By Ronald Blum
RYE BROOK, N.Y. - Joe Torre 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.
"An insult," he said, his voice choking up at times.
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, Fla., 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."
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.
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.
"I can't be sure," 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.