Saturday, October 20, 2007

Torre at Peace Leaving the Yankees

Joe Torre heard enough.
He felt insulted. He felt unappreciated.
He won't even set foot in Yankee Stadium anytime soon, not even to clean out his office. "I walked out of there, I'm not going back," he said. "I just leave the memories."
A day after he turned down a one-year contract, convinced the team no longer was committed to him after 12 seasons and four World Series titles, he went out his way — grateful, yet defiant; respectful but hurt.
He didn't say goodbye in Yankee Stadium. Instead, he spoke for 67 minutes — one minute for each year of his life — in a hotel ballroom near his home in suburban New York, close to the Connecticut border.
There was no Yankees logo, just a simple desk — appropriately draped in black — and a velvet background in the team's navy blue.
He was coming off a $19.2 million, three-year contract that earned him $7.5 million this season, double what any other manager made. When he heard the offer — $5 million for next year and the chance to earn $3 million more in bonuses — he knew the team's management wanted him to walk.
"The incentives, to me, I took as an insult," Torre said, according to the Record of New Jersey.
General manager Brian Cashman informed him of the proposal on Wednesday night, and Torre traveled from his home to the team's Legends Field spring training complex in Tampa, the following morning to meet with 77-year-old owner George Steinbrenner, his two sons, team president Randy Levine, Cashman and others.
"Are you going down to make a deal or say goodbye?" Cashman said on the flight.
"I really don't know," Torre replied.
Turned out, the meeting lasted just 20 minutes.
Torre made a counteroffer.
"It was just mentioned and dismissed real quickly," Torre said. "And at that point in time I realized that it was either the offer or nothing. So at that point is when I said goodbye."
So long to the pinstripes. Farewell to the most exciting years of his baseball life.
Torre has spent his managerial career looking in players' eyes and reading their minds. It wasn't hard for him to figure out the Yankees' offer was one they hoped he would refuse.
New York doles out multimillion-dollar deals to busts such as Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa and Kyle Farnsworth. The Yankees routinely tell players they have a policy against including bonuses in contracts.
"The fact that somebody is reducing your salary is just telling me they're not satisfied with what you're doing," Torre said. "Two years certainly, I think, would have opened the door to have further discussion but it never happened.
"There really was no negotiation involved. I was hoping there would be. But there wasn't," he added.
Following the team's third straight first-round elimination from the playoffs on Oct. 8, Torre waited to hear from the Yankees. With each passing day, he knew the likelihood of him staying on dwindled that much more.
"If somebody wants you to do a job, if it takes them two weeks to figure out, yeah, I guess we should do or we want do this, then you're a little suspicious," he said. "If somebody wanted me to manage here, I'd be managing here."
His family stood and watched from the side of the ballroom. His voice trembled at times. When he saw several hundred media assembled, he was taken aback.
"You got to be kidding," he said when he walked into the room.
Since the end of the season, his house had been staked out, O.J. style. Reporters were on the edge of his lawn, cameras everywhere.
"The worst part about the helicopters is they showed I had a bald spot," he said.
Torre made the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons with the Yankees, won 10 AL East titles, yet that wasn't good enough. He had spoiled Yankees' fans, spoiled Steinbrenner & Sons, by winning the World Series four times in his first five years. He hadn't won it since 2000 and hadn't even been there since 2003.
No other major league team has made the playoffs even two years in a row right now. As Torre spoke, Boston manager Terry Francona wanted to stay in his office at Fenway Park and watch.
"It's unbelievable that — it's almost like The Bronx is Burning," Francona said. "You're watching something unfold that's just unbelievable."
Torre couldn't fathom why the Yankees would offer a one-year deal tied to performance.
"I've been there 12 years and I didn't think motivation was needed," he said. "I felt pretty well renewed every year going after something and we knew exactly what was expected here. So, I just didn't think it was the right thing for me. I didn't think it was the right thing for my players."
As the owner has aged, he's allowed his sons to be part of the decision-making. Others, such as Levine and chief operating officer Lonn Trost, also have input.
In the end, Torre had few allies.
"I think Brian Cashman wanted me back," he said.
Anyone else?
"I can't be sure," he said.
He went to Florida to look at them face-to-face and didn't like what he saw.
"There was no response other than, you know, they had a business to run and this is the way they felt it was best to do it," he said.
Now, he'll think about going to horse races next summer, perhaps taking a trip to Wimbledon. If teams come to him with managing offers, he'll listen.
Meantime, Don Mattingly, Joe Girardi and Tony Pena were asked Friday to interview with the club as possible replacements for Torre.
"We're going to be interviewing maybe as many as five, six candidates, and we'll see how that goes," said son Hank Steinbrenner. "The job, there's been no real decision on that yet. They're going to be real interviews, and probably starting next week."
A decision isn't expected to be announced until after the World Series.
"I'm not sure if I'm in a position to recommend anybody. I just lost my job," Torre joked. "They've both been exposed to what goes on there. And if either one of those are offered the job and they say yes, they're certainly going in with their eyes wide open."
Tony La Russa and Bobby Valentine also could be considered. The expectations will be the same: Win the World Series or else.
"I'd like to believe that with a new manager, a new legacy starts," Torre said. "To expect a new manager to come in and right away get lucky like I did in '96 is a little unfair."
His fondest memories are of the World Series titles.
"Watching Charlie Hayes catch that popup, the magical year of '98 and to follow it up in '99 and beating the Mets in 2000, which I thought we needed to do that because even though the Mets could have been a better team than us, the Yankees could never lose to the Mets," said Torre, who began his managing career in Queens. "You have to be on both sides to understand how important that is. And I've been on both sides."
He was asked how he felt about his decision when he got up Friday. Torre, as always, had the final laugh.
"Which time when I woke up? You've got to realize you're 67 years old, you wake up a few times," he said.
Then he turned serious.
"I was very much at peace with my decision," he said.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ohio State is #1 in BCS

