On Torre: An MBA Weighs In

This came across the doorstep, a missive from an MIT-educated MBA, an expert in management who we have the utmost respect for, and who is the proprietor of a successful consulting firm, regarding Torre.  Offered without comment.

[Full disclosure: the writer is a Red Sox fan.]

"The way the Yankee top brass have handled the Torre situation – making him an offer they knew he would refuse – is not the best approach to management in most companies.  Now, most companies can do this privately, so they may be able to get away with it.  But the Yankees operate in the public eye.  I know, this is professional sports, and managers (coaches) get fired all the time.  But this particular manager (an integral part of the management team) was a recognized contributor to whatever success the organization had over the longer term, and just as important, there are many other members of the organization, in particular some key line employees (players) who remain very loyal to the person being terminated.  And who, by a quirk of timing, have the freedom to leave the organization.  So terminating the manager with the maximum respect was called for.  It would have been far better to be completely honest (as it always is).  Announce that the organization has decided to go in a different direction after x number of years of great leadership from a hall of famer, whatever.  Don’t try to fool anyone.  Certainly the line employees the company (Rivera, Posada, Rodriguez, Pettitte), might react better to honesty than to disingenuousness.  Unless only money talks – but that is not always the way, when employees feel there is mutual loyalty in the organization  (e.g., David Ortiz).  At the very least, the Yankees are going to have to spend more to retain those players (assuming they really want to) than they would have if they treated Torre better.  So the way they have handled him could also be expensive.  I won’t go so far as to call Yankees top management stupid – but short sighted would certainly apply."

30 comments… add one
  • It strikes me that the Yankees may have been thinking less about Torre than about setting a tone for all of their upcoming negotiations.
    New York is facing the prospect of dealing with many of the most crucial “line employees” of the organization: their most productive hitter, their essential closer, and their irreplaceable catcher. Seems to me they used the Torre situation to send a message: Don’t expect us to throw money at you just because you’re necessary and beloved.
    Not that I think they went about this the best way, and their approach may even prove counter-productive.
    By handling Torre disingenuously, they have handled all of these big names a great excuse to say “The heck with it, after what they’ve done to George, I have a great public excuse to sign with the highest bidder, even if it’s not the Yankees.”

    Hudson October 19, 2007, 4:40 pm
  • TYPO: they have handled > they have handed

    Hudson October 19, 2007, 4:41 pm
  • I absolutely think that this Torre move was a warning shot to Boras..”if you think we’re kidding this offseason, we’re not”.
    It probably works too.

    Brad October 19, 2007, 5:16 pm
  • And I agree, Hudson. I bet one of them walks.
    Mo? Crosses fingers and says prayer.

    Brad October 19, 2007, 5:17 pm
  • Works in what sense? I think Boras has to call them on it, and if they don’t budge (which, well, they probably will), at least some of his talent will go elsewhere.

    Jackie (SF) October 19, 2007, 5:25 pm
  • SF, great post.
    Re: Mo and Jorge
    If they don’t come back because Torre is gone they will be alienating the fans that have supported them their whole career. I too am a man of principles, but they need to see all sides of this. If they don’t come back because Team X offered more money, that’s fine, but I will be real disappointed in those two guys if they use Torre as an excuse.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 19, 2007, 5:27 pm
  • but I will be real disappointed in those two guys if they use Torre as an excuse
    But if they move on and cite the Torre situation as part of the reason then what can you ascribe to “excuse-making” and what can you ascribe to sincere disenchantment? This is going to be an interesting few months.

    SF October 19, 2007, 5:37 pm
  • You are surely right SF it will be interesting.
    The way that the fans have treated both of these players I would hope that they think about ALL aspects, not just the fact that Joe is gone. For Jorge and Mo (all but one season), Joe is all they have ever known, so I understand first instinct is to say F this I’m out. But this town, the fans and this organization have been very good to THEM, I just hope they can focus on that, rather the franchise a manager they care about. If it’s a business decision so be it, can’t turn all that money, I get it. Just don’t tell me you are doing it as payback for the Torre situation.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 19, 2007, 5:43 pm
  • Should read…”rather then how the franchise treated a manager they care about.”
    Uggh, my son was screaming, my apologies.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 19, 2007, 5:45 pm
  • Just don’t tell me you are doing it as payback for the Torre situation.
    What if they are just being honest? What if they truly feel like the organization cannot be trusted?
    I am not saying you are doing this, Trisk, but I have a hard time pre-judging guys who have been nothing but class acts for their entire careers. If Mo and Jorge walk away and cite Torre’s treatment as part of their rationale how can you not take that seriously, look at it as excuse-making?
    I guess we will know more when the dollar signs start flashing…

    SF October 19, 2007, 5:48 pm
  • “What if they are just being honest?”
    I can see them being hurt, I am ok with that. But what I am saying is that hurt also needs to be weighed against the respect and love that this town has showed these 2 gentlemen since the day they put on the pinstripes. By leaving solely because they are hurt they are discounting the fans and the team they have been part of their whole careers.
    With that said if the Angels say we will pay you 5 million more then the Yankees, I will understand why he walks.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 19, 2007, 5:54 pm
  • By leaving solely because they are hurt they are discounting the fans and the team they have been part of their whole careers.
    Fair enough.

