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October 10, 2005

Joe Torre


Q. Obviously those teams from '96 to 2001 spoiled a lot of people, but what was it, as you've had time to think about it, can you pinpoint what one or two things was it about those teams that enabled them to kind of glide through the playoffs and win such a high percentage of games in October?

JOE TORRE: You know, there's a lot of luck involved in those, too, if you go back and think of that '96 scenario. There wasn't a lot of gliding going on in the Division Series. We lost the first game, we were losing the second game, and God only knows what would have happened if we had to go to Texas down two. I think there are little things like that. Then you go to Baltimore and we have that help with the kid reaching over in the stands in right field and interfering with the ball; we win that game. Just things that happen that you certainly don't want to replay or go through. And our other clubs were good. But we had a different type of lineup. We had more of the type of lineup probably that the Angels have where guys aren't known for their power. We have more of a power-laden ballclub now than we had in those years. In those years we relied a lot -- we had Strawberry and we had Cecil (Fielder) that first year. But a lot of it was move runners, put the ball in play. When you get to post-season play, you know, it's not how far you hit it; it's how often you hit it. I think I've always had that theory, because you face the best pitchers and the best pitchers are not as generous as some other pitchers you may face earlier in the season.

Q. The Angels, especially the last series when you guys were out here in July, the Angels really ran well on your team. What have you done to stop their running game in this series?

JOE TORRE: Keep them off base. Keep them off base. They are going to run. They run every opportunity they get, even Guerrero last night, ball in the dirt to Jorge, we were lucky again. The ball stayed right there and he was able to throw him out at second base. That's their offense. Their offense is to cause disruption and they have ability to go with it. It puts a lot of pressure on our pitchers, there's no question about it. Not to be predictable, not only in the pitches you throw, but when they are on base, to try to change it up a little bit, don't give them the same look all the times. I think that's where you have to spend most of the time in advancing is to not get too predictable.

Q. Obviously the goal of any Yankee team is to win a world championship, but when you look back on a season like this one, how do you judge it in terms of what elements it brought to this team or whether -- how do you judge a season like this?

JOE TORRE: You know, I don't judge on the bottom line, which is the way we're all judged, because, you know, you get the job on or you don't get the job done. When you're a manager or you're a coach in football or baseball, you understand that there's certain things that you control, and you don't always control the final score. The one thing I've noticed with this ballclub is, yes, we have a lot of high-profile players. We have players with a great deal of ability that maybe have been in the habit of having a little more patience because they know that eventually they will get all of their numbers and that will be their contribution. And I think this ballclub took a little time to understand that they had to take on a little more of a personality of just, I don't want to say go after it hard, because they play hard. But there's a certain intangible that you can really feel, believe it or not, when you sort of feel them galvanizing and getting together. And it's been gradual. The second half of the season, I know our record has been better since May, but the second half of the season they just seemed to pull together, and everybody did the little things more so than just waiting for big things to happen. Over the last month of the season, these guys were not going to be denied. I don't know where it started but you gradually felt it happening. The thing that impressed me more than anything was the fact that it happened every single day, every single day, and there wasn't the mentality that, you know, I'm a little tired. It was every single day and they were tired and they just kept grinding. I think that's the thing that's most impressive for me is like they are downstairs right now, they are going out to stretch. They are in good spirits right now, with good reason, because we won last night; and post-season play, in these short series, the momentum changes with a win. It's just something that you have to fight the losing game and you have to try to feed off the winning game.

Q. Could you just talk with about the logistics of today what was the flight like, what time did you land, what time did you get to the hotel, what time did you get to the ballpark today?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I took an earlier bus than I normally do because I didn't want to sit in the hotel. We were fortunate there was some tailwinds coming from the east which is very unusual. I think our flight time was about four hours and 50 minutes which wasn't too bad. We landed about 20 after 3:00 I think. By the time you got to the hotel and luggage and the whole thing, was probably peaking at about 5:00. I got a wake-up call for 11:00 and called them and cancelled it at 9:30 and that was it, came out here at noon. I had breakfast with my wife, though, which was great. She was a trooper, she insisted, she wanted to make the trip, and we had breakfast together and I came out here.

Q. You guys have done a pretty good job with Guerrero in this series to this point, have you been fortunate, have you had a good approach, you've managed to execute against him and how do you look at that?

JOE TORRE: I think you can look at putting Vlad and Alex together. I think they have done the same kind of job on Alex. Both guys are MVPs and both guys are explosive; they can even hit a bad ball a long way. That's why I said, there's a lot of pressure on the pitchers, and the only way you're going to pitch and get good hitters out is not to be the same with them all the time. Because if you watch him, he'll hit a ball that's a foot off the ground, out of the ballpark. So you have to try to change the zones a lot and don't give him one spot to look at. As I say, we've been pretty successful, we've gotten away with some stuff because nobody makes perfect pitches all the time. I thought Chacón got away with some pitches, but he made so many quality ones that when he did hang something, because of the change of speed, he did get away with them. Believe me, even with Mariano, who I trust with my life, that ninth inning when you have Figgins, Cabrera and Guerrero, you don't know how it's going to turn out. The only thing you know is the guy on the mound is going to give you everything he's got. You know, we won the ballgame.

Q. You've obviously been through a lot in your ten years as manager of the Yankees.

JOE TORRE: Can you tell?

Q. Yeah. (Laughter.) With this post-season, everything you've went through this year and now with the deciding first-round fifth game and two must-win games that you've had, has it been a tough road or more trying post-season than in the past?

JOE TORRE: No. The post-season I think that's been a lot more fun than the last couple weeks of the season. The last couple weeks of the season was horrid; satisfying when it was all accomplished. I think people who saw me, how emotional I was, because unless you did win, even though I was proud as hell of my club, it was not going to show up. But getting to post-season, whatever the result, I think they are having a little more fun with it and seem to be a little -- I don't want to say relaxed, because you're never relaxed, but it became a level playing field all of a sudden. That's one thing we were fighting the last month of the field; it wasn't a level playing field. We dug our own hole, don't get me wrong, we don't blame anybody for it, but we had to dig ourselves out and play superior baseball to win by a game. You know then when you start the post-season, they were in the right mood for it.

Q. What about for you personally?

JOE TORRE: For me personally, I really gauge off the players. As I say, it was so important for us not to let what they have done in the last month in my mind just not be recognized, so that was very satisfying. And again, does this mean you're satisfied with just getting here? No. Obviously you want to go. But I think now you understand that it's the crapshoot, five-game series, and then hopefully a couple seven-game series. But the getting here was the tough part. Obviously this isn't easy but it's less -- it's just less strain on me I think.

Q. Following actually on what you were just saying, do you think that you have to win tonight for your season, for your comeback in the regular season and in this series to be remembered in a positive way?

JOE TORRE: Well, not for me. I mean, I don't want to say that thinking it's not important to win. I think you know me in that regard. But see, as I say, and the thing that made me feel good about feeling the way I do about not always controlling the final scores is talking to Coach Wooden a couple of times and reading a couple of his books. You know, he touched on the fact that coaches or managers can do so many things, and then sometimes even if you do everything perfectly right, it doesn't mean you're going to win. So we certainly hope we're going to win. I'm confident because my ballclub's personality going into this game is where I think any manager would like his team. So whether that translates to a win or not, you know that you have to let it go, let them play. As far as decisions you make, they come up during the game and they make them and you hope they work, but I'm very proud of this ballclub what they accomplished, and certainly as I say, we didn't get here just for the sake of being here. It's more important for us to play every single game and win as many games as we can and hopefully go to Chicago tonight.

Q. Do you have all of your pitchers with you out here? And if the answer is yes, did you give any consideration or much consideration to sending one to Chicago because of the schedule?

JOE TORRE: I did send one to Chicago, and he's not eligible for the first round, so we're safe. I won't be sorry, saying, I could have used him. We're sending -- actually he's still in the clubhouse, but he's on his way. Jaret Wright is going to be eligible for the next round and he is flying to Chicago. I wish I'd have thought of it last night unfortunately for him, but I thought about him this morning and that's what happens. As far as last time I talked to Coach Wooden, was our last appearance here, scheduled appearance. It wasn't the post-season. He came into my office and it was a very special time. He sat in my office for about an hour and everybody obviously wanted to come in and meet him. He brought Jeter a little something that he signed. God love him. Sharp as a tack. It was very special.

Q. Understanding that you don't want to get ahead of yourself, but just as a baseball observer, what do you think of the White Sox?

JOE TORRE: White Sox, I thought Boston was going to beat them. Does that mean I didn't think the White Sox were a good team? No. But Boston is ferocious, and the White Sox were very impressive. They were impressive against us. They pitched us really well in the two series we played against them. Contreras shut us down twice. Sure, they don't have the explosiveness of a Red Sox type of club, but you control the game with defense and pitching, and they got the momentum going and they used it. They are a very aggressive club. You know, you have to be impressed with the job with Guillen did, and I think probably the best thing that happened to them this year, as on observer myself, is the fact that they were challenged at the end. Because sometimes when you have a big lead and you're not challenged the whole time, when you do get challenged, you're not up to it. But I think they had to work hard to get here, and certainly they came in playing very well.

Q. What has Mike Mussina been doing the last through days and has he been able to get any work in?

JOE TORRE: He's been able to throw. We left our bullpen catcher, Mike Borzello with him, and they spend a lot of time together even when they are with the rest of the team. So it was comfortable. The thing I had no hesitancy in leaving Mike is because of how responsible he is, and they have been on a regular routine as far as getting his bullpen work. They found -- I know Mike found a place, I think it was one of the campuses, to go and use their facility.

Q. How much of a factor are you expecting Randy to be possibly tonight, and once you get him up, do you have to use him or can you get him up more than once?

JOE TORRE: I don't know the answer to that question. Usually the game will dictate what you need at this particular time. I think the time of the game and the hitters coming up, I know last night I went to Leiter with Randy down there, it takes on, you have a choice now. Certainly, would rather get him up once, and that's what I'm going to think about when I do get him up is that I'm going to have to use him. But again, the game usually tells you. If you're in the eighth inning and there's Mo hanging there, I'm not sure that you want to go anywhere else, even though it's two more innings. I don't know if I want to do that, but I think push comes to shove, I probably would try it. But Randy, you know, would probably figure in a situation for an inning or a hitter, and we'll go from there.

Q. Given the success of the Angels in the last few years and the White Sox now to kind of use a similar style, how much do you think other American League clubs may start to follow that mold of the so-called National League style?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think it's very aggressive, that style, and it's very distracting. I managed for a long time and I managed against your Pittsburgh Pirate clubs, imaged against the St. Louis Cardinals who Whitey's (Herzog) clubs always had that run mentality, and distracting as all get-out. It affects your pitchers. It affects the defense. The thing about it, it's a discipline. It's a discipline. The thing that those clubs rely on is getting a lead more so, because if a club gets a big lead on them, yeah, they can come back, but it takes a little more because they are thinking in one-run-at-a-time mentality. But it's tough to manage against that kind of club, there's no question. I look at it, and it's not that easy, it's not that easy to come up with it because you're always looking with somebody at speed and all of the sudden you realize the guy with speed can't hit the ball on the ground. It will drive you nuts, it really will. It's not as easy as it sounds, and it takes a lot of work. And I know Mike puts in a lot of work here in perfecting what he's got here, but right now he's got a blend of the blue-collar guys and these young upstarts who don't know if they should be nervous or not. It's a very impressive club. Plus, he's got that pitching to go with it, and that combination is pretty tough to take for granted.

End of FastScripts...

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