Left hanging while the New York Yankees brass debated his future, Torre on Thursday rejected a $5-million, one-year deal, which would have become a two-year deal if the Yankees reached the 2008 World Series.
The 2008 portion of the contract would have included $1 million for reaching each postseason level, thus making it a potential $8-million deal. But that is not the issue.
Joe Torre was not treated with the respect that his record, and his personal dignity, deserved. If nothing else, his record merited better treatment. He managed four World Series winners, he managed nine straight division champions and he guided the Yankees to the postseason in 12 straight seasons.
His record deserved more than the 2 1/2 weeks of uncertainty regarding Torre's job status that followed the end of this regular season. Up or down, in or out, a simple "yes" or "no" shortly after the end of the season was in order.
More than that, Torre has persistently conducted himself with the dignity and class that the Yankees believe epitomizes their organization. No Major League manager is under more scrutiny than the manager of the New York Yankees. He has consistently handled the demands of this job with grace and with what seemed at times to be saintly patience.
All right, the record of the Yankees over the last seven years, has not met this organization's lofty standards. The Yankees haven't won the World Series since 2000. The Yankees haven't been in the World Series since 2003. Worse, the Yankees have been bounced from the postseason in the first round in three straight Octobers. But how much of this is Torre's fault?
A close look at each and every Yankees defeat in a postseason series, particularly in recent seasons, will reveal that on each occasion the Yankees were beaten by a team with superior pitching, precisely the kind of pitching that historically wins in October.
The fact that the Yankees might have entered some of these series as betting favorites indicates only that the smart-money boys were misinformed. Last October against the Detroit Tigers, or this season against the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees faced pitching that was capable of shutting down any lineup, including the best lineup in baseball. The Yankees could not answer in kind. Their defeats should not have been all that surprising.
This was not directly Torre's fault. Did he protect his veteran players, particularly those who had been with him since the 1990s, almost religiously? Yes. In difficult times did he incessantly fall back on the least damaging rationale, that his players were "trying too hard?" Yes. But does this make him unfit to manage?
The Yankees of recent years have cobbled together a team of extraordinarily expensive individuals, some of them very long in the tooth, some of them completely self-absorbed, and it has fallen to Joe Torre to make a team out of this pricey and potentially mismatched blend. He did as well with this task as any human being could.
Only in the last year did the organizational lightbulb go on, as the Yankees began to amass a core of young pitching. This is the surest route to success in baseball, even if you have $200 million to spend on players' salaries.
In the end, the core problem for the Yankees was hardly Joe Torre. The core problem was the Yankees' reliance on getting the biggest names for the most money, even if some of the careers involved were not exactly in ascendance.
True, Joe Torre was Major League Baseball's highest-paid manager, managing MLB's highest-paid team. It's not as though he has been persecuted for years.
But at the end of the day, the New York Yankees still owed him something. Given his track record as a manager and as a human being, that was probably a new contract. At the very least, they owed him at minimum the dignity of a timely decision on his status.
When they couldn't or wouldn't do that, when days dragged into weeks and one of baseball's best managers was still left dangling, when the offer he received amounted to one more year of constant speculation about his future, this apparently became the last straw for Torre.
Good for him. As a manager and more to the point, as a man, Torre deserved better than this.
And good luck to the next guy who sits in his chair. Torre is going to be a very difficult act to follow on several different levels.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less