    SF October 19, 2007, 5:58 pm
  • Great post, but it didn’t take a Sloan grad to tell us this.
    This was a HUGE mistake on the part of the Yankees, period. There is no other way to argue it.
    What Yankee fans have to hope for now is that the organization is ready for the backlash, they need to hope that this was prepared for.
    Considering the two total jerks that now run the show, I doubt it.
    I honestly say good luck. I didn’t want the Yankees to end up in some misdirected, poorly executed power vacuum, but this is the first sign that the house is not in order.
    So, good luck with that.

    LocklandSF October 19, 2007, 7:28 pm
  • Did you guys see Selena Roberts’ column today? Between this and the way he handled the Torre situation, I can see this Hank Steinbrenner character providing YEARS of entertainment value — to Sox fans, if not Yankee fans.
    “Last year when Steinbrenner was asked who would succeed him as the person in charge of the Yankees, he said, when he retired, Swindal would be the man in charge.
    Two problems with that. Steinbrenner never intended to retire, and Hank Steinbrenner had a different idea.
    Subsequent to the elder Steinbrenner’s comment, a group of people, including Hank, the elder son, were in the owner’s Yankee Stadium office, and someone mentioned that Swindal was the heir apparent.
    “Like hell he will be,” Hank responded, according to a person who was there. Then he pointed to Steinbrenner’s large leather chair and added, “When my father goes, I’ll be sitting in the chair.”

    MJL in L.A. (SF) October 19, 2007, 8:30 pm
  • One must wonder who is the man in the iron mask.

    attackgerbil October 19, 2007, 8:49 pm
  • i agree with trisk…if posada and rivera chose loyalty for torre over loyalty to the fans of ny, that will indeed be disappointing…
    your mba needs to go back to school sf…have him/her take a class in sports psychology [money>ego]…and a little lesson in how large corporations execute downsizing strategies is probably in order as well…someone’s feelings are secondary to the ulimate goal…it is about the money…didn’t you guys crucify damon and a certain kicker from your pats who defected to the colts, because it was about money?…yes, the yankees ran a risk of alienating those players who were loyal to torre, but with the exception of posada and rivera, do you think they care what arod thinks?…they already sent him a message telling him to shove off if he opts out…pettite has a player option for next year…do you really think he’ll leave $16m on the table?…as for clemens, please, sox fans thought the yanks were stupid for signing him…i could care less if he wants to come back…i hope it’s somewhere else, like fenway…

    dc October 19, 2007, 10:43 pm
  • “pettite has a player option for next year…do you really think he’ll leave $16m on the table?”
    If Pettitte opted out, he’d stand to sign an even better contract. The pitching market is thin.

    Nick-YF October 19, 2007, 11:48 pm
  • I stand by original prediction, which was predicated on a graceful, non-insulting parting of ways between Torre and the Yankees, not the slap in the face the Yankees instead provided him: Pettitte is gone.
    If the Yankees are truly serious about not negotiating with A-Rod if he opts out (that they’re still saying it carries some weight, but I still don’t believe it), then he, too, is gone.
    Posada and Rivera will stay, I think. (Granted, these are all just my opinions, but I think thy make sense considering the players and personalities involved).
    A 2008 Yankee club without Torre, without Pettitte, without A-Rod, but with three rookies in the starting rotation? I could dig it.

    Paul SF October 20, 2007, 12:19 am
  • i don’t see the yanks with 3 rookies in the starting rotation paul, but given the guys involved, i could dig it too…if the tables were turned you’d make the same rationalization, only all 3 wouldn’t be just in the rotation, they’d be co-cy candidates…pettite probably comes back if posada comes back…

    dc October 20, 2007, 1:05 am
  • Nice of you to put words in my mouth, dc, but I believe I’ve stated on here that I’d be leery if the Sox started next season with Lester and Buchholz both in the rotation — and Lester’s not even a rookie anymore. So you stand corrected.
    Meanwhile, Pulsipher, Wilson and Isringhausen were sure-fire prospects for another New York team, and all came up at roughly the same time. None of them panned out. I’ve said it bewfore, but just playing the odds on prospects’ success rate, I’d pick which two of those potential starters you most would be OK with failing because the likelihood is only one of the three will ever be considered a successful major leaguer.
    The Yankees might not start with all three in the rotation (though plenty of people have called that a possibility, if not a probability), and they may all turn out to be Hall of Famers, but I’m just saying the odds are stacked against them.

