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October 22, 2003

Joe Torre


Q. What are the best things Mel does for your pitchers? Do you have a feel about whether he's coming back next year?

JOE TORRE: We don't normally talk about coming back. We'll kid about it toward the end of the year. This is all bonus time with Mel for me, because he was gonna quit after 2000. But then he came down with the cancer and didn't want it to end like that. He came back in 2001. We didn't win the World Series. He wanted to come back. It's been fun having him and I hope he does come back again, but I don't know for sure if he will. What he does is whatever needs to be done. I think he's everything to these pitchers that they need on a daily basis. When I saw him work during that 2000 season with going through the chemo and everything, and he was out there with his pitchers, I think everybody really took notice of how strong and dedicated and how much love he has for these guys. But he's got that tough love. I know you've heard that before. He knows what has to be done. He was a tough competitor when he pitched. He tells them what they need to do. You have to really appreciate it, get in a meeting with him. I usually sit in the back of the room when he goes over the pitchers' meetings and they pay attention. There's no whispering going on other than interpreters (laughter). They respect him a great deal.

Q. It seems like Mariano has been used in two-inning clips quite a bit in the postseason now. How do you feel about using him that way? Was that part of a plan that you guys had going into the postseason?

JOE TORRE: Well, when it comes up -- we go into a game, the only thing we knew last night is we could do that. I don't think you can trust anybody more than you trust Mariano. Again, it takes nothing against anybody else because he's tough to compare anybody with. We've done this a long time. You got to remember in '96, he was our two-inning guy pitching the sixth and seventh inning pitching before Wetteland. He did that every day just about. I noticed there was one stat that he holds the record for two-inning saves. But when you consider how many saves are involved, then it's not that big a percentage. I think there was Gossage who had six two-inning saves and he saved eight total. But when you're dealing with Mo, he's got 28 or 30, and I don't know how many two-inning saves he has. But percentage-wise, it's not that bad. But today wouldn't be a two-inning save. Hopefully, we're in a position to save a game today. But we try -- we take care of him. Mel, first and foremost. We don't send anybody over the line when it comes to pitch count and stuff like that. But he's good. And a lot of times, with these two-inning saves, you have to understand, it's usually the eighth inning that you're going through the middle of the batting order. Sometimes that's the save inning and the other one is the one you tag on.

Q. Can you overestimate what Jeter means to your team? We all know what you've said and what everyone knows about him. But the fact that this guy seems to be the small-ball version of "Mr. October" for you guys over the last eight years, could you talk about that a little bit?

JOE TORRE: Well, he's special, there's no question, when it comes to this time of year. Not that he isn't this way every single game he plays, he doesn't want to know from not playing. If he's physically able to walk or breathe or whatever, he wants to be in the ball game because he feels that's his job, that's his obligation. When it comes to this time of year, he doesn't do anything different. He doesn't seem any different until he puts the uniform on. Then when he gets in that dugout, I mean, you could just see how determined he is and everybody feeds off that. But you're right, I mean, when you look at his statistics, aside from the fact that he has more hits than anybody else, he doesn't knock in a lot of runs. But when you get to postseason, he does things that are really important to a team. There was a game that he had to talk me into playing him. He had a little rib cage thing against the Red Sox one weekend. We were gonna keep him out. The following weekend, the Red Sox beat us two games Friday and Saturday. I watched him take batting practice Sunday morning. He says he's fine. He said, "I wouldn't kid you." I put him in the game and he just took everybody out on the field, basically. He just charged out of the dugout, started the game, got on first base. I think he walked. Stole second just to sort of set the tone. He knows what it takes to win. I think that's important. A lot of people talk about winning. I don't think they really know how hard it is to do. But he understands that you can't boast about it, you can't brag about it. You just have to go out there and do it and then admire later what you've accomplished.

Q. It's kind of the same question, but is there one characteristic about Jeter that turns him from a real good player in regular season to a great player in October?

JOE TORRE: I don't know what that is other than the heart that he has. I've known Derek for a few years now. But about three or four years ago, I met Tiger Woods. I met him for the first time. I looked in his eyes and I saw Derek Jeter. It was that same fire that when you know you're good, you just prove it by the way you do things, not by what you say. Those two, when I looked at both of them, I saw a lot of similarities.

Q. When Roger first arrived in '99, his postseason achievements hadn't matched his regular season standard. How much do you think, with you, he's done to help his postseason legacy with the way he's pitched in October?

JOE TORRE: Well, Roger, in '99, when he came on board, he won Game 4 of the World Series and still people hadn't embraced him, basically, because he was traded for Wells and Wells was a big favorite in New York. Roger was always this huff-and-puff and blow-the-house-down with all the statistics. Unfortunately, everybody's judged on how many times they go to the World Series. To me, I think, and I got pretty emotional about it in the year 2001, the 9/11 year where we played the World Series and he won Game 3 at our place after we lost both games in Arizona. I told him at that time, "You never have to prove anything ever again." To me, that was a huge game. It was a big stage. It was a game we needed to win. He did it. He did it. That game, another game where he pitched with a bad leg against Oakland in Game 5 after we were down 0-2. So I think he has -- it took him a couple years, but he just got a grip on it. Unfortunately, the Mike Piazza thing got in the way. He still had that bad rap because he was intimidating, he was a headhunter, he got all those things involved. And I know, his last start today, okay, I'm not saying this is the last couple games we're playing, it may go 7 and he may come out of the bullpen, but this is the last start he's gonna have. But what I got to know about him in the time he's been here is how human he is, how much fun he has playing this game, and how unselfish he is with all his teammates, and people outside the game. He's a lot to a lot of people that we don't know about all the things he's done in that regard.

