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Yankee fans worry about post-Torre team

Many agree that offer from the Boss was slap in the face

NEW YORK — The way many Yankees fans see it, the Bronx Bombers never should have let Joe Torre go.

At the new Yankee Stadium, going up fast across the street from The House That Ruth Built, New Yorkers expressed concern Friday about how the club might look when it starts playing there in 2009.

"I don't know what kind of team they think they're going to have without Torre," said Richard Nespolini, 53, a labor shop steward at the construction site on 161st Street. "This is a disgrace. Torre's numbers speak for themselves. He's a great manager. They made the playoffs 12 straight years, and he gets a pay cut? I don't think it's about the money, it's about the respect."

Torre, who made $7.5 million this year, turned down a one-year contract that would have guaranteed him $5 million with an opportunity to earn another $3 million in performance-based bonuses.

Nespolini, a Bronx native now living in South Hackensack, N.J., said the offer "was an insult to Joe, which is not easy to say about $5 million."

On the other side of the stadium, at 157th Street and Gerard Avenue, seething residents clustered to discuss the day's biggest news.

"I don't think they know what they're doing," said Ephraim Tarzuk, a landlord. "I'm picturing them next September, not making the playoffs. The players might be unhappy. They'll have to pay $30 million or something to get another bat or a pitcher when what they really needed was Joe Torre, and they could have got Joe Torre for a couple of million."

"We're all Yankee fans around here, of course," said Ramon Barroa, 41, a building superintendent. "We are pro-Torre. He's kept them winning. A one-year contract I think is kind of short for a baseball manager, especially for a manager like Torre and a team like the Yankees. He should have got at least a two- or three-year contract."

The prevailing sentiment wasn't unanimous, however.

Tim Werler, 34, head surveyor on the new Yankee Stadium site, said, "It's time for Torre to go. Go already. He's old, the players are old. Young blood will win us a new championship."

But Jose Gonzalez, 60, who works in building maintenance in Manhattan and was sitting in his car waiting for his parking spot to become legal, said, "Torre was the best manager of all the teams. ... He's been really a great guy, and to me he's like a father to all these players, the way he talks to them, the way he gets after them. He's an inspiration. I hope they reconsider what they have done to him and take him back."

Ann Sisto, a waitress in her 30s, held the same hope.

"Maybe they'll change their minds, bring him back," she said. "They'll see what Yankee fans think."