For the second straight season, but in far different fashion, Ohio State debuted at No.1 in the first Bowl Championship Series standings.

Last year, Ohio State was the preseason No. 1 in the polls and stayed there until losing the BCS national title game to Florida.

This year, Ohio State took advantage of several upset losses in the last three weeks to gain the top BCS spot. Ohio State earned a BCS average of .9416, followed by South Florida at .9200, Boston College at .8906. Louisiana State is fourth and Oklahoma is fifth.

Ohio State began the season ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press, but rose to the top of the BCS this weekend after No. 1 Louisiana State and No. 2 California suffered defeats.

South Florida is No. 3 behind Boston College in both human polls but earned the No. 2 spot by finishing No. 1 in the BCS computer component.

The top Pacific 10 Conference has four teams ranked in the top 14, with Arizona State surprisingly leading the way at No. 8, followed by Oregon at No. 10.

California, which figured to be No. 1 in the polls until it lost at home to Oregon State, is No. 12 in the BCS while USC is No. 14.

The Trojans have a dismal BCS computer ranking of No. 23, the worst in the BCS top 14, but the Trojans have yet to play three schools ranked in the BCS top 12: Arizona State, Oregon and Cal.

The BCS standings are a rankings calculation comprised of the USA Today Coaches' and Harris polls and the average of six computer indexes.

The top two schools in the final BCS standings on Dec. 2 will play for the BCS national title on Jan. 7 in the Louisiana Superdome.

The Associated Press poll, which started in 1936, can crown an independent champion. The AP, citing ethical concerns, pulled out of the BCS formula following the 2005 season and was replaced by the Harris poll.

This is the 10th season of the controversial BCS system. It was created in 1998 as a rankings mechanism to pair No. 1 against No. 2 in a sport that has resisted a playoff format.Before 1998, the champions of the Pacific 10 and Big Ten conferences were contracted to play in the Rose Bowl. The formation of the BCS allowed those champions to be released to the title game if either was ranked No. 1 or No. 2.

The BCS standings are also used to create major bowl access to schools from outside the six major conferences.

In 2004, Utah of the Mountain West Conference earned a BCS bid by finishing No. 6 in the final standings and went on to complete an undefeated season by beating Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Last year, Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference earned a bid to the Fiesta Bowl by finishing No. 8 in the BCS.

This year, Hawaii is trying to become the latest "non-BCS" school to earn a berth. Hawaii will earn an automatic bid if it finishes No. 12 or higher or No. 16 or better if the champion of any of the six BCS conferences finishes lower.

Hawaii debuted at No. 18 in the BCS, leaving the Warriors six spots below the coveted No. 12 position.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Paul Johnson Press Conference following Navy Victory over Pitt

A few quotes from Navy Coach Paul Johnson following his doube-overtime win over Pittsburgh on October 10, 2007.