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Last week, the story in Major League Baseball was not the Colorado Rockies’ incredible run to the World Series or the Cleveland Indians’ commanding 3-1 lead in the America League Championship Series.
The story was Joe Torre declining to manage the New York Yankees next season.
In the Bronx it’s not just about winning, it’s about always winning. Although the Yankees streak of 12 straight trips to the post season may be hard to keep up in the post-Torre era, his exit comes with the possibility of a new and affordable Yankee team.
Torre refused a one-year, $5 million deal, with post-season incentives worth up to $3 million. The offer was essentially a pay cut to his 2007 base salary of $7.5 million.
Torre said in a press conference last week that he took the incentives as an insult. Yankee officials called the incentives motivation to win.
Torre said motivation was never an issue.
Slipping under the radar is the intent of the Yankee organization. This was not an attempt to motivate Torre to win a World Series, but rather a well-calculated boot out the door. No one with Torre’s level of success as Yankee skipper should be open to taking a pay cut. Rather than face the public and media scrutiny in the aftermath of firing Torre, the Yankees chose to let it fall on his shoulders.
In the classic George Steinbrenner era Torre would have been sent out on his ear, only to be re-hired the next season after the Yankees hit their first losing streak. This is evidence of the boss relinquishing power to his two sons: Hank and Hal Steinbrenner.
So Torre leaves after winning four World Series titles and six American League Pennants during his tenure. The Yankees had a .605 regular season winning percentage over that span.
Something many fans forget is the Yankees only made the post season once in 15 years before Torre. The Yankees also made six managerial changes in the seven years previous to the Torre era.
The hunt for Torre’s successor began Monday with Joe Girardi interviewing for the position. Girardi was a Yankee catcher from 1996 to 1999 and the bench coach in 2005. He won the National League Manager of the Year in 2006 with the Florida Marlins.
Former Yankee great and current bench coach Don Mattingly interviewed Tuesday. Mattingly is considered by many to be the front-runner for the job, but lacks the managerial experience Girardi has.
Regardless of who manages the Yankees in 2008, the bigger issue is what direction the franchise is heading. The Yankees could potentially have a much different look and a much smaller payroll next year.
Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez has the option of forgoing the remaining three years on his monumental $252 million contract to become a free agent. Yankees’ Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman has said in many interviews that the Yankees will not offer A-Rod a new contract if he opts out. The Yankees want A-Rod to finish out the contract because the Texas Rangers still pay close to $10 million of his now $27 million annual salary.
Other free agents include Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Roger Clemens. Bobby Abreu and Andy Pettitte could also potentially go in opt-out and buyout scenarios.
The Yankee payroll was upwards of $200 million for the second straight year and the front office is getting restless about the seven-year championship drought.
Worst-case scenario is no A-Rod, Posada, Rivera and Pettitte. This would reduce the Yankee payroll by about $65 million and push the Yankees into uncharted territory. They would no longer be the highest-paid team in the league.
Odds are the Yankees will re-sign Posada and Rivera. Rodriguez will likely test the market and find the Yankees are probably the only team that can pay the money his abilities demand. The Yanks huge payroll is cohesive to A-Rod’s salary.
The San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox will all likely be in on the bidding for A-Rod. The Red Sox will probably just try to drive the price up for the Yankees. The Giants have no real shot to compete next year. The Angels could not work because A-Rod would literally make one-third of their payroll.
Anyone who thinks the Yankees are better off without Torre or A-Rod is a fool. But that is not to say the Yankees can’t still be successful without them.
In the last two seasons, the Yanks have replenished a once barren farm system – the same farm system they repeatedly pilfered to mortgage the future and keep the pennant runs going. Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson come to mind.
What the Yankees have on the horizon is a young core of homegrown talent making right around the league minimum of $380,000.
Proven starter Chien-Ming Wang will head a rotation featuring Phil Hughes, 21 and Ian Kennedy, 22. The crown jewel of the organization is 22-year-old Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain took the league by storm this year in relief and will undoubtedly move into the starter role next year.
It has been a long time since any Yankee fan could claim they’re excited about the starting rotation for the upcoming season.
The Yankees also have second base and center field taken care of for the next decade or so with Robinson Cano, 25, and Melky Cabrera, 22.
Good, young talent is a proven recipe for success in recent years if you look at the Florida Marlins in 2003 or the current Colorado Rockies. This by no means assures the Yankees of a title, but shows an asserted effort to get out of overspending and short-term philosophies of the past. Thank you, Brian Cashman.
The change won’t be abrupt. There is still Jason Giambi’s $23 million on the books for next year, along with other inflated salaries.
Torre takes his accomplishments and possibly many loyal players with him. Now the Yanks may have to reload.
And now we can all get back to the real story of Major League Baseball. The Colorado Rockies against the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Did anyone get tickets?
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer John Greenley at email@example.com