Is This Truly the End?

1191938105Since we have two favorite teams in this town—the Red Sox and whoever is beating the Yankees—we would be remiss if we did not attend to the funeral they are conducting in Gotham for the 12-year run of Joe Torre’s Yankees. No one in NYC seriously believed Torre would be back next year, and that was before Boss Steinbrenner woke from his mid-summer nap to snarl like it was 1977. Now it is certain.

It’s not just the manager. The questions are many for the $200 million men. At the top, of course, is Alex Rodriguez. He can opt out of his contract, and he almost certainly will, and while the Yankees can write him a blank check, A-Rod could be tempted by the Angels, the Cubs, or even your Boston Red Sox.

It’s not that crazy. The team has worked well with agent Scott Boras over the years, their own third baseman, Mike Lowell, is a free agent, and there is the small matter of replacing Manny Ramirez in the middle of the order when his contract expires in 2008. At the very least, the Sox can keep the carrot dangling long enough for the Yankees to up the price ever higher.

But A-Rod is probably the least of the Yankees’ worries. Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera are both free agents. One would assume they would re-sign, but that would amount to an awful lot of money to pay two guys on the wrong side of 30, especially when they already have big-money deals tied up in fossils like Mike Mussina, Johnny Damon (remember him?) and Jason Giambi.

Then there is the Torre question. While his managerial acumen has been questioned in recent years—there is speculation today that the Yankee front office was livid with Torre’s use of Joba Chamberlain in Game 3—Torre did one thing better than anyone else who has ever stepped into Steinbrenner’s cauldron: He calmed the waters. It will be fascinating to see where the Yankees go from here.

Joe Girardi drew hosannas from the press last year with the Marlins, but he couldn’t get along with his owner who ran him out of town on a rail. Don Mattingly? He’s got the name, and the endless Yankeeography playing on loop; but is an inexperienced manager the right fit for a team comprised of high-priced vets and kids?

The Daily News threw Tony LaRussa’s name on its front page this morning, which sounds like wishful tabloid thinking more than anything. LaRussa would be a disaster in New York. His press-demeaning tactics may fly in St. Louis, but it’s a whole other world when you’re dealing with six daily papers stocked with high-priced columnists with the mandate to say something every single day.

Whomever Steinbrenner chooses to manage His Nine, it will be a brand new era for the Yankees. Paul O’Neill won’t be walking through that door, and neither will Torre. Many say the Yankee Dynasty ended in 2001. It officially ended last night.