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October 23, 2003

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Joe Torre.

Q. Will you talk about Pettitte's start and who you think has the advantage second time around?

JOE TORRE: Well, hitters, normally, if they haven't faced a pitcher, the second time, it gives them a better idea. But, again, pitching is all about location. With Andy, the first time around was really good location-wise. He has a lot of different weapons to get people out. He doesn't do it the same way every time. I think that works to his advantage as long as all his stuff is working.

Q. What would Roger Clemens' availability be, if at all?

JOE TORRE: My guess would be if we have a Game 7 that he certainly would be available. My guess would be he would raise his hand to be available in Game 6. But that's Roger. But we'll have to see how he feels. My guess would be a Game 7, he certainly would be in the bullpen.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the thought that for your season to be a success, you actually have to win the World Series; the standard is different with your team. Where do you think that emanates from? Is it George, the fans, the media, and the fairness of it?

JOE TORRE: Let's admit it, you say, "Is it fair?" I think it started probably with Babe Ruth, for crying out loud. He had won 26 World Championships. The Yankees have been in many, many World Series. They were the standard that everybody was measured by. I know I was always envious of playing the Yankees even not during their good years because you knew what they represented. Yeah, I think George Steinbrenner has certainly picked up the baton and carried it from where it started. I don't think he's the one that initiated this. The fans are all in on it, too. I've had fans -- I mean, we go to the ninth inning of Game 7 in 2001, I'm signing autographs the following spring, fans, as nice as they can be, are saying, "Come on, let's get it done this year." I'm saying, "Okay." You don't even argue with them. It's just something that's happened, and we've spoiled the fans. That's fine. That's fine. I think it's a good type of pressure. The down side is, obviously, you have to be almost perfect to get it done because it's never easy to go three different levels of postseason and be able to come out on top. But it's a hell of a challenge.

Q. Soriano isn't playing in the starting line-up?


Q. Can you talk about why not just dropping him versus going ahead and benching him?

JOE TORRE: Very tough to do. Here's a kid, during the season, if I rest him a day, he always has a smile on his face, there's no question. But he wants to play every inning of every time. "Are you tired?" "No," and all this. Right now, it just doesn't look like he has a good zone right now. I mean, again, I don't think it has a lot to do with balls and strikes because he'll swing at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone and do something good with them. Right now, it just looks like he's feeling for it and not necessarily picking the ball up. I don't really worry about how many hits he gets, it's the quality of his at-bats. In my eye, he's had a tough time. So I just told him, "You're liable to come off the bench tonight and help us win a game," but, "If not, you take today off, tomorrow off and Saturday maybe we can come in with a clean slate." It's not easy to do, trust me. When a guy has done as much as he has done for us over the last three years and wants to play every day, you certainly appreciate it. But it was just something I felt I wanted to do.

Q. Did you think about Boone at all as a possibility for Wilson playing tonight instead of Soriano? Also, at this time of year, you probably make thousands of decisions, but when you make decisions like that, do you worry about what the implications are if Wilson has a bad game as opposed to if you leave Soriano in there and he has a bad game?

JOE TORRE: I don't worry about that. You know I don't worry about that. I'm doing it. You hope you're making a decision that is gonna work. Again, I'm not saying "the right decision" because sometimes what seems like a right decision doesn't work. I mean, you could put a pinch-hitter up with the bases loaded, maybe the guy you've been waiting for all game. He'll hit into a double play or popup, whatever it is. It didn't work, but it was the right decision. It's something that, believe me, was not easy. Yes, I considered Boone. I moved Giambi down in the order. I moved him down to 6 today. My feeling is Boone is probably a better defender at third base, and we have Boomer pitching, left-hand pitcher. They have a lot of right-hand hitters. We really rely a great deal on our defense. But I felt that, I'm not sure moving - and I mentioned this the other day - I'm not sure moving Soriano down in the line-up would be a benefit for him. If he happens to hit in front of the pitcher, that's certainly not going to help his selectivity either. Again, I hate to even say I hope I'm right. It was just something I felt I needed to do with the way his at-bats were going.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to slide Giambi down tonight? Also, I know he's been getting on base at a decent clip, singles and walks. But is there any concern why he doesn't seem to be driving the ball other than the fact that the pitching, obviously, is very good that he's facing?

