Ex-Yankee Manager Joe Torre
(October 2007)

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the New York Yankee management thinks that the only thing that motivates people is money. But because this is a disturbingly popular misconception, The Scoreboard must salute Joe Torre for so emphatically and publicly rejecting it.

Torre is a professional, and for 12 years has been, by any reasonable measure, the most successful and skilled manager in baseball. It was not his fault that his team, with the highest sports team payroll on the planet, was unable to win the World Series the last several years, or recently, even get there. Indeed, Torre’s managerial achievements probably peaked the past three seasons, when he defied all odds by overcoming injuries to his aging pitching staff, bad free-agent signings by his general manager, and an expanding glut of declining superstars, loud-mouths and steroid-users to reach the post-season when any other manager would probably have failed.

Torre was the highest-paid manager in the game, as both his record and his circumstances dictated: when you have to tell a player making 20 million or so a year what to do, it helps if you make more than 25% of his salary. But Torre’s salary wasn’t what made him manage so well. What made him so good was his professionalism, integrity, and drive to excel, combined with baseball smarts and decades of experience.

That doesn’t mean very much to the Yankees, apparently. Having convinced themselves that anything short of a World Series title is an organizational disaster (a concept that is unsportsmanlike, offensive, untrue, illogical, unrealistic and just plain silly), they demonstrated the organization’s displeasure with Torre’s “failure” (his teams had qualified for the play-offs in the past 12 consecutive years, a record unmatched by any other franchise) by offering him a contract with a 33% pay cutÂ…from 7.5 million a year to 5 million. But that wasn’t the deal breaker for Torre. What infuriated him was that the contract was for only one year, and contained a series of step-incentives totaling three million more if he won the World Series.

Torre believed that his performance had proven that he didn’t need cash incentives to push him to do his best job. No ethical professional is supposed to be motivated by money over the commitment to do one’s duty and do it well. Cash incentives create a conflict of interest for baseball management, as they do in many fields. It’s the 9th inning in the deciding game of the World Series, and Torre’s million dollars for winning can most likely be won by bringing in Mariano Rivera, his star closer, even though he has pitched in three straight games and the price of a game-winning strike-out might be a career-ending injury, hurting both him and the team’s future prospects. The incentive contract virtually forces Torre to put his financial interests over that of the player and the team.

The Yankees wanted to reduce Torre to a mercenary after he had shown himself to be a true leader and motivated employee for over a decade, doing his best work in his job because that’s what responsible, trustworthy, accountable, principled and ethical people do. He had done everything to earn the organization’s trust, but the Yankee brass were telling him, with the incentive contract, that they still believed that he (like them, in all probability), wasn’t driven by duty and honor and dedication and integrity, but by venal self interest above all.

Torre knows that good leaders don’t put self-interest first; that being obsessed with self-interest hurts performance, rather than enhancing it. Joe Torre is a good and ethical leader, and by resigning, he did what good leaders must do when their values are no longer shared by the organizations that employ them.

Leave. Sooner or later, the Yankees will learn that his values, not theirs, are the ones that make winners.

Comment on this article


Business & Commercial
Sports & Entertainment
Government & Politics
Science & Technology
Professions & Institutions

The Ethics Scoreboard, ProEthics, Ltd., 2707 Westminster Place, Alexandria, VA 22305
Telephone: 703-548-5229    E-mail: ProEthics President

© 2007 Jack Marshall & ProEthics, Ltd     Disclaimers, Permissions & Legal Stuff    Content & Corrections Policy