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It's interesting that news about a baseball managerial situation would overshadow the results of a deciding MLB playoff game (at least for one team), but that was the situation last night as Yankees manager Joe Torre left and the Boston Red Sox stayed, at least for the time being.

Torre wasn't fired, not technically. But he quit after essentially being offered a one-year contract for less money. In a turn on a famous movie line, it was an offer he had to refuse, and not so much because of the dollars involved -- it's quite possible, in fact, quite likely Torre's next job will pay him less. He had been making $7.5 million. He was offered $5 million during a meeting that included George Steinbrenner and the Boss' two sons, Hal and Hank. Reportedly, the younger men did the talking.

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I'm not going to comment on the baseball end of this. Baseball fans are familiar with the numbers and the crux of this matter -- 12 straight playoff performances and four World Series titles, but none since 2000.  What I find interesting is how this eventually went down -- so un-Steinbrenner-like. The ouster of Torre was finessed in a way in which the organization could turn to its fans and say, "See, we wanted Joe back -- he turned us down." All along they knew that Torre's managing task would be a nightmare next season unless the team went wire-to-wire in the American League East and then blew through the playoffs into the World Series.

"Performance-based model" was the catch-phrase team president Randy Levin used to describe the team's offer to Torre. Like the last 12 seasons never happened. Here's the bottom line: They didn't want Torre back but they wanted -- and here's another catch-phrase from another era -- "plausible deniability" in deflecting fan ire and media criticism.

Now you know what Yankee officials were doing when they were holed up in Florida. It wasn't a discussion about whether to keep Torre but how they could weasel their way to firing him and not look bad themselves.

Frankly, I like the Boss in the old days. He got mad at Billy Martin and yelled, "You're fired." And then George took his licks and moved on. It may have been outrageous at times but it was forthright and, in that way, you could respect it.

* Finally, give that Josh Beckett credit. Has there ever been a better clutch pitcher?

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