It’s the day of Jennifer Steinbrenner’s (second) wedding. Hal Steinbrenner, the youngest of the Steinbrenner boys, and his date Kay Adams are walking arm in arm at the reception, when Kay notices one of the guests — Yankees manager Don “Donny Baseball” Mattingly. Kay is totally excited to see one of her heroes. The following conversation ensues.
Hal: You know, my father helped Donny in his career.
Kay Adams: Really? How?
Hal: …Let’s listen to this song.
Kay Adams: [after listening to Donny sing Billy Joel's "New York state of mind" karaoke for a while] Please, Hal. Tell me.
Hal: …Well when Donny finished playing, he went to work as bench coach for the Yankees, under Joe Torre. And as he got more experience, he decided he wanted to manage. Now, Donny is like my father’s godson. So my father went to see Torre, with an ultimatum: win the ALDS or you’re fired. But Torre didn’t win. So the next day, my father went to see him again, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, Torre decides he doesn’t want to manage the Yankees anymore.
Kay Adams: How did he do that?
Hal: My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Kay Adams: What was it?
Hal: Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father offered him a one year contract at $2.5 million less than he made the year before, with performance bonuses.
Kay Adams: … (look of horror on her face)
Hal: …That’s a true story.
[cut to Donny singing again for about 10 more seconds before going back to Michael]
Hal: That’s my family Kay, it’s not me.
Ok, so maybe my “The Godfather” reference is a little over the top. But does anybody really think Joe Torre could have accepted Steinbrenner’s one-year offer to manage the Yankees? Does anybody think the Yankees wanted him to accept?
You have to admire how the Yankees handled this one. They offered Torre a lot of money, so that they could say to the media, “we offered him more money that any other manager gets paid!” They offered him performance bonuses so that they could say to the fans, “we demand results!” And they broke the story just hours before the Red Sox game (gravy).
But here’s the thing. These are the Yankees. This is the team that this season paid Jason Giambi $23 million. Whether Torre makes $5 million or $7.5 million doesn’t matter a damn bit — except to Joe Torre. All he hears is, “we’re offering you zero job security and a paycut, and you successor will sit next to you every day as a reminder of just how quickly we can replace you if the team struggles.”
If you’re Torre, you know the pay cut wasn’t offered in the spirit of reducing spending. It’s a slap in the face, plain and simple. So you reject the offer, because you don’t need this. You’ve had reporters camped out on your lawn for a week. You’ve had to endure endless questions about your job future ever since The Boss opened up his big mouth to some Jersey reporter. There are other jobs out there and, no, they’re not as glamorous as managing the Yankees, but they’re not as big a pain in the ass, either. You’ll take one of those.
Which, of course, is exactly what the Yankees want Torre to do. That’s why they made him an offer he couldn’t not refuse.