When Joe Torre decided to resign last week as manager of the New York Yankees rather than to resign last week as manager of the New York Yankees, it was because the five million dollar contract he was offered to return was an insult. I was insulted, too, by his decision in the matter.
He demonstrated a whole series of intellectual errors and character flaws by that act. Not so much to condemn him, he being a nice guy and his decision fairly unimportant in the scheme of things, it might be worthwhile to explore some valuable principles for life — and the Republican primaries — that are in play here.
Essentially what happened is that last year he was paid about seven million dollars, an amount far in excess of what any manager ever received before he took the Yankee job in 1995. Although the Yankees made the playoffs as one of the four top teams in the American League, they were eliminated in the first round by Cleveland. This marks the fourth straight year they did not win the league championship and earn the right to play in the World Series. George Steinbrenner, the famously obnoxious owner, offered Torre five million for next year, with an incentive package based on how far the team gets. If they win the Series, his total salary would reach eight million. Joe took umbrage and stalked off.
Now let’s consider this rationally, and ethically.
You have a job that does the following. a) It provides entertainment and satisfaction for millions of people. b) It serves a base of loyal team partisans that includes at least a few million people. c) It manages a significant cultural resource of one of the greatest cities in the country and the world. d) It has custody over the progress of a historic team with a storied past. e) It involves working with a group of dedicated athletes who inspire people to maximize their potential in life. f) It pays you an amount one hundred times the average income of a full-time skilled employee. There is only one problem. Your immediate supervisor is annoying, imperious, disrespectful, pushy, tacky, what have you.
Intellectually and morally, you have to consider the people, the message and the history to be your main employer. The particular individual who happens to be the owner is essentially a facilitator, a middleman between you and your calling.
Say I am doing cancer research in a lab. I am working very intensely but my results are disappointing this year. In previous years I accomplished a great deal, so it is a tad offensive when the bosses look at me askance for my lag in production, which I blame mostly on factors beyond my control, and which I anyway think is just temporary. If I storm out over a sort-of pay cut, where some of my compensation is tied to output, I would be cheating the world of my scientific abilities just to salve my ego — or “teach them a lesson” they won’t learn in any case.
The correct way to approach the situation is to value most highly your opportunity to serve the larger public of good decent people. To respect your own ability to do good work by actually doing it. To preserve your relationships with the people next to you and below you, while swallowing some abuse from those nominally above you. Torre’s leaving will cost most of his subordinates their jobs when his replacement brings in a new team. Why do these guys have to lose because Joe’s feathers got ruffled?
The Republican candidates are now arguing who is the ‘true conservative’. By that we do not mean a person who opposes change or progress. We mean a person who values the principles establishing this country and who painstakingly measures all innovation against those verities. We mean also a person who appreciates the greatness already achieved here and is careful to preserve the resources and honor the history even as progress is sought.
Joe will tell you George is at fault, and perhaps he is right, but Joe had the power to keep in place a structure he knew in his heart to be good. He gave that up to make some quixotic point. An awful lot of people will be affected by that gesture. I sure hope it was worth all that.