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The Inside Track | COMMENTARY

It's Up to Torre Now: Leave or Take Criticism

October 16, 2005|Shaun Powell | Newsday

In George Steinbrenner's turbulent world, there's no room for the hypersensitive, for those with rabbit ears or those who want to take grief only at home, when they forget to take out the trash. Sorry. You cannot take The Boss' money, and you get plenty of that, without taking some of his missiles.

And you'll get some of that, too. It's the deal you make when you sign up. Everything's up front. There's no pretense, no bull, no exceptions. Either accept the terms and get wealth, plenty of wins and the occasional verbal wrath, or go work for the Royals.

Steinbrenner's management style isn't for everybody, and even the mentally tough have limits. But there is a choice. Stay and stand a better chance than most of getting a championship, or go elsewhere and, most likely, watch the Yankees crash the playoffs again.

So what's it going to be, Joe Torre? Sometime soon, the Yankees manager will emerge from the rubble of a fifth straight season without a championship and tell us what's up.

Specifically: his future, his thoughts about those jabs from The Boss, and whether he has reached his limit. This is Torre's time to tell Steinbrenner to take this job and shove it to Lou Piniella, or tell everyone that he plans to accept the terms of the deal. Again.

Torre had a chance to leave all this behind before, and he decided he'd rather live in the Yankee world than stand on the outside, nose pressed against the glass. A few years ago, Torre had a few championships in the bag and a Hall of Fame-bound reputation intact, and undoubtedly would have attracted offers on the open market.

Instead, he took Steinbrenner's money, roughly $6 million a year, more than any other manager in baseball. He took the terms.

So that's why there should be no sympathy for Torre if he whines about those abusive tweaks and then announces he'll fulfill the last two years of his contract.

Just a few months ago, when Steinbrenner was grumbling, Torre made a promise to reporters looking for a reply.

"I have nothing to say right now, but ask me again at the end of the year, and I'll answer all those questions," he said.

It's time.

For the most part, Torre has resisted the urge to return volley, except in those instances where Steinbrenner took a swipe at the Yankees' coaches. But Torre was clearly perturbed in August, when he let lefty reliever Alan Embree pitch to White Sox slugger Paul Konerko, who cracked the game-winning homer. That moved Steinbrenner to wonder "why they left the left-hander in" and remark how he was "not pleased with the manager." In subsequent statements carried by his PR pigeons, Steinbrenner always left the Yankees' troubles "up to the manager" and made no effort to conceal who was carrying the burden. In other words, The Boss was tweaking the way The Boss does, no different now than before.

We'll see if Torre pulls a Mel Stottlemyre, who's done accepting the terms. The pitching coach said he could "only take so much" Wednesday and clearly was annoyed at the power struggle between advisors in Tampa and New York. Stottlemyre also said he was tired of criticism from Steinbrenner, but when pressed, admitted he never heard directly from Steinbrenner. Strange. Anyway, financially secure at 63, Stottlemyre jumped before being pushed, but not before saying something very odd.

"Sometimes criticism is correct," he said. "It's a wake-up call. Sometimes we need that."

Let's clarify the "criticism" that comes from the top. Steinbrenner hasn't eaten anyone's children or even threatened any jobs this year. He just spoke his mind about what he saw from a $210-million struggling team, as everyone else did. Those he held accountable, and paid handsomely, needed to make things right, he said. The Boss only said what your boss and my boss say almost daily. Why, then, should a Yankee manager, general manager and pitching coach be held to a kinder and gentler standard? Trust me: Other team owners say the same things to their people, only behind closed doors.

Anyway, Steinbrenner has had his say. Now Torre gets his. He can leave, or keep earning the remaining $13 million.

Terms attached.

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