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October 2, 2002

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: First question for Joe.

Q. What did you see in Mike Mussina late in the season that maybe was missing earlier in the summer?

JOE TORRE: You know, it's tough to say. I think a key to him is getting his breaking ball over. As much as Mike seemingly struggled for part of the year, every time I gave him the ball I expected knockout stuff and knockout results. So the one thing I never did was lose the comfort zone or the confidence I had in him. But I think it's just basically just his breaking ball. His breaking ball is such a big part of what he does. When he doesn't get it over the plate, all of a sudden it limits what he could do.

Q. Is there a difference between a good player and a good money player?

JOE TORRE: Well, sure. Yeah. I mean, a player who rises to the occasion... Again, this may show up during the season in a game, you know. It doesn't necessarily only happen in postseason. But there are certain people who love the stage, things, a lot of people, a lot of players. I'm one of them. The first couple of postseasons, things were running 100 miles an hour. When you've done it a few times, they slow down to a workable number. I remember Al Kaline, I saw him being interviewed one time, he talked about when he played the game, it slowed down. I understood what he meant. You have a tendency to, when you get a little anxious, to speed everything up. I've seen it in pitchers when they try to throw extra hard. You watch Maddux, he goes extra slow. There are certain things that -- the approach that those types of players have when it comes to big games, is that it's just another ball game and they can actually convince themselves of it.

Q. Do you make different decisions during postseason games in the dugout than you would if it was a regular season game?

JOE TORRE: Such as...?

Q. Like anything. Pinch-hitters, pitching changes.

JOE TORRE: I think pitching is probably the one area where, you know, you don't think about, you know, how much rest has this guy had or when are you going to use him again? Because it's right now, today, and that's when we're using him. I think pitching more than anything else. I think I told somebody a few weeks ago, postseason is not the time that you make friends because you do certain things, you try to win ball games. You really -- your loyalty to the 25 players is more important than loyalty to one individual. I know one of the toughest things I've had to do over the last few years was take the ball out of the Denny Neagle's hands in the fifth inning at Shea Stadium when he was winning a ball game. I thought my chances with David Cone coming in against Piazza in that particular at-bat was important to keep the lead. You do certain things that you feel you have to do in order to win a ball game.

Q. What qualities do you think Jeter possesses that make him seem to become an even better player once he hits October?

JOE TORRE: Well, it's important to him, I think. Not that it's not important to other players, but he wanted no part of my condolences last year when we lost Game 7, going around, shaking hands and hugging, and all that stuff. That was an empty thing for him. Not that he didn't appreciate the gesture, but he -- is so geared with that fire in his eyes, that fire in his belly. He competes. He loves to compete. He loves the challenge. Where you've seen certain players, you know, back off from wanting to be in the batter's box when the game is on the line, Jeter just craves to be there. I guess you're born with it. It's something that during your childhood you could see it developing. I mean, this is why people stand out when they just walk into a room. I think you can just see the way they carry themselves. Jeter is very comfortable with who he is. He just loves this time of year. He's been spoiled. I mean, took