Not our usual fare, but the spirit’s moved me. If you don’t care about baseball, stop reading now and find something else to do.

The serpent has at last lost its head but even a fanatic Yankee-hater like the big A can’t help cringing at how it went down. Four world championships, 12 straight years in the playoffs, and rather than afford the man the dignity of “retiring” or receiving a clean cut from the axe, they spit in his face with a contract offer designed to communicate their dwindling regard for him. I’m too young to remember the Bronx Zoo era and just barely old enough to recall Steinbrenner’s game of managerial musical chairs, but this bodes well for the future:

Joe Torre is out as manager of the New York Yankees, rejecting a substantial pay cut after the team failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.

Torre turned down a $5 million, one-year contract Thursday – $2.5 million less than he made last season.

Rather than put up with the indignity of a salary slap coupled with a performance-based contract, the man who led the Yankees to playoff appearances in all 12 years he managed walked.

“A difficult day,” general manager Brian Cashman said…

It appeared to be an offer designed to be rejected. Scott Boras, the agent for Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, said players would have interpreted an acceptance by Torre as weakness.

The theory going into the offseason was that the Yankees would have to try to keep Torre if only to retain the core of the team that’s fiercely loyal to him: Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte foremost among them. (Jeter is locked into a long-term contract.) By embarrassing him this way, they’re sending a signal that the organization’s not overly worried about seeing them walk away too. Which means my dream of a catastrophic Yankee meltdown is tantalizingly close to fruition.

Exit question: Who replaces him long-term? Piniella, right?

Tags: New York