Mr. Torre, as Derek Jeter refers to him, has spent the past several days explaining his decision to reject the contract offer the Yankees made to allow him to manage them for a 13th season. He held an hourlong news conference last Friday in Rye Brook, N.Y., and he did an interview with Bob Costas that first ran on HBO on Tuesday.
Given some of Torre’s more pointed answers and comments, it was unfortunate that neither Costas nor the reporters at the news conference were aware of Torre’s contract history with the Yankees.
With the benefit of details obtained from information on file in the commissioner’s office, we now know that Torre either suffered a lapse of memory Friday or was counting on his questioners not knowing about some of his contracts with the Yankees, the last two in particular.
The target of Torre’s comments was the offer the Yankees made — one year with a $5 million salary and a possible $3 million in bonuses: $1 million each for reaching, not winning, the three postseason levels — division series, league championship series, World Series.
“I just felt the contract offer, the terms of the contract, were probably the thing I had the toughest time with,” Torre said in response to a question last Friday. “The one year for one thing, the incentives for another thing. The fact that I’ve been there 12 years, I didn’t think motivation was needed.”
In his interview with Costas, Torre expanded his views of the incentives.
“I don’t think incentives are necessary,” he said. “I’ve never needed to be motivated. Plus, in my contract, I get a million-dollar bonus if we do win the World Series. So that’s always been there. And, you know, as far as needing incentive to go ahead and win a ballgame, that I thought, I used the term insulting.”
Torre referred to a $1 million bonus for winning the World Series. He indeed had that in his last two contracts, which covered the last six years of his employment. In the 2002-4 contract, he was able to earn $200,000 for winning the division series, $300,000 for winning the league championship series and $500,000 for winning the World Series.
The 2005-7 contract eliminated the division series bonus but provided $400,000 for winning the league championship series and $600,000 for winning the World Series, the bonuses still adding to a maximum $1 million.
Obviously Torre did not object to those bonuses, did not reject them as insulting. He signed those contracts and readily accepted the incentives they offered. Even though the Yankees didn’t win the World Series in those six years, Torre earned $700,000 of a possible $3 million in the first contract but nothing in the second because the Yankees lost the division series each year.
But those were not the only incentives in a Torre contract. In the 2002-4 deal, he had bonuses based on the number of games the Yankees won — $100,000 each for 90, 94, 98, 102. He earned an additional $1 million of a possible $1.2 million.
What was that about not needing incentive “to go ahead and win a ballgame”? That thought insulted Torre? Why, then, did he accept $1 million worth of insults in those years? And why wasn’t he willing to accept a potential $3 million in insults for next season?
Torre did not return telephone messages left on his home answering machine, so we don’t know the answers to those questions.
We also don’t know why he was willing to discuss a one-year contract last spring but not accept one year now.
Yes, Torre was prepared to sign a one-year extension.
Torre went to Steve Swindal, who was then a general partner and a George Steinbrenner son-in-law in good standing, and General Manager Brian Cashman and told them he would like to manage the Yankees in the last year at Yankee Stadium.
Swindal, who had negotiated Torre’s existing $20.9 million contract ($6.7 million, $6.7 million, $7.5 million), said that idea was fine with him but would require Torre to take a pay cut. They were talking about a $4.5 million salary, apparently with no insulting incentives.
Their talks, however, died with Swindal’s decline after his D.U.I. arrest and subsequent divorce from Jennifer Steinbrenner. Cashman discussed the contract with Steinbrenner, who told him to wait until after the season.
Torre never mentioned those negotiations, nor did he disclose his profitable contract incentives. Should he have talked about either? Maybe he had no obligation to unless he was asked about them, but he did have a responsibility not to make misleading claims about motivation and insult.