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So it looks like the saga of Joe Torre has come to an end. Since the New York Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs by the Cleveland Indians, Torre’s future with the club, which he managed into the postseason for 12 straight years, has been in doubt. The reason? George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ mercurial owner, simply wasn't satisfied by anything other than the World Series, and said during the playoffs that if the Yanks didn’t win, Torre was gone.

Yesterday, the Yankees offered to let Torre stay for one more year, albeit with a pay cut (from $7.5 million a year to $5 million) and incentives ($1 million for every round of the playoffs that the team achieves next year). But Torre said no.

I have to admit that I am conflicted about all this…

If the Yankees melt down next year, which is more likely to happen if Alex Rodriguez leaves, then next season will be a good season for those of us who simply cannot abide Steinbrenner.

There is much to admire about Torre deciding when to leave, about his apparent feeling that the pay cut and the terms of a new contract were an insult after all the success and stability he’d brought to what is arguably the world’s most recognizable and successful sports franchise. We all, at some point in our lives, have wished that we could tell our employers to take a flying leap when we felt unappreciated. Torre had the wherewithal to do so, and in doing so will gain the respect of numerous New Yorkers.

But there’s a part of me that thinks this illustrates about what is wrong with baseball. It is rich men fighting with richer men. If Rodriguez opts out of his Yankee contract and goes elsewhere for hundreds of millions of dollars, that will further make the case.

I know that baseball is a business, not a sport, and that there are enormous sums of money at stake here. I can't help but feel, though, that the level at which these financial games are being played puts the sport in peril.

In two years, both the NY Yankees and the NY Mets will have new stadiums. Each of these new ballparks will have more luxury boxes and fewer seats for the average fan, and the seats that are available will be even more expensive than in the past.

Maybe kids who have grown up with this kind of baseball don't know any better. But a lot of people my age – many of us men who remain little boys at heart – ache for a simpler time, a simpler game, when we paid more attention to the on-field exploits of people like Mantle and Koufax, Mays and Williams, Robinson and Berra, and didn’t think about contract numbers and steroids and the other clutter that threaten the game.

I’ve just finished reading a wonderful book, entitled “How Starbucks Saved My Life,” by Michael Gates Gill, who found his professional and personal life in ruins while still in his fifties. He’d lost his job as a top creative director to a youth movement at the ad agency where he had spent much of his life, and then stumbled into an affair that resulted in the birth of an illegitimate child and the loss of his wife and family. His consulting business dried up, he couldn’t pay his rent, and then – you can’t make this stuff up – he was diagnosed as having a brain tumor, and he didn’t have any health insurance. (I began to think he should just change his name to Job.)

And then, Gill – almost by accident – ended up applying for a job at Starbucks. And got it, working for a young black woman in an uptown New York store. It wasn't easy, as this former hot shot suddenly found himself humbled by his surroundings and new career. But “How Starbucks Saved My Life” has a redemptive spirit, because it really is about the value of work and how, no matter what your age, it always is appropriate to think about – and act on – honest values and priorities.

“How Starbucks Saved My Life” also, inevitably, is about the culture created by one of America’s great retail success stories. For it is this culture that, in a very real way, nurtured Gill back to emotional and physical health. Starbucks’ culture is one of both passion and compassion – and in Gill’s story, it reflects the best of what I think American companies can and should be.

Wonderful story, well-written book. It’s available now in bookstores and on, and I recommend that you buy it and read it. (Don't wait for the movie, which may star Tom Hanks.)

I have two terrific Italian wines to recommend this week, both of which go marvelously well with robust meals such as chicken parmesan or lasagna. They are the Piluna 2006 Primitivo and the Colombara 2003 Valpolicella – and I loved them both.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.


KC's View: