Does Yankees loss mean Torre’s exit? |

Does Yankees loss mean Torre’s exit?

Mike Fitzpatrick
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Kathy Willens/APYankees manager Joe Torre watches from the dugout during New York's loss and exit from the playoffs against the Indians Monday.

NEW YORK ” Joe Torre and his Yankee players began the wait Tuesday for George Steinbrenner’s decision: Will he keep the manager or let him go after 12 consecutive postseason appearances?

Few players were at Yankee Stadium, where Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Phillips and Jose Molina packed their gear for the long winter.

“Everyone in this room unanimously feels the same way about Mr. Torre,” Andy Phillips said. “We all love him. We all appreciate what he’s given us. We appreciate the confidence he’s had in us all year.”

Steinbrenner said last weekend he probably wouldn’t bring Torre back unless New York rallied to win the first-round series. The 77-year-old owner has not spoken publicly since the loss.

“There’s nothing decided yet,” Hank Steinbrenner, a son of the owner and a team senior vice president, said Tuesday.

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The younger Steinbrenner praised Torre for the job he did this year, getting the Yankees into the playoffs after a slow start.

“I really do like Joe a lot,” he said. “I have a lot of admiration for him.”

After Monday night’s season-ending 6-4 loss to Cleveland, Torre’s voice trembled a bit when he described how proud he was of his players for digging out of a 21-29 hole to reach the postseason.

“We were dead to the water in a lot of people’s eyes,” Phillips said. “He kept telling us to keep just playing every day and don’t look at numbers.”

Torre sounded as if he knew he may have managed his final game for the Yankees.

“It’s such an empty feeling,” he said. “You think it’s going to last forever.”

Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi are the top candidates to replace him.

Girardi, a former Yankees catcher, spent a season as Torre’s bench coach before winning 2006 NL Manager of the Year for keeping the rookie-laden Florida Marlins in contention most of the way.

Mattingly, a fan favorite and ex-Yankees captain, was Torre’s bench coach this year after previously serving as the team’s hitting instructor.

“Obviously, it’s not a great spot,” Mattingly said. “It’s not something to talk about right now. I think Joe’s done a tremendous job. I think Joe should be here as long as he wants to be.”

Phillips and other Yankees can’t envision someone else taking over.

“I refuse to think that way right now. I won’t let that thought enter my mind,” he said, praising Torre for a calm demeanor during turbulent times.

“There’s not a guy in here that’s not dealing with something that he probably hasn’t gone through,” Phillips said.

The Yankees extended their season by overcoming a three-run deficit Sunday to win Game 3. But they couldn’t do it again in Game 4, eliminated despite a $215 million payroll.

“This has been a great 12 years. Whatever the hell happens from here on out, I’ll look back on these 12 years with great, great pleasure,” Torre said. “The 12 years just felt like they were 10 minutes long, to be honest with you.”

With Steinbrenner in attendance, a cheering crowd chanted “Joe Torre! Joe Torre!” as the manager went to the mound twice in the eighth inning.

He made one final pitching change in a season full of uncertainty in that department, handing the ball to star closer Mariano Rivera before making that slow, familiar walk back to the dugout.

Torre’s head stayed down, he never acknowledged the crowd. Maybe he just couldn’t bear to do it.

“These fans are very special,” Torre said. “You can feel their heartbeat.”

Second to Joe McCarthy on the club’s career wins list with a 1,173-767 regular-season record as Yankees manager, Torre was almost always loyal, turning to his most trusted players in crucial situations.

Those players might have just gotten him fired.

“I couldn’t imagine what he’s going through right now, as far as emotions,” Andy Pettitte said.

Earning $7.5 million this year in the final season of his contract, the 67-year-old Torre hasn’t decided whether he’d want to return. He seemed open to it in recent weeks. Now it looks as if he won’t get that chance, even though he is 76-47 in the postseason with New York.

“I think Joe’s been very consistent, year in and year out,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “It’s a resume that’s unquestionable. He’s been fantastic ” nothing short of that.”

High expectations come with the territory in the Bronx, and nobody knows that better than Torre, who led the Yankees to four World Series titles from 1996-00 in his first five years as manager.

The Yankees were the only first-round playoff loser that wasn’t swept. Rest assured that’s no consolation to Steinbrenner.

“It’s not Joe’s fault,” Alex Rodriguez said. “We’ve got the most prepared coaching staff and the best manager in the game. It’s on us, the players.”

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