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Torre on hot seat after Yankees lose in 1st round for 3rd straight year

Manager Joe Torre of the New York Yankees talks to the media after losing against the Cleveland Indians on Monday night.
Manager Joe Torre of the New York Yankees talks to the media after losing against the Cleveland Indians on Monday night.
Jim Mcisaac, Getty Images

NEW YORK — Joe Torre sat quietly in his favorite spot on the bench, stomach churning, eyes fixed low under that navy blue New York Yankees cap.

He's probably headed to the Hall of Fame, Monument Park, every baseball pantheon there is.

Today, though, Torre might be a man without a job.

After 12 playoff appearances in 12 seasons, Torre may have managed his final game for the Yankees when they were knocked out of the playoffs in a 6-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Monday night.

"The 12 years just felt like they were 10 minutes long, to be honest with you," Torre said afterward.

Reverting to his blustering ways, demanding owner George Steinbrenner said he probably wouldn't bring Torre back unless New York rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win the best-of-five series.

"His job is on the line," Steinbrenner was quoted in Sunday's editions of The Record of New Jersey. "I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don't think we'd take him back if we don't win this series."

The Yankees saved their season — and perhaps Torre's job — by overcoming a three-run deficit Sunday to win Game 3.

They couldn't do it again in Game 4, eliminated in the first round for the third straight year despite a $215 million payroll.

Now, it feels like the end of an era in New York.

"This has been a great 12 years, whatever ... happens from here on out," Torre said. "I'll look back on these 12 years with great pleasures based on the fact I'm a kid who had never been to the World Series other than watching my brother play in the 50s.

"To be in six World Series and be in the postseason, it never gets old," he added.

With Steinbrenner in attendance, a cheering crowd chanted "Joe Torre! Joe Torre!" as the manager went to the mound twice in the eighth inning.

He made one final pitching change in a season full of uncertainty in that department, handing the ball to star closer Mariano Rivera before making that slow, familiar walk back to the dugout.

Torre's head stayed down, he never acknowledged the crowd. Maybe he just couldn't bear to do it.

"These fans are very special," Torre said. "You can feel their heartbeat."

Second to Joe McCarthy on the club's career wins list with a 1,173-767 record as a manager, Torre was almost always loyal, turning to his most trusted players in crucial situations.

Those players might have just gotten him fired.

Still, his voice shook a bit when Torre talked about how proud he was of his players for digging themselves out of a 21-29 hole this season.

Earning $7.5 million this year in the final season of his contract, the 67-year-old Torre hasn't decided whether he would want to return. But he seemed open to it in recent weeks.

Looks as though he won't get that chance, even though he is 76-47 in the postseason with New York.

New York's three consecutive first-round exits from the playoffs followed an unprecedented collapse in the 2004 AL championship series against rival Boston.

Still, would dismissing Torre after such success be fair? Or even wise?

Debatable, certainly.

Why bother? High expectations come with the territory in the Bronx, and nobody knows that better than Torre, who led the Yankees to four World Series titles from 1996-2000 in his first five years as manager.

After Steinbrenner's comments were reported, Torre matter-of-factly said he was used to the scrutiny.