Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Twisting In The Wind In The Bronx

NEW YORK _ Let the fallout begin.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knew it had already begun before the ink even dried on the obituaries being written today about the American League wild-card winner's quick demise in the 2007 postseason.

So, too, did Joe Torre, whose quivering voice and request for privacy around his home spoke volumes about the death-row vigil that is now officially under way when it comes to his 12-year run in the most thankless managerial job in baseball.

Torre and Cashman may not want change. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner will insist on it, though, especially since he so publicly and humiliatingly tied Torre's future to the success of the American League Division Series now since lost to the Cleveland Indians.

This time around, though, so, too, may some of Steinbrenner's veteran players will have a say in that change. A-Rod can opt out. Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada can test the free agent market.

And as Rivera said dispassionately in the quiet of the Yankees' clubhouse following the team's 6-4 loss, "this is business." And if it is the business of the Yankees to do things such as dismiss a Torre, the all-star reliever and future Hall of Famer said, then it will be his business to explore his options, too.

"They had a chance and they didn't do nothing with me," Rivera said of his failed efforts to enter negotiations with the team on a new contract during the season. "So let's see what's out there."

Nothing personal, Rivera insisted. And yet ... just ask him about the team's decision on Torre and what that might do to his own thought process.

"Like I said before, I'd have to sit down and think about that," Rivera said. "I'm proud of my teammates. I'm proud of my manager. I thank God for the opportunities I've had here. But we will see. Nothing against the organization. Nothing against the New York Yankees. But this is a business."

Yes it is. It is also a business Steinbrenner obviously feels has stopped giving him worthwhile return on his billion-dollar investment over the last half-dozen years. For while the Yankees kept their playoff run alive for a dozen years on Torre's watch, the team has not won a world championship since 2003, a lifetime in Yankees years.

Winning but one game in the best-of-five series against the Indians won't salve the owner's angry mood. Cashman's dour mood suggested as much.

"Cleveland earned the right to go forward," said Cashman said. "At the same time, we earned the right to go home," he said of the team that proved so potent during the regular season but hit only .228 in four games in the series.

Now the rebuilding not only will begin, but, in many cases, must.

Will that begin with Torre's ouster?

"I don't know why they would [dismiss Torre]," Rivera said quietly, obviously a man too young to remember the bad old days prior to the Torre era when Steinbrenner changed managers like other owners changed socks.

Torre, for one, tried to put the best face on his thankless situation.

"I'm not going there," Torre said when asked to speculate on his fate. "This has been a great 12 years. Whatever the hell happens from here on out, I mean, I'll look back on with great, great pleasure."

Cashman was non-commital, befitting his place in an organization where the real power resides in the Boss's Tampa headquarters.

"All decisions about next season we're going to have to focus on a lot sooner than we'd hoped," Cashman conceded. But as to whether any have been made he would not say. "I've not started ... we've not started on '08."

Not with the wounds of a disappointing end to 2007 still so fresh.