The Record‘s Ian O’Connor, the reporter who obtained the now infamous George Steinbrenner interview during the ALDS defends himself in his column today:
Other writers in the market are closer to Steinbrenner than I am, and have a better understanding of how the organization functions than I do. But I got lucky. For one night, anyway, Jeffrey Maier reached over my outfield wall.
Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, the popular and powerful “Mike & the Mad Dog” hosts, couldn’t accept simple serendipity as a plausible explanation for the “get.” They went off to the races with a complete fabrication planted by someone positioning me as [Randy] Levine’s double-play partner in an attempt to take down Joe.
Never mind these annoying little facts: I have absolutely no relationship with Levine. I have ripped Levine for advocating Torre’s ouster. And I have repeatedly written that Torre should be/should’ve been retained.
On deck, the comical rumor — spread by another Yankee doodle dummy — that I did a Frank Caliendo-esque imitation of Reggie Jackson to get through to The Boss.
Francesa and Russo just had a bad source; I’ve had my share. Sometimes sources have hidden agendas. Sometimes they’re just plain wrong.
I’m willing to take O’Connor at his word, but just because it appeared to be serendipity to him doesn’t mean that there wasn’t someone behind the scenes pulling the strings. Mike Vaccaro extends that man-behind-the-curtain metaphor in unofficially annointing Levine the new Boss (same as the old Boss), while Bob Klapish anticipates a Yogi-Berra-like freeze-out of the Yankees by the spurned Torre.
Over at the paper of record, the graphic accompanying this Murray Chass article shows that Torre made more than the next two highest paid managers in baseball in 2007, and Tyler Kepner reminds us that Torre was willing to except a one-year extension back in spring training, but the since-ousted Steve Swindal told him to wait until after the season (and, by the way, said a pay cut would be mandatory). Of course, a one-year extension in spring training would have meant Torre was, in essence, working on a two-year contract, so his stance was actually consistent there, though it does bear a striking similarity to Gary Sheffield’s inability to play in the final year of a contract without insisting on an extension.
Kepner also quotes Brian Cashman as saying that he wasn’t the only one who wanted Torre back:
“Everybody in that room wanted him back; I have to disagree with him there,” Cashman said Friday night. “Joe knows I’m an ally because there’s a bond there. But I’ve got to speak for everybody else in the room, and they did want him back, too.”
As Steinbrenner cedes control to his sons, he is more intent on seeking consensus for major moves. Levine said all of the executives wanted Torre back.
“Every single one of us made that offer with the hope that he would return,” Levine said. “We were all disappointed that he did not accept it. Reasonable people can differ.”
Maybe they did want him back (I still have very strong doubts about Levine), but only on their terms. To me the most telling part of the entire affair is the team’s unwillingness to negotiate with Torre. That his meeting with them lasted only about 20 minutes is, to me, the most damning fact of all.
Finally, Cashman has confirmed that he has reached out to Don Mattingly, Joe Girardi, and Tony Peña in his search for Torre’s replacement. Peter Abraham spoke to Cashman directly:
Cashman said the process could be culminated swiftly. But he also warned that it could take until after the World Series. “I’ll expand the pool of candidates if that is what I need to do,” he said.
At the same time, he said, he will be negotiating with the in-house free agents. He does not yet know whether the departure of Joe Torre will make that more difficult.
“Nobody has told me that,” he said. “We’ll find that out.”