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October 12, 2004

Joe Torre


Q. Could you talk about the gamble that John Lieber represented when you signed him and obviously how well it's worked out for you?

JOE TORRE: I don't think it was a gamble. You signed a guy who was young, who had won 20 games with the Chicago Cubs, I don't know what the contract was all about, but I thought it was a good gamble because, again, he's not an overpowering type of pitcher; he's a movement type of pitcher. And we sat with it. I thought at the time we did it, it was an excellent gamble and you know it's really played out. I know he was frustrated this spring because at the start of the season he had a groin problem and could not get started with us and it took him some time where he'd feel the same every time he went out there and I'd say, over the last probably six or seven weeks of the season, maybe a little longer, he was pretty consistent every time he went out. But certainly, in light of who we had lost in the off-season I thought it turned out real well for us.

Q. I read about a conversation you talked about having back in January with Arnold Palmer where you were on a boat in Hawaii; do you remember that conversation?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I do.

Q. What was that about?

JOE TORRE: You don't have a conversation with Arnold Palmer and forget about it that easily. That's our vacation time and we were on the Maui Jim out there in the ocean and it was just a wonderful day. I was just talking about he was getting ready to play in that skins game out there , and we were talking about -- he invited me over - that's what it was - to play his golf course in Florida. I said, well, it's the last year of my contract. I said, maybe I'll have more time to do that. He says "What do you mean the last year of your contract?" I said, "Maybe this will be it. I'm going to be 64 years old." "So what? I'm 74." Whatever the hell he was, "I'm still competing." It was nice -- he was pretty -- it just wasn't a casual conversation. It seemed pretty important to him, and it made me feel good. You know, you get to a point, you get to a certain age and you think you're sort of winding down and you see the spirit he has, it certainly gets your attention, let's put it that way.

Q. How is Duque today, a day after the bullpen -- what's his condition?

JOE TORRE: Everything seems to be fine. I'm sure he'll be playing catch in the next day or so. We probably won't make a decision on Game 4 till we get to Boston. There's no reason to. And again we are not trying to hide anything. You know everything I know right now, but the good news is he feels good, Browny feels good. He threw yesterday, also, so we are -- you know, we may have an extra pitcher that we didn't have last time around.

Q. Have you heard any news or anything new with Mariano?

JOE TORRE: No, I have not.

Q. Have you talked to him?

JOE TORRE: I have not talked to him. I know he has plenty of things going on. The only thing I know is that the Yankees had a plane for him when he was ready to leave Panama, and I'm assuming from he's not here; he's on his way or close to it, because I know it's got to be like a five-hour trip or so, but I have not heard and I haven't been told what time to expect him.

Q. His last start, Lieber was talking about he had waited 11 years for that moment and now he has a chance to do it on what he thought was the best stage. Maybe this is being too dramatic but you battle for the six and two thirds, have you seen or sensed a change in him since then?

JOE TORRE: That's a good question. I was trying to pry some kind of emotion out of him; it's not that easy. The thing that gave me evidence of how special it was for him is when I went to take him out of the game, and take the ball from him, he says, "Can I keep it"? I said, "Sure, and he walked off the mound with the ball that he used. So evidently it meant that it was pretty special to him. But again, he's the same guy, whether he's pitching in April or October, I really haven't seen any evidence outwardly of his excitement, but he certainly -- that evidently meant an awful lot to him. And I'm glad we got through that and it's not going to make tomorrow any easier, but at least it gives him a sense of what it's like.

Q. The Red Sox seem to view that Varitek moment when he put his hand in A-Rod's face as a turning point for them. Was there any part of that you day that said to yourself, just let a sleeping dogs lie?

JOE TORRE: Well, you know, I don't look on these guys like sleeping dogs. They have a great deal of ability, and you know, there's no doubt that it's a very emotional game. But I'm still maybe old school. You would like to think that the motivating factor in winning games is winning games, and not for somebody to, you know, push you around or slap you around. That I don't understand, because that -- that type of emotion maybe if you play once a week and you get sky high for a game like football or something, but baseball it's an autonomous game and you have to go out there as individuals and play. If they feel that that sparked them, well, you know, so be it. But when it happened, you really can't control something like that. If somebody feels strongly about doing something, you certainly don't like to see players fight, because you know somebody is going to get hurt and it's going to take them out of play for you. I didn't really -- I don't want to say take it seriously, because I don't want to downplay what they feel, but I didn't think much of it.

