It came as no surprise that Joe Torre escaped the executioner's song on Tuesday. He surely eluded it on Sunday (or even Saturday night) when the Yankee owner did not fire him almost immediately after the Tigers eliminated and humiliated his precious Yankees. That Torre was not cut loose on the spot meant that cool heads and realistic voices could make sure the owner did not send Torre packing for the unforgivable sin of losing the last game of the last six Yankee postseasons.
Why didn't he fire him? He had a preferred candidate to succeed the most successful Yankee manager of the last 46 years in Lou Piniella. Even Joe Girardi could be a possible replacement. Clearly Torre had not done such a masterful job over the last few weeks of the regular season and the Divisional playoff. And obviously, George Steinbrenner has employed Joe Torre long past the usual managerial expiration date.
What changed his mind; why was Torre able to sit in a Yankee Stadium news conference on Tuesday and tell the world that the owner had just given him the news that he would return, skip a long beat, and then add, "Which I am very excited about"? No tears from Joe, no anger, no disappointment at being left to spin a few days while the boss made up his mind. (On the other hand, if Torre left the podium and went to his office and started talking about next season and the rotten choices he may have to start games, tears, anger, disappointment may have been very much a part of that discussion.)
Torre's job and Yankee fans' sanity (about which we worry so much) was saved by a sense of public relations that the team lacked for so many years. Oh, the owner formerly known as Boss George knew how to grab the headline and did so season after season. But once he got hold of the headline, he didn't know what to do with it and there was nobody with the stones to tell him what to do. As a result, managers, pitching coaches, rookie relief pitchers, veteran outfielders, free-agent starters, a few PR directors, were left littered all about Yankee Stadium (which needs no extra debris, believe me). Now he was told to let it go, the team didn't need a new manager and the fans certainly didn't want one.
If the Yankees go into next season with the excess baggage and attitudes of Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, the pretty-boy too-cool-for-words act of Alex Rodriquez, and the god-awful staff of starting pitching that should no longer include Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano (they're paying him, he's got to be in the discussion), they'll still probably make the postseason but they definitely won't win another World Series.
This is not to say that the Yankees have to get rid of A-Rod (the others must go), but he needs to get a little fire in his belly and show a lot more honest concern about his failures and true joy for his successes.
With Torre managing as well as he can and without him having to resort to elimination game mental tricks, there's no reason they can't end the streak of postseason failure next season. And whatever they do, the players and the fans should be thankful that whoever was whispering in Steinbrenner's ears (more than one whisperer for sure) got the message through.
Now, to the TVs.