    Paul SF October 20, 2007, 1:40 am
  • What??? DO you guys honestly think the players support Torre unconditionally? Don’t confuse public comments of support for what their real feelings are. We simply have no idea.
    Joe is definitely not part of the solution, he is part of the problem. Plain and simple.
    Do you guys really think that Mo and Possada will leave because of Torre? Despite their numbers this year, both of these guys are past the mid-points of their career–they simply only have a few years to left at high performance and the statistical likelihood that they will suck in two years is extremely high.
    There are not a lot of teams willing to pay big bux for players past their statistical prime. Too many clubs like the Yankees have been burned that way. Remember, neither Mo or Possada has the fan drawing power that someone like an A-Rod or a Manny does.

    Steve October 20, 2007, 5:12 am
  • dc:
    I think you are speaking about a different issue than our MBA. His point is that the Yankees, through their impolitic treatment of Torre, may have made it more expensive to re-sign their free agents than if they had handled the situation smoothly and honestly. This is a legitimate point. If those players were planning on returning, it is conceivable that their asking price has just risen, due to this situation.

    SF October 20, 2007, 7:36 am
  • “…Nice of you to put words in my mouth, dc, but I believe I’ve stated on here that I’d be leery if the Sox started next season with Lester and Buchholz both in the rotation — and Lester’s not even a rookie anymore. So you stand corrected….”
    sorry to disappoint you paul, but i didn’t need to be “corrected”…read on…you are part of the sox hype machine when it comes to your young players and finding a way to be happy with what you got…nothing wrong with that since i have to do the same thing with the yanks…the 3 rookies on the sox was a hypothetical, which is why i avoided naming names [i knew you’d call me on the lester technicality…probably could argue that hughes and joba have enough ml experience that they’re not so much rookies anymore, but i suppose technically they still are]…the point was only that if you were in my shoes you’d find a way to get excited about 3 young pitchers who have been so highly touted…at this point, i’d rather have hughes than say, clemens…do you think you guys will keep schilling, timlin, and wakefield or make room for one or more of the younger guys?…see what i mean?
    sf, i didn’t mean to insult your mba, but his point is a huge stretch…i believe i did respond directly to the issues he raised…as much as we all like to think of baseball as a business, certain comparisons are difficult, because it doesn’t necessary line up that neatly to what we know to be the characteristics of a “typical” business, and how that business should be run…i had a boss dismissed once upon a time…how funny would it have been if me and my fellow employees [who the company very much wanted to retain] had lined up outside corporate headquarters demanding more money because we loved the guy they just got rid of?…oh sure, we whined about it, just like some yankee players will, but we went back and did our jobs…ballplayers have more flexibility than the average joe, because if you’re good enough, you can find someone else to play for, and i’m sure the guys we’re talking about here aren’t too worried about how much their next power bill will be, or if they’ve saved enough for the kids college…they also don’t have to make difficult pension and benefit decisions when they move to another team…despite that, i just think that they will take the most money, period [money trumps ego with these guys]…if they use joe as an excuse to take more money elsewhere, i ain’t buying that snake oil…if they take less money just to get out, then they’ll have my full attention…i’ll say it again, many of the yankees’ decisions are and will be about money…the torre decision was not one of them…there is some other dynamic here, and i do share your mba’s sentiment that i wish the yankees had been more up front about it: “joe, we don’t want you back because, blah, blah, blah”…yes they insulted joe, but there is no delicate way to tell someone you don’t want him anymore…look at the s— the yankees took for the way they handled bernie…look at the s— i gave you guys about trot…

    dc October 20, 2007, 9:19 am
  • dc:
    Again, I think you are discussing something different. The point isn’t about player excuse-making about why they leave, it is about whether the team has actually hurt their own negotiation position with some of their free agents because of how they treated Torre. The idea that had the Yankees handled this in a more dignified manner they might have an easier time with Mo and Posada isn’t even remotely a stretch. And “ease” typically means dollars.