Q. Assuming Mariano arrives here in time, would you have any hesitation about playing him tonight if the situation called for it? Sometimes players react more focused in a stressful situation?

JOE TORRE: I'm sure what he's been going through since he came off the mound on Saturday, this would be a place to really get away from sadness that he's experienced. But I think I'll -- hopefully, if we have a choice in that regard, that's a pretty good sign for us. That means we're in a position to use our closer. But again, we'll obviously see him before we make that decision, and Mel and I will talk about it and we'll get the contribution from Mo and just see where we are, but I think, you know, I certainly would use him if I felt -- I don't need to have him the perfect 100% because he's pretty damned good even if you get a better percentage of him.

Q. Pedro's "daddy" comment notwithstanding, do you have an explanation of why you guys are so successful?

JOE TORRE: Don't ask me. I don't know. I still see Pedro out here dominating our ballclub in this ballpark. A couple of years he kicked our brains in. He's certainly capable. You certainly don't feel when you go into a game against him that it's easy pickings. I think the "daddy" comment was based on emotion. You know, any time these two clubs get together -- you know, it's a high energy and great deal of emotion and passion, and I'm sure he was just frustrated with the outing he had that day. I can't tell you we have any secret formula here, other than, you know, we've been pretty fortunate to have good at-bats and I think that's what's important against, really, the upper echelon in pitching; that you have to go out there and make them work to get you out, basically.

Q. Based on what you just said, with emotion and whatnot, what do you expect it to be like for Pedro tomorrow night in this stadium on this stage against your team?

JOE TORRE: Like it is every other time he goes out there. (Laughing). You know, I'm sure there will be a number of Red Sox fans here, and you know the Yankee fans will probably boo him. Again, I'm not saying that to encourage people to do it; I'm just giving you what's happened in the past. But again, you know, you always find that the people who make the biggest impact in the game almost always get the strongest emotion from the fans. Jeter gets booed and A-Rod gets booed and all the people seem to respond to it. I think the great ones and the better players always sort of condition themselves to that and try to stay in the game. I'm sure it's going to be just another one of those days for him.

Q. When you guys went to Japan this year, did you run into people who were asking you about the Yankees and the Red Sox, the rivalry?

JOE TORRE: No, more so the Yankees, only because of Matsui. I found myself when we vacationed we talked about earlier in Hawaii, I would be walking somewhere and the Japanese group of people walking by and they would be speaking Japanese and all of a sudden I hear Joe Torre in the middle of that Japanese. (Laughter.) People would come over to me and thank me for taking care of Matsui and stuff. So it was an interesting vacation this past year because you found yourself, you know, being recognized and having people come up based on how much they love Hideki.

Q. A lot of the TV promos have shown every fight seen between you guys the last couple of years. How do the old pros feel about that?

JOE TORRE: Well, I don't like it. To me, I don't think it does anything to the players. The only thing that concerns me, and I mentioned that when we played the Mets in 2000, is you're inciting the fans in my mind. I know I feel sort of safer on the field than maybe the fans are because of the emotions and they are sitting next to each other and they are agitating each other and all of that stuff. So, you know, to me it's not something I'm proud of, and again, I guess they are figuring they want to get people so interested, just like some of these games and computer games that you have guys sliding into second base and punching the second baseman when he gets up. I think that's disgraceful that we have licensing things going on in Major League Baseball that promote the violence and things that should not be a part of this.

Q. Did you ever think that John Lieber would be starting for you in Game 2 of the ALCS when the season began and what does that say about how far he's come this year?

JOE TORRE: When the season began, I wouldn't discount him, only because we don't have the depth in our starting rotation as we had in the past. So you certainly can't discount anybody being a part of it, especially with Vazquez, with his limited experience and Browny with the question of his physical condition over the course of the years. But, you know, we had a little inside on him. We had Joe Girardi in the spring and he had a little touch of Joe because he caught him when he won his 20 games over there in Chicago. That sort of encouraged us to look forward to him because he was pretty simple as far as what he does on the mound and it just seemed like he was able to keep things together when things got a little emotional, so that's good, especially playing here.

End of FastScripts...

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