Yankees' Torre Rejects Pay Cut, Short Contract

Joe Torre turns down a one-year deal to remain manager of the New York Yankees because of a pay cut to $5 million from $7.5 million. Though one of the most successful managers in baseball history, failure to lead the team out of the first round of the playoffs put him on the hot seat.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

The Cleveland Indians had to put away their champagne bottles last night as the Boston Red Sox beat Cleveland 7-1 and prevented the Indians from moving into the World Series.

Boston pitcher Josh Beckett dominated the Indians to the second time in their American League Championship Series. The Indians still lead this series three games to two. The first team to win four games moves on.

Also yesterday, the New York Yankees found out their long-time manager, Joe Torre, won't be back next season.

Joining me to talk baseball is NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Deb.

AMOS: Let's talk about the playoffs. Let's talk about Josh Beckett's wonderful post-season brilliance.

GOLDMAN: He is brilliant. I mean, his fastball is still blazing at 96 miles an hour late in the game. His curveball has a wicked break. He doesn't waste many pitches, which keeps him strong. And he absolutely thrives in the play-offs. Beckett is only 27, but he's been doing this for several years. He shut down the Yankees in the final game of the 2003 World Series and he was named the Most Valuable Player. Now, he's got more of these trophies coming if the Red Sox can keep the momentum going.

AMOS: Well, that's the big question, isn't it? They're down three games to two, and so what does that mean?

GOLDMAN: Well, yes, it does mean that if they lose one, they're out. But I would say they do have the momentum right now. You know, Cleveland had won three straight and they were poised to take this thing last night and get into the first - into their first World Series since 1997, but Beckett was so thorough in shutting down the Cleveland batters. You know, it puts a little doubt in their heads, even though pro athletes are awfully good at having amnesia from game to game.

So this playoff series now shifts back to Boston, where there's an intense atmosphere for visiting teams. The Indians, I would say, are still a more complete team, but Boston has playoff veterans who rise to the occasion - David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, and that goofy Manny Ramirez, who last night drove in what proved to be the winning run a day after he infuriated Red Sox fans by saying it didn't matter if they lose the series to Cleveland, there's always next year.

AMOS: Tom, it appears there won't be a next year, in New York, at least, for Yankees manager Joe Torre. He's been so successful over the past 12 years. Why is he leaving?

GOLDMAN: You know, we'll find out from him this afternoon when he meets with reporters. But what he did yesterday was reject the contract offer for $5 million for one year.

AMOS: Wow, that's a lot of money.

GODLMAN: It is. But what seems like a lot to you and me is actually a pay cut for Torre. He made a reported $7.5 million this season, and it's believed that Torre saw the cut as an insult, especially after all his success - four World Series titles, playoff appearances in each of his 12 years managing.

Now, on the Yankees side, they have an incredibly high standard of winning. They have the league's biggest payroll year after year, because they expect playoff success. Their goal is winning the World Series every year, and the Yanks have been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs the last three seasons, which it appears is why they proposed cutting Torre's base salary.

AMOS: Yeah, exactly. So did he know that that wasn't realistic?

GOLDMAN: Well, I think he did. You know, baseball finally has parity. In fact, this postseason the Yankees were the only returning playoff team from near before.

More and more teams, Deb, without a huge payroll like the Yankees are figuring out how to win, and this blueprint that Yankee owner George Steinbrenner has used for years, which is spend more money than anyone and win, is just not proving successful. But it seems like Joe Torre was the fall guy for that.

AMOS: Thank you very much. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

This is NPR News.

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