    SF October 20, 2007, 10:34 am
  • I’m not saying you shouldn’t be excited about the rookies, DC. I’m just saying that it’s not exactly an ideal situation for the Yankees to have three untested arms out there — and that while I’d be excited to have three promosing rookie starters, I would NOT want all three of them in the rotation at the same time, essentially making my team’s chances dependent on their success. As an example, I’m not even thrilled about the possibility of having Buchholz and Lester both in the rotation next year, and Lester’s actually got some experience under his belt.

    Paul SF October 20, 2007, 12:36 pm
  • “…three untested arms…”
    not exactly untested paul…true, they’re not as “seasoned” as a clemens and a schilling, but i’d rather take my chances with the youth at this point…
    “…Again, I think you are discussing something different….”
    i don’t think you’re trying to insult me sf, but i know you don’t think i’m as smart as your mba…look, i’m dead on with responding to his argument…don’t let your disagreement with my response be perceived as a lack of understanding…
    “…it is about whether the team has actually hurt their own negotiation position with some of their free agents because of how they treated Torre….”
    i addressed that point in my response exactly…you may say i’m calling it an “excuse”…well i am, ’cause given more money, those guys will turn on their grandmothers…you watch…

    dc October 20, 2007, 3:29 pm
  • ’cause given more money, those guys will turn on their grandmothers…you watch…
    This is the point, though, which you think the MBA is missing! The Yankees may have just increased the chance that they have to offer more money to get these guys to stay.
    You think the Torre situation is irrelevant to the dealings and that money talks no matter what, but all the MBA is saying is that the way it was handled has weakened the Yankees’ position and was poor business strategy, that being open and honest would have at least reduced or kept at even the risk that the players might use this as a wedge. I am not sure why you are so certain this isn’t the case. Torre’s pet players can now leverage this situation towards their new contracts, and in a worst case scenario they just get up and leave. There was no guarantee that these players wouldn’t leave, and there’s no way to speculate that they are or aren’t just looking for the most money from any team (not just the Yankees), but the business strategy here had to have had an element of risk analysis and risk management, and the Yankees didn’t do a textbook job of this, at least not to my eyes (and not the MBA’s, either, it would appear).

    SF October 20, 2007, 3:44 pm
  • > but the business strategy here had to have had an element of risk analysis and risk management, and the Yankees didn’t do a textbook job of this, at least not to my eyes
    You are being kind. It was a chickenshit PR play that went completely sideways.

    attackgerbil October 20, 2007, 6:33 pm
  • Looking at the Yankees’ 2007 salaries, I wonder why people think that Joe’s take is the one that needs adjustment.
    Alex Rodriguez $27,708,525
    Jason Giambi $23,428,571
    Derek Jeter $21,600,000
    Roger Clemens $18,500,000
    Andy Pettitte $16,000,000
    Bobby Abreu $15,600,000
    Johnny Damon $13,000,000
    Hideki Matsui $13,000,000
    Jorge Posada $12,000,000
    Mike Mussina $11,070,423
    Mariano Rivera $10,500,000
    Carl Pavano $10,000,000
    Kyle Farnsworth $5,666,667
    Kei Igawa $4,000,000
    Luis Vizcaino $3,000,000
    Doug Mientkiewicz $1,500,000
    Jose Molina $1,350,000
    Miguel Cairo $750,000
    Robinson Cano $490,800
    Chien-Ming Wang $489,500
    Melky Cabrera $432,400
    Wilson Betemit $405,000
    Brian Bruney $395,545
    Jeff Karstens $389,495
    Darrell Rasner $384,523
    Jose Veras $382,475
    Wil Nieves $382,150
    Humberto Sanchez $380,000

    attackgerbil October 20, 2007, 6:45 pm
  • so sf, the mba is saying that the yankees needed to keep a guy that they don’t think can do the job anymore just to placate a few aging stars, who may be in decline soon, and who they probably would have offered more than they’re worth anyway, with or without the torre factor…i honestly don’t think he drives up the price…the competition will do that…like i said, the money will talk to the players, and i don’t see any of them leaving the yanks for less, or using torre for leverage…nice theory, but wrong, and i’ll take my chances that they’ll sign anyway…my point was that they can ask for more, but unless somebody beats the yanks offers to these players, the point is moot…you’re putting way too much stock in the loyalty factor…
    i think you, the mba, and gerb are over-reacting…the mba obviously doesn’t understand the differences between baseball/entertainment and general business principles…i already pointed that out earlier…the yanks were clumsy with the handling of this, i agree, but i believe they did the risk assessment, and are avoiding the real issues with torre, which i also mentioned earlier…that’s the part i agree is dishonest, but perhaps less damaging to his ego than a perceived “lowball” offer…this isn’t much different than the bernie situation…no win for the the yankee management…

    dc October 20, 2007, 10:45 pm

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