On Hall's doorstep, Torre at peace with Bronx run
With number retirement ceremony on deck, skipper reflects on time with Yanks
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Joe Torre said on Saturday that his relationship with the Yankees right now is right where it's supposed to be.
"I think what broke the ice was when Donnie [Mattingly] and I flew back from L.A. when they had the memorial for George," said Torre, referring to the event at Yankee Stadium after principal owner George Steinbrenner passed away on July 13, 2010. "I could never have ignored it after George had passed, I could never have not been there. He meant a great deal to me, allowing me to manage his club. It wasn't always easy, but I had some very special relationships there."
Torre will be inducted as part of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 today with Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, a trio of the greatest managers of all time, all elected late last year by the Expansion Era Committee. They'll be joined by 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and slugger Frank Thomas -- elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in January -- to form one of the most heralded Hall of Fame classes in history.
Weather permitting -- and there is rain in the forecast -- the induction ceremony is slated to be staged as usual behind the Clark Sports Center. Even if it is moved inside, Hall of Fame coverage will begin at noon ET with MLB Tonight live from Cooperstown on MLB Network and simulcast on MLB.com and the At Bat app, with the induction ceremony beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Torre managed the Yankees from 1996-2007, winning four World Series, six American League pennants and taking the team to the playoffs 12 years in a row. A storybook ending would have seen Torre finish his managerial career in New York rather than with three years as skipper of the Dodgers, with whom Mattingly was one of his coaches. Torre retired in 2010, turning over the job to Mattingly and ultimately accepting a job as Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations.
Torre also managed the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, but he's unequivocal about the fact that his Hall of Fame selection was due to his Yankees tenure. Torre's going into the Hall with a Yankees logo on his plaque, and later this summer, the club will retire his No. 6 in a Monument Park ceremony back at the new Yankee Stadium, the ballpark in the Bronx where he never managed.
"It really wasn't uncomfortable when I went back there," Torre told a group of writers circling his table on Saturday during the final media availability before the induction ceremony. "It was a little strange because here I was in a new ballpark I had never been in. I'm very comfortable going there now. I've got credentials. They can't keep me out.
"But I left the way I did and I knew there was some misunderstanding, as far as people thinking it was about money. They cut my salary and I said I was insulted, but the insult part was about my having to be motivated to get my pay cut back."
Rewinding the tape, Torre set the standard for the Yankees by winning the World Series four times in his first five seasons as the Core Four of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte acted as the nucleus.
Subsequently, the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series in seven games to the D-backs and the '03 World Series in six games to the Marlins. A blemish on Torre's Yankees ledger is the 3-0 lead over the Red Sox in the '04 American League Championship Series that the club squandered, becoming the only team in Major League history to do so in a best-of-seven series. By '07, the Yanks had been eliminated in the AL Division Series three years running, and the relationship between Torre and Yankees management had grown fragile.
After the 2007 postseason, the Yankees offered Torre a much lower base salary with enough bonus incentives based on postseason performance to reach his previous guarantee. That didn't sit well with Torre, who wanted to finish his career in New York.
"My intention was to manage one more year," Torre said. "I know I didn't make myself clear to [general manager] Brian [Cashman]. I told him I wanted a two-year contract because I didn't want that one year with you guys coming in every 10 minutes asking, 'Well, what do you think? You just lost two games.' I didn't want a whole year of that hanging over me.
"I mean, the time in New York, that's the reason you're talking to me now, managing the Yankees and the results we got. But toward the last few years, it wasn't a whole lot of fun. There was a lot of stress. I just had a feeling that I didn't want to do it that much longer and they wanted to say goodbye, but neither one of us knew how to say goodbye."
The old Yankee Stadium closed at the end of the 2008 season with Joe Girardi as the Yankees' manager. The team missed the playoffs for the first time in a non-strike season since 1993, and Torre was nowhere to be found for the closing ceremony at the old ballpark.
By then, dynasty mainstay Bernie Williams was long gone and the rest of the Core Four began retiring one by one, winning the World Series together in 2009 as a final encore. Jeter is in the midst of his final season.
Torre said on Saturday he has no regrets about the way his tenure in the Bronx came to an end.
"It's a business; I don't feel anybody owes anything to anybody," Torre said. "What I was trying to do was just finish there and go home. It just never happened."