Q. In what ways do you manage differently in the postseason versus what you do in the regular season?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think your patience isn't as long. You really have to make decisions quickly. Zim taught me that in '96. We were playing in Texas, Kenny Rogers was starting. He was getting hit a little bit early. He said, "Get somebody up." I said, "Only second inning." He said, "I don't care. Get somebody up." He had experience; I didn't. I did; and I learned since that time, just every day is a season. I mean, every single game. You've got to play it right now. The patience is shorter, you don't concern yourself with, "This guy needs a rest, so over the long haul of 162 games, it's best we don't play him today." When you're dealing with possibly four games left in the whole season, all that stuff goes out the window.

Q. With Zimmer hinting he might not be back, one, do you get a sense for which way he's leaning? And, two, can you talk about how valuable he's been to you?

JOE TORRE: Zim is very valuable. First of all, he's very honest, sometimes too honest. He'll tell me things. I've been more on the conservative side when it comes to managing and he's more on the aggressive side. I think we've met somewhere in the middle and are unpredictable, which is good. As far as his coming back, I don't tend to ask him until things calm down. We've had an emotional postseason. We've had an emotional year. When things quiet down, we'll talk about it. I hope he comes back because he loves it, he loves the kids. The players love him. Plus the fact that he helps me. I think that's more important than anything else, that I hired -- normally, a lot of times you hire friends to be coaches, you know? I hired Zim to be a coach and he became a friend. So that made it very special.

Q. From your standpoint now in uniform and from your previous tenure on our side as a broadcaster, can you talk about how remarkable it is for Matsui to do what he does day after day after day in accommodating not only the American media, but the Japanese media?

JOE TORRE: I don't know how organized, but I know he seems to have a calm about him that allows him to do that. I know I was around Ichiro just for the couple All-Star Games. Of course he's more of an electric player, probably, than Matsui. Matsui doesn't run like him, doesn't throw like him, isn't the threat to steal bases and stuff. They're different players. But when you look at Matsui, he's just very low-maintenance as far as I'm concerned. He mixes in well and there's a certain personality that he has that I think helps him deal with everything; knowing when he came over here that he was gonna have to deal with things, it didn't faze him. I think it fazed everybody around him. When I say "everybody," our players were a little bit in awe of all the media we had covering us in spring training. We normally have a lot, but it was enormous this spring. And just to see how smoothly he handled it. And even during the slump he was going through in May and June, I think it tells you a lot about when he gets up there and hits with men on base. I mean, that's the easy part for him. I have a feeling that the other stuff he has to deal with on a regular basis is a lot more work than that.

Q. You talked about Jeter in the postseason before. I'm wondering about Rivera in the postseason? Particularly, the World Series, is it a matter of confidence, no nerves? I know he throws a little different pitch, a little harder than anybody, maybe guys haven't seen him. Why can he be a two-inning pitcher when other great closers are one-inning pitches?

JOE TORRE: I think if maybe the manager may use them the way I'm using Mo, they'd get to the World Series. I don't mean that as a slam, but I certainly don't go into the season thinking, Mariano, I'm gonna count on him in the eighth and ninth. I've never done that. We have gone to him in the eighth if we feel it's an important game we need to win, get four outs. But we take care of him on the back end -- front end. The only way we do that is if we know he's had a day off. But he's special. He's like a regular player for us. He's frail. Probably built like Guidry and does all the electric things that Guidry did. You're right. Experience, to me, is something I put a lot of weight on, the experience part of it. The more success he's had, when he comes in out of that bullpen, I can't say he's not nervous or excited because it's tough to play in these things without having the adrenaline rush. But he seems to know how to challenge it.

Q. You played in an era where two-inning and three-inning saves were routine. Then, of course, it went to the one-inning save. Now you're using Mo in the two-inning situation. Do you see yourself as starting a trend going back that way? Do you think you'll see other managers going to that next season?

JOE TORRE: I don't think so. Then all of a sudden you're putting all these setup men out of work. We got all these different stats that we look at, but to me, you have setup men and if you want to closer to last a little while, you really don't want to do the two- and three-inning thing. When we played the Cubs, you wanted to beat the Cubs before Bruce Sutter came in the eighth inning. Then it was eighth and ninth, then just the ninth. You're right. I wouldn't want to wish that on any closer to go out there and think "two innings." There's enough pressure involved in the one-inning save without having to add -- not only an extra inning, but an extra sitting on the bench, an extra warm-up and all that stuff.

End of FastScripts...

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