Steinbrenner at 80: Vintage George tweaks Torre
George Steinbrenner turns 80 on July 4. We're looking back at some of the memorable moments of his tenure.
In this Oct 6, 2007 interview with Ian O'Connor, then of the Record (N.J.), a fiery Steinbrenner portends the fate of manager Joe Torre, whose team lost to the Indians in the AL Division Series.
This is generally regarded as Steinbrenner's last interview and if he was in diminished capacity,as was and continues to be widely reported, it was not evident in his quotes to O'Connor. O'Connor later said he found Steinbrenner to be lucid during the interview. The Yankees play the Torre-managed Dodgers starting Friday.
Joe Torre's 12-year run as manager of the Yankees will likely end if his team does not rally to beat the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series, George Steinbrenner told The Record on Saturday night.
"His job is on the line," the Yankees' owner said in a phone interview. "I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don't think we'd take him back if we don't win this series."
Torre is in the final year of a contract worth $7 million this season. He has led his team to four World Series titles and 12 consecutive playoff appearances and was universally hailed this year for weathering a 21-29 start.
"He's been good for us over the years," Steinbrenner acknowledged.
But down 0-2 in the best-of-five series with Cleveland entering tonight's Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, and facing the prospect of a first-round postseason exit for the third consecutive year, Steinbrenner - who nearly fired Torre after last year's Division Series loss to Detroit ? is running dangerously low on patience. Earlier Saturday, at a Stadium news conference, Torre had said, "We certainly need to find out what we're made of. ..."
"I think that's a good statement," Steinbrenner said. "They'd better show what they're made of."
Once known for his blustery, omnipresent approach, the 77-year-old Steinbrenner has been an increasingly distant figure in Yankeedom, inspiring speculation about his health. He has stayed away from the Stadium and reduced most of his public comments to pre-packaged statements released through his spokesman, Howard Rubenstein.
But with his team teetering on the brink of a knockout, the old Steinbrenner came out swinging on Saturday night, putting Torre on immediate notice and ripping into umpire Bruce Froemming, the veteran crew chief from Friday night's Game 2 who declined to stop play despite an infestation of Lake Erie gnats.
"The umpire was full of [expletive]," Steinbrenner said of the retiring Froemming. "He won't umpire our games anymore."
In the wake of that Game 2 defeat, Steinbrenner said the Yankees had complained to baseball commissioner Bud Selig about the decision to play on. "[Selig] just said, 'That's in the umpires' hands,' " Steinbrenner said. "But Jesus Christ, it was terrible. It messed up the whole team, [Derek] Jeter, all of them."
If the bugs also messed up Alex Rodriguez, the superstar forever burdened by October angst, Steinbrenner said A-Rod's struggles won't temper his desire to re-sign the free agent-to-be, who will likely seek a contract worth more than $30 million per year.
"I think we'll re-sign him," Steinbrenner said of Rodriguez. "I think he's going to have a good run the rest of the [postseason]. I think he realizes New York is the place to be, the place to play. A lot of this [postseason] is laying on his shoulders, you know, but I think he's up to it."
Despite the recent organizational promotions of his son, Hal, and son-in-law, Felix Lopez, Steinbrenner made it clear he will be the one who decides how much to offer Rodriguez and whether to offer Torre anything at all.
"I have full control," Steinbrenner said. The owner maintained that rumors of his declining health were false.
"I'm doing all right," he said. "I'm fine."
Steinbrenner said the first two games in Cleveland left him disappointed, not defeated. He believes the Yankees will win three consecutive sudden-death games to advance to the American League Championship Series.
"I think we're going to be OK," he said. "I just think we've got the team. We can hit; I think our hitters got that out of their craw [Friday] night.
"We'll see how good our team is [tonight]."
In Game 3, the Yankees won't just play for their season. They'll play for their manager's job.