Report: Torre won't survive Yanks' collapse, to be fired
NEW YORK -- Joe Torre was absent Sunday. Alex Rodriguez, too. And the New York Yankees made no announcement about changing managers.
While several players and coaches packed up in a quiet clubhouse, Day 1 of what figures to be a wild offseason in Yankeeland provided few definitive answers.
Gary Sheffield told USA Today that Joe Torre's decision to bat Alex Rodriguez eighth in Game 4 ended up dooming the Yankees.
"I think that affected the morale and psyche of the entire team, not just A-Rod," Sheffield told the newspaper. "I'm not making any excuses, but everyone was wondering what was going on. It made it a real weird day. You would like to be treated with a little respect, I don't care who you play for."
Sheffield felt the move helped Detroit.
"[Tigers manager] Jim Leyland took advantage of that. He can make you believe anything. He can put a fire under your belt like you never had before in your life.
"Not to make excuses, but we didn't have that."
Torre still has his job -- for now. Hours after New York was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs again, the Daily News reported Sunday that demanding owner George Steinbrenner was likely to fire his longtime manager and replace him with old favorite Lou Piniella.
Newsday reported Sunday that Steinbrenner would like to fire Torre, but that no decision has been made just yet, according to several people familiar with the situation. The Long Island-based newspaper said Yankees officials were expected to meet to discuss Torre as early as Sunday, with Piniella the likely favorite to replace Torre.
When approached by Newsday and asked if he would like to give Torre a vote of confidence, Steinbrenner responded: "No I don't."
In a public statement he issued Sunday, Steinbrenner called the result "absolutely not acceptable" and "a sad failure." But he had not yet consulted with Yankees executives about any change, at least not yet, a baseball official said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements other than Steinbrenner's were authorized.
"I am deeply disappointed at our being eliminated so early in the playoffs," Steinbrenner said in the statement, issued by spokesman Howard Rubenstein. "This result is absolutely not acceptable to me nor to our great and loyal Yankee fans. I want to congratulate the Detroit Tigers organization and wish them well. Rest assured, we will go back to work immediately and try to right this sad failure and provide a championship for the Yankees, as is our goal every year."
Joe Torre's New York Yankees teams have made the playoffs all 11 of his seasons as manager. Here's how they fared:
|Totals||75-44||.630 Win Pct.|
|*Only second-place finish; all other teams won AL East.|
Steinbrenner specifically had Rubenstein change the wording in his statement from "not acceptable" to "absolutely not acceptable" about 90 minutes after it was first issued.
Rubenstein said he spoke with Steinbrenner on Sunday.
"Clearly he was upset," he said.
Rubenstein said Steinbrenner would not comment on the Daily News report.
Piniella, in San Francisco while preparing to call the AL Championship Series on FOX, told the network he hadn't talked to the Yankees and was "stunned" by the report.
"We have heard from absolutely no one from the Yankees' organization, so as far as we're concerned, it's all speculation," said Piniella's agent, Alan Nero. "Lou is seriously considering the four jobs that are open."
After winning the World Series in four of his first five seasons, Torre has weathered many storms since then, but Saturday's 8-3 loss left him emotional as he pondered his future in the Bronx.
"We felt pretty good about ourselves," Torre told the Daily News. "But again, that's something for [general manager Brian Cashman] and I and other people to talk about. But right now, it's just ..." and choking back tears, he concluded "... it's just tough."
Cashman and most of the front office employees are expected to keep their jobs, the Daily News reported.
Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, a special adviser to the Yankees who watched the final two games in Detroit while sitting next to Cashman, told The New York Times that while he was not surprised that Torre's job status was in question, he didn't know what Torre could have realisitically done differently.
"It seems like the great job he was doing all year, all that's forgotten," Jackson told the newspaper.
"I imagine you could blame a guy for making bad moves, but I don't know how you can blame a guy for the team going 20 innings in a row without scoring a run. I don't know how you get to be a bum when those things happen. Like him or not, agree with his decisions or not, that's what happened."
Jackson suggested that the decision on whether Torre stays would show a lot about Cashman's influence.
