’d be canned at that point. Perhaps he was simply tired of the whole ordeal that comes with managing this franchise, and the slow changing of the guard in Tampa as George The Elder fades into the sunset.
The Yankees come out of this with clean hands: they can rightfully claim that they made a fair offer which was refused, and begin the search for a replacement with no blood on their hands. Who will take the job now? Here’s a quick look at three oft-mentioned candidates:
Don Mattingly – This one baffles us. What, exactly, are Donnie Baseball’s qualifications to take the helm here? The fact that he is a “True Yankee”, whatever the hell that means today? Or, is it simply that he would be easily controlled? So, he was the hitting coach for this team? Honestly, big deal. We’re reasonably certain we could have done the same job and had similar results. Give #23 a minor league job first to get his feet wet. Anyone remember the similar infatuation with giving Bucky Dent this job a few years back? How’d that turn out?
Joe Girardi – Better. Here’s a guy who seems to be more of a student of the game (catchers often are). Besides, he’s proven himself as a big league skipper, though he pulled the unlikely exacta of being named Manager of the Year in Florida, while being fired. Girardi is a no nonsense guy, which could work well with some of the younger players, but might not play so well with the veterans, and also would not take any crap from Tampa, making his hiring that much less likely.
Tony LaRussa – Oh baby, this would be awesome. LaRussa has his head so far up his own ass that he bristles at any strategy questions thrown his way. He ran into issues with the normally benign St. Louis press – just imagine how he’d do with the New York tabloids screaming every morning. Good times! As Yankee Haters, we would love to see this happen.
Another intriguing sub-plot will be how the player retention drama plays out. Mariano Rivera has already publicly stated that the Torre situation would have an impact on his return, and the Alex Rodriguez soap opera just had another wrench tossed into the mix. Count on hearing more about this team all winter long, no matter who wins the World Series.
One last and perhaps more important thing: how is Suzyn Waldman taking this?