The meltdown started in 2004, when we lost to the Red Sox after going up three games to none in the [American League] Championship Series. I just couldn't agree with everybody who felt it was a failure. My players worked their tails off and we did as well as we could. Just getting to the postseason seemed like a great accomplishment. I couldn't be disappointed in the performance of my team.
I was offered a very nice contract from the Yankees [after the 2007 season] but it was a reduction in pay. I could get the money back if we won this, that, and the other thing. I was insulted that they thought I needed to be motivated financially to go out there and do a better job. That's when I walked away.
My relationship with George Steinbrenner was great. He was the boss and I accepted that. When you take a job, you don't just accept the pats on the back. You have to accept the kicks in the pants. He's allowed to be unfair—he's the owner of the team. I knew if I didn't shoot back at him, issues would eventually disappear, and for the most part they did.
I was going to retire, but the Dodgers had expressed interest in having me on board. My daughter was 11 years old at the time and I was very reluctant to uproot her from New York, but the Dodgers' offer was appealing. Like the Yankees, they were a storied franchise, and having grown up in Brooklyn, I was fascinated by their history. I was curious to see whether managing could be fun again.
What motivates me now is the game itself. I think I'm winding down my career here at some point. I have learned that it's important to see the bigger picture and stay calm under pressure. I never want my players to feel they have disappointed me. Winning gives you the confidence to implement certain things. People begin to trust that you know what you're doing, but there are so many variables. Every season brings a new group of personalities on the field, and I never forget that the game belongs to them.