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October 8, 2003

Joe Torre


Q. After the first Minnesota game and some defense lapses, your owner said, "Joe has to fix it," and you just roll your eyes. Is that any different than anything that's happened over the years, and has he thanked you for fixing it?

JOE TORRE: Well, Andy Pettitte fixed it. Nobody else fixed it. You know, when you come to work here, you understand what goes with it and you certainly can't hang on every word or every criticism. You know what your job is, and it's my job to deal with the players and get them ready to play. You know, sometimes it isn't very pretty, but most of the time it's been pretty good. Since that first game -- and I personally, I think it was just the opposite. It was a sloppy game, but I think we were just too pumped up. I don't want to say unfortunately because I would certainly rather have them that way than just thinking it's a push-over. We recovered and thanks to Andy, that got us on a good roll.

Q. Grady Little sat there yesterday and said it's 167 games into the season; he doesn't really know who his closer is. Contrast that with you and what Rivera does, and could you talk about maybe the advantage that gives you guys to have him in the bullpen?

JOE TORRE: Well, I mean, to me, I know when I was managing other teams and we went in to play certain ballclubs and you had to beat those certain ballclubs, by, say, the seventh inning back 20, 30 years ago when the closers used to pitch the last three innings, I know that Mariano does that to teams. The game is shortened when he is in the bullpen. Yeah, it gives me an opportunity not to have to manage an inning or an inning and a third or inning and two thirds, and normally this time of year, two innings. I feel it's an advantage for me, basically, because he's been so good. He's been so intimidating and he's like a regular player for me.

Q. By whatever standard you measure it, has this been the most difficult or most anxious of seasons since the run started?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I think it has been, only because -- not that criticism or things that have been said, were said. I think it's more that they were more public this year. And when they become more public, then my concern is always how it affects the players. The one thing I've always tried to preach to the players from day one of spring training is you're here in New York, there's a lot that goes into playing in New York, not the least of which is our owner, who is very passionate about winning; the media, there are plenty of the media. And you have to understand that you have to just be able to focus on what you need to do. And so, the fact that it was more public this year, I think it became tougher because it was more time-involved in sort of taking the temperature of the clubhouse. Especially when you have new players, Giambi, it was his second year, but Matsui from another country and Contreras also, and so you just sort of have to make sure that these guys understand that, yes, it's certainly a little unusual, but it's not all that unusual when you're in New York with the Yankees, and just to make sure that you can still concentrate on what you do. So it took more time to deal with the things that we have to deal with on an everyday basis.

Q. Has it taken longer to find the nature of what your team was than in the past?

JOE TORRE: Probably. Probably. I wasn't really sure. We played Boston, the last series up in Boston when they beat news Game 1 and Andy started in Game 2 and he had that malfunction in the first inning I think it was where he threw a couple of balls away and Pedro was pitching with a four-run lead. When we came back in that game and managed to wind up winning that game, and winning the day after, I thought our ballclub did a lot of growing that weekend and found out about themselves, because it's not easy playing in Boston either. The following week when we played here and getting our rear end kicked the first two games and being able to come back in Game 3, I think a ten-day day period that our ballclub sort of knew what they were about and what they had to do and what they were capable of doing.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what you think the ramifications of Johnny Damon's absence the first two games will be to the Red Sox lineup?

JOE TORRE: Well, like everybody else, I'm happy that he's okay. But he's a pain in the neck when he's in that lineup, because he's such an unusual lead-off hitter. He's not one of those guys that bunts, although he can bunt and does bunt. He hits home runs. He'll take a two-strike pitch and hit it inside the bag or inside the bag at first. He's tough on defense. They have been a resilient club all year. From 1 to 9 they are a lot different club than the eight years I've been here. They are very tough offensive ballclub and you really have to pay attention when you pitch to them. Certainly, you have to believe they are going to miss Johnny Damon. Hopefully it's enough to give us an advantage.

Q. You said before that Andy fixed it last week against Minnesota. He's pitched in a lot of second games for you; is there a certain comfort level knowing that you have him out there, regardless of what happens in Game 1 if you lose, or really carry the team if you get ahead?

JOE TORRE: I think the important part about Andy and my confidence in him started back in '96 when Baltimore was starting to cut the lead on us and he pitched a huge game here against them and wins, made a defensive play and did all of those things. The one I keep referring to all the time is Game 5 against Atlanta, beating them 1-0 in Atlanta in 1996. I can't tell you how important that game was, and especially for someone who had never played in post-season, talking about myself, to watch someone perform at a young age like he did and keep his wits about him. So I trusted Andy. And even through his tough times, you knew he was better than that. He struggled early this year, but you knew he was better than that. And when I send him out there, I trust him, and I don't think I can pay anybody a higher compliment.

Q. You guys have been referred to going into this as a consummate professional ballclub. Kevin Millar has referred to Boston Red Sox as just a bunch of idiots out there having fun. What kind of contrast would you draw between these two teams?

JOE TORRE: They have been biting and scratching. Certainly the Yankees have had the reputation, we are supposed to win, we have always won. I guess part of my job is to let our players know that's not the fact. The only reason we win is because we work at it and not because we are the Yankees. But I can see where Kevin is coming from. They have got a wild club this year. As I say, they are different from any club I've seen, and a big part of it is there are a lot of blue-collar guys over there. They work for everything they have gotten. They stick their nose in it. They get dirty. We respect that. There's a certain element there that keeps you from being comfortable when you play them because you know that they can come off the mat any time.

Q. Are there different philosophies between the way you approach the game and the way Grady Little approaches it, and if so, can you tell us what you think the differences are between a Yankee type of approach and the Red Sox approach?

JOE TORRE: I don't think there's a difference. I think your approach to playing a game or winning a game is based on your ability as a team, and Grady has -- I mean, he's handled a lot of situations over there. I know people have talked to me about, you know, it's been a tough year, this, that and the other thing. But he's had his share of stuff, too. The one thing a manager has to do understand, you have to do what you have to do sometimes, even though it doesn't necessarily feel good. But Grady, I think what makes him a good manager, is you can't predict how he does things. Again, he goes according to the situation and the player he has playing for him at the time.

Q. Can you just go over your thought on not having Hammond on the roster and how it shakes out?

JOE TORRE: This is the first time we've ever had 11 pitchers, if I'm not mistaken, in the first round. We went to 10 now because I wanted the extra infielder, Almonte. Wilson will in all likelihood will play Saturday against Pedro because he's had success against him. I don't know where he'll play; right now I don't. So I wanted to make sure I had an infielder. And in dropping Hammond off, it was basically because Weaver is a long man for me since Contreras is sharing the right-handed duties with Nellie. So that's basically it. Plus Hammond was not here at the park; he's not mad, he's sick. He's got a flu, which was diagnosed yesterday, and so the doctor told him to stay home today. Doesn't mean if we are lucky enough to get past this round that he won't be eligible for the World Series.

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