Torre focused on 2007, unsure of future

Torre focused on 2007

TAMPA -- After 11 years at the helm of the Yankees, Joe Torre knows the score. In his workplace, anything falling short of a World Series title will be considered in some corners as disappointment.

Such an instance nearly cost Torre his job last October, when the Yankees accepted their surprisingly early playoff exit at the hands of the Detroit Tigers.

Torre, 66, has returned to manage the final year of his contract, but he remains uncertain if he'll be in a dugout one year from now.

"I don't know yet," Torre said. "The way I feel now, I'd say yes. It's exciting. I'm looking forward to it, and every year is different. That keeps it stimulating."

Following a camp-opening organizational meeting of more than five hours Tuesday, Torre said he still embraces the challenges and experiences of coming to work with the Yankees.

He has tucked away the memories from last October, when Torre peered out the windows of his suburban Westchester County home, eyeing the assembled camera crews as reports swirled that his tenure as manager was about to end.

The sublime season ended after a brief waiting period when, eventually, principal owner George Steinbrenner delivered a phone call in which Torre's status was indeed deemed secure.

If not for the partial intervention of general manager Brian Cashman, Torre believes his dismissal could have become reality. That, along with several other factors, leads Torre to believe his relationship with Cashman is as strong as any general manager in his baseball past.

"I think Cash was a big reason why I'm still here right now," Torre said. "I think we're going to have to continue to be comfortable with each other."

Though Torre expressed surprise at how a mostly positive season had splashed his potential dismissal across the sports pages, he continues to evaluate the New York media bubble and expectations with expertise.

He also acknowledged the fact that emotion tends to rule a lot of baseball clubhouses. It is Torre's wide understanding of these facets, the Yankees believe, that will continue to make him an ideal candidate to pilot the club.

Had he been fired, Torre said he was confident he would have been able to find another job, but it couldn't have been the same -- not after 11 years with the Yankees.

"When you work here, where the requirements are what they are, you certainly don't take anything for granted," Torre said.

Even though the club's 97-victory season appeared to lose momentum halfway through the American League Division Series, Torre was satisfied with the collective effort put forth by his troops.

He also said the ongoing challenges and excitement of the campaign -- particularly filling holes due to injuries sustained by star players -- kept him energized.

Still, there always is the looming specter of October within the Yankees, the thought process that says this: If the team does not win 11 games in the postseason, bringing home a World Series title, the season has not been a success.

Torre points to a memorable quotation by basketball coaching legend John Wooden, who advised that those in charge of clubs cannot always control the outcomes.

"If getting to the World Series is the only reason that I'd be here, I can't control that," Torre said. "You wish you could."

The course of the upcoming season may do quite a bit to satisfy Torre's curiosity concerning his immediate future.

"I think I'd probably know during the year if it's as much fun as I hope it's going to be," Torre said.

At the Yankees' organizational meetings in New York in December, Torre relayed a conversation he had with Cashman.

Torre told Cashman he did not know how much longer he wanted to manage, and, for now, both parties have opted to look no further than the current campaign at hand.

"We had a conversation that he's looking forward to this year," Cashman said. "Obviously, we both are unsure what '08 brings. Let's do whatever we possibly can in '07. I know he loves what he does."

Torre said even if he does decide that life as the Yankees manager in 2008 is something he hopes to pursue, the lack of a contract past the current campaign would not be a hindrance.

Surely, Torre's own resume in the Bronx -- four World Series titles and 1,079 victories in pinstripes highlighting the achievements -- would speak for itself in that instance.

"They know what I do," Torre said. "Whether there's a contract involved or not, that's insignificant."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.