"Brian Cashman's a pretty smart guy," Jackson told the Times. "If he's going to have some input, I don't have any doubt he'll make the right decision."
Several Yankees players told MLB.com that they would be surprised to see Torre go.
"That's pretty drastic," outfielder Johnny Damon was quoted as saying by the Web site. "Joe has been awesome. You never know what's going to happen, but I think Joe should be safe. For all he's done and had to put up with, he's been incredible."
Torre's fate, however, is far from the only big question facing the $200 million Yankees after they lost the AL Division Series to Detroit on Saturday. There also is speculation the team would like to get rid of Rodriguez, a postseason bust again this October.
The two-time MVP, owed $66.6 million by the Yankees over the final four years of his record $252 million contract (after accounting for $28.4 million Texas is paying New York), went 1-for-14 during the four-game loss to the Tigers. He was dropped to eighth in the batting order for the first time in a decade Saturday, and is 3-for-29 (.103) in his past two playoff series.
That makes Rodriguez 4-for-41 (.098) without an RBI in his last 12 postseason games -- and he is yet to reach the World Series.
Cashman dismissed the idea of either Torre or Rodriguez leaving, telling MLB.com, "Why wouldn't they be coming back? That's not something that I'm even thinking about."
During A-Rod's three seasons in New York, the Yankees have squandered a 3-0 cushion against rival Boston in the 2004 AL Championship Series, and lost in the opening round of the playoffs the past two years.
By now, maybe the Yankees have seen enough.
The third baseman has had more than his share of public-relations problems lately, which his teammates are asked about. Perhaps the Yankees are beginning to think that's a distraction.
Either way, it doesn't sound as though A-Rod is particularly popular in his own clubhouse.
But if the Yankees want to ship him out of town, Rodriguez would have to waive his no-trade clause for a deal to be completed.
He has said he doesn't want to do that, saying he is "100 percent committed to being a Yankee" and he thinks he can be "part of the solution."
Several other teams would probably be interested, though, especially if New York agreed to pick up part of the tab on the rest of his contract. After all, the 31-year-old Rodriguez is still one of the most talented players in baseball. He hit .290 with 35 homers and 121 RBI this season -- and that was a down year.
Perhaps he could flourish under October pressure in another city.
But make no mistake, the Yankees wouldn't just give him away. They would certainly want something valuable in return, and most teams are hesitant to hand over pitchers -- whether they're proven winners or promising youngsters.
Rodriguez wasn't the only star on a star-laden team that struggled mightily against the Tigers -- and there could be plenty of changes in the Bronx before next season. Gary Sheffield, Mike Mussina and Bernie Williams could all become free agents.
As for Torre, he has guided the Yankees to the playoffs in all 11 seasons of his tenure -- including nine straight AL East titles.
Pitching coach Ron Guidry and first base coach Tony Pena defended Torre, saying he did an outstanding job this year throughout a trying season. Three All-Stars missed extensive time with injuries: Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano.
The 66-year-old Torre has one year and $7 million left on his contract.
"To find anybody to manage this ballclub the way Joe Torre has the last 10 years would be very, very hard," Pena said. "There's no way you can find anybody that can replace him."
Yankees players still sounded a little stunned by the loss.
"I think we got taken by surprise. I think we got matched up with a team that was a little more ready to play than we were," said pitcher Cory Lidle, who also can become a free agent.
Or, as Guidry put it: "We really had a better team than we showed."
The 63-year-old Piniella is a former Yankees star and managed them in 1986-87 and for most of 1988. He guided Cincinnati to the 1990 World Series title and managed the Seattle Mariners from 1993-2002 and the Devil Rays for the next three seasons.
The Chicago Cubs, San Francisco, Texas and Washington have open manager's jobs.
"I've been talking to all four. We're in different stages with each one of them," Nero said. "In the meantime, Lou and I are not thinking about the Yankees and we would never disrespect Joe or the Yankees by joining in on the speculation. That's the furthest thing from our minds right now."
Torre has won more than 1,000 games as manager of the Yankees, but after beating the Mets in the 2000 World Series, the Yankees have fallen short of always high expectations despite having the highest payroll in baseball.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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