JOE TORRE: Well, that back knee is barking. But, again, it's been barking all year. He's hit some home runs. He's hit some home runs in the postseason. I think you have to give a lot of credit to the pitching, the pitching against us. I moved him down because, again, he's not swinging the bat as well as the people I moved up. He understands that. We moved him down, I guess it was seventh, against Boston in Game 7. I think the one thing the players are all comfortable with is the fact that I'm gonna do whatever I can, and they understand that individual needs are not as important as what we hope is best for the team at this point in time.

Q. When this thing starts, you really never know how the home field advantage is going to work. Can you talk about the advantage your team has of going back to Yankee Stadium for Game 6 and possibly a Game 7?

JOE TORRE: Well, certainly, whatever happens tonight, going home with Pettitte and if there's a Game 7, a Mussina, we feel pretty good about ourselves. But in a short series, you're talking about our club, we have more experience. We certainly have a great deal of confidence. But the Marlins, I don't think, are gonna be affected one way or the other just off what they just did in the Championship Series. They went back to Wrigley, which is ferocious to go back to Wrigley Field, especially with the two young pitchers they were facing, and they came out on the plus side. The home field advantage, sure, it's nice to be home for us. Home field advantage last night, that's why home field advantage is important. Game 7 against the Red Sox, we hit a home run, we went home. Last night, Game 4, they hit a home run, they went home. That's the home field advantage. You get into these extra-inning games and it ends quickly.

Q. Jack McKeon was in here a little while talking about different starting pitching options he has for Saturday because he's not really locked into one guy. How comforting is it for you this time of year not to have to make that decision? You line them up and let them go out there?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, that's why we've won so often, because we do have experience and guys who have done the job and people we don't skip on off days. So you line them up and you just stay with it. Yeah, it's very comforting because that's a heck of a decision to have to make. I thought it was tough today making a line-up decision and who to sit. But when you're dealing with pitching, that is a major decision that affects the game right from the get-go. So I certainly feel the advantage of not having to make that decision helps you sleep a little bit better.

Q. Do you worry that with Soriano, Boone, Giambi, Posada, with their batting averages in this series, do you worry at some point here, you need to just hit the ball better to win this thing?

JOE TORRE: That we're gonna have to hit the ball better?

Q. Yeah.

JOE TORRE: Games like last night I was comfortable with. Sure, they tear your heart out a little bit when you come back, you tie them, and you lose. But these are the types of games we win. Pitching. I think we've pitched well against them. I mean, Pavano, I know he didn't get lost in everybody's mind, but the way the game went last night, he didn't get probably as much recognition as he deserved. But we've never been a club, in my eight years here, that have knocked the cover off the ball on a regular basis. We've always gone out there and tried to manufacture even though we're capable of doing more than that. We have some guys that aren't hitting. I think you certainly have to give the Marlins credit for causing that in a lot of ways.

Q. Bernie's always been one of your guys. He had a little trouble this season with his swing. Clearly, that's over with. He's got his swing back. What have you seen and what has he done to get it back?

JOE TORRE: Bernie is a very unusual player because he could go from hot to cold, cold to hot very quickly. He's not necessarily an instinctive player, so it takes him a lot -- takes a lot more work for him to get ready to play. Other players sort of react to things; Bernie sort of has to plan and then do it. Right now, his hands have a lot of life in them. When he wasn't hitting the ball well, it was sort of feeling for the ball. I see him sitting back a lot better, especially left-handed. I mean, left-handed was where he had a lot of problems early because he had the surgery and couldn't sit on that back leg because it was weaker than it is now. I see him right now, he's locked in, having great at-bats. Two strikes, he's still sitting comfortably. That certainly makes me feel good because he's been important in past postseasons.

Q. How much of this team's success is based simply on the fact that every day you put a pretty savvy veteran pitcher on the mound?

JOE TORRE: That's major. That's the major reason we've been successful, because you can go in there and you don't necessarily have to line up your pitching for any particular team or if we were pitching this guy today, I hope it doesn't rain, we'll lose him and have to wait five days again. That certainly is the major reason we've been successful and that's the major reason we went after Mike Mussina a few years ago when there were other players available that were major players. We felt that pitching is why we've been successful, and it's the only thing that can keep a club consistent.

Q. You've consistently defended Soriano throughout this postseason. Is there anything that he has not done so that this benching is in some way a punishment? Have you said, "We want you to make this adjustment," and he hasn't done that?

