When Joe Torre refused to become Yankees’ GM

Joe Torre in talks with his captain Derek Jeter.
Sara Molnick
Tuesday December 6, 2022

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Joe Torre led the New York Yankees to four World Series wins as their manager. But if the Yankees had their way almost 30 years ago, Torre would not have been in the dugout to lead the team to its most recent dynasty. He could have bossed Brian Cashman, who got another extension yesterday.

Joe Torre once told about his chances of becoming the Yankees’ GM to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This came up as he was answering why he left the Cardinals in 1995 and joined the Yankees. It turns out that the Yankees had another job in mind for Joe Torre at first before he became their most influential manager. According to him:

“I get a call from (Gene) ‘Stick’ Michael from the Yankees front office about being general manager. … I go have lunch with ‘Stick’ and the president of the Yankees in Tampa. Michael was general manager, but he was moving on to be George Steinbrenner’s confidante in the entire operation. And he offered me the GM job.”

“I asked him, knowing the answer, ‘Is there any vacation time?’ He said, ‘No.’”

“I said, ‘I appreciate it but my wife is pregnant with our daughter and I can’t do it. If there’s anything I can help you with, I’d be happy to do it.’”

But the Yankees didn’t know at the time that Joe Torre turning down the job of general manager was the best thing that could have happened to the team. Three weeks later, a friend in the Yankees’ front office called him to ask if he would be interested in being on the shortlisted persons to become their manager. “Hell, yes,” said Joe Torre.

He was aware then that Sparky Anderson, Tony La Russa, and Davey Johnson were also in the running for the position. Anderson had left the Tigers, La Russa was about to take over the Cardinals, and Johnson was settled with the Orioles.

“I couldn’t say no,” he said, “My brother tried to get me to change my mind. He asked, “Are you aware of how many managers Steinbrenner has had?” “Frank, I need to figure out if I can do this,” I told him.

Everything else is history. From 1996 to 2007, Joe Torre led the Yankees to 10 division titles, six American League pennants, and four World Series wins. From 1998 to 2000, the Yankees won three straight World Series titles under Torre’s leadership. He had a winning percentage of .605 at the end of the season, and he never missed the playoffs.

Torre led the Yankees to six World Series in his 12 years with the team, during which he won 1,173 games. Torre was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014 because of his success in the Bronx.

His steady hand set the stage for some of the most exciting things the team has ever done. During the late 1990s Yankees dynasty, he earned the respect and trust of his players and handled the attention of the New York media with class.

But in April 2007, Joe Torre turned down a one-year, $5 million deal to become manager of the New York Yankees again. George Steinbrenner said Torre wouldn’t come back if the Yankees lost to Cleveland in the ALDS, but he changed his mind and made a generous one-year offer.

Joe Torre turned down the offer of $5 million in cash that was guaranteed and another $3 million that could have been earned as a bonus. Torre would have had to take a pay cut of $2.5 million if he had agreed to the deal, but his salary would have still been more than any other MLB manager.

Joe Torre met with the Yankee executives for more than an hour in Tampa, Florida. Steinbrenner looks good because he made an offer to Torre, and the Yankees try to stay out of bad news. Torre is leaving on his own terms because he turned down the offer, and it will be hard for New York fans to hold a grudge against him.

“Hiring Joe Torre might have been one of the better moves. A few of them were good. When asked what the best decision he had made as the owner of the Yankees was, George Steinbrenner said, “Just a few.”

Where will be the Yankees now had Joe Torre accepted to become their GM? Leave your comment below.

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