JOE TORRE: No, not one bit. One thing about him, and it could be to a fault, is the fact that he will listen and he will try and I may be responsible for this, too, because I've contributed to that information. That may be why he's all over the place right now. He's trying to do a lot of different things that other people have been suggesting to him. But he's far from stubborn in that regard. This is certainly not a punishment. This was a lot tougher for me to do than just your normal line-up change. But he's trying. He's trying. He wants to play badly, and I hope by Saturday that he'll be back and all of a sudden he'll find himself hitting some line drives.

Q. Last night you were talking about one of the reasons you brought Weaver in is because you thought of, in your head, him as a potential long situation. It's already the 11th inning by then. Was there any hesitation that not only was this guy who hadn't had much success for you this year, but hadn't pitched in a long time. Certainly hadn't pitched in a long time in any sort of meaningful situation?

JOE TORRE: No, I had no hesitation. It was the 11th inning. He was right-handed. He gave up a home run in the 12th inning to the No. 8 hitter. He happened to get out the 5, 6, 7 hitters the inning before which, if I could see the question would make more sense if one of those big knockers got him to begin with. But when he went through those guys, 1, 2, 3, that made me feel pretty good. Then the only reason Gonzalez probably got a fastball to hit was because it was 3-2 and, you know, a leadoff walk. I'm not sure which is worse, to be honest with you. He made him hit the ball. He happened to hit it out of the ballpark. I was a little concerned coming in, didn't know how sharp he was gonna be coming in. He threw a lot of strikes the first inning he pitched. I don't hesitate or second-guess that decision on my part at all. Because, again, that's why he's in there. In fact, I was just asked before the game yesterday, "Where does Weaver fit? Would it be an extra-inning situation?" I said, yeah, or, again, he was warming up the first inning with Roger. Roger was struggling in the first inning and he would have come out first if Roger had the eighth hitter and ninth hitter and if he didn't get -- well, actually he got the eighth hitter out. If he had gotten on and didn't get the pitcher out, he would have come in then.

Q. Can you try and explain what the experience factor is? The game and rules are the same. Why is it some players perform better just because they've been in a situation before?

JOE TORRE: It's just like anything else. I mean, you walk into a room and you know that, "This is over here, that's over there." If you've never walked into that room, it's a little unsure of where things are or where people are. It's the experience of having done it before that when -- especially with the media now. When you start thinking about World Series, and before you get to it, you're thinking of this huge stage, which it is. But I think the experience helps you cut through all that and understand that you still have to play baseball and that there's nothing more you have to do. It's just that the games mean more. But the game is played the same. Andy Pettitte went through that in '96. He thought he had to be something different. He had won 20 games that year. He thought, starting Game 1 of the World Series, he thought he had to find this magical way to be better than he was all year. The only reason he got better since then is because he had the experience to compare it to.

Q. When you make a decision as profound about a young player, particularly one who's done big things for you in the past, how concerned are you it might affect his confidence long-term?

JOE TORRE: Well, first of all, if you're a special player, it won't affect you long-term. If it does, then you're not the special player. I certainly don't put up a line-up and then post it and wait for him to see it. I go and talk to him, explain why I'm doing this. Again, I don't necessarily ask the player to agree with me, just to understand that it wasn't an easy thing to do. And when you make the decision, you explain what was going on in your head in making this decision, and I always try to come at it from the positive side, "We certainly know how important you are to us. Right now, you just are not there, you're not there. Let's just take a day or so and see if we can get it back."

Q. How much of the decision was his swing being all out of whack versus the lack of production you're getting out of the one spot?

JOE TORRE: The leadoff spot is very important, and it's more his swing. I mean, yeah, I guess production in his case is getting on base, having quality at-bats. If he had been 0-10 and had quality at-bats, I wouldn't have budged. But when you watch him day in and day out, he just is not there. It's the only thing I could explain it. I'm not gonna try to break it down other than he's not selective, not that he ever was. I mean, he's a lot like Yogi Berra (laughter). Yogi Berra, when you start talking about he's not swinging at strikes, Yogi looks at me like I'm screwed up. But again, in Soriano's case, let's put it this way, his hitting zone is different than a strike zone. He could swing at a ball. He hit a home run off Schilling in 2001, in the World Series, in the eighth inning, the ball was this high off the ground. That wasn't a strike. Doesn't mean you shouldn't swing at it if you can hit it. Right now, he's swinging at pitches he can't hit. He's not in good balance right now. This could come back like this (snapping). That's what I have been hoping to see. Last night, it just didn't look like he was as sure of himself as I'd like to see. And as I say, I thought about it all night, thought about it all day, got to the ballpark here and was still fighting with myself about it, and then I just decided to do it.

End of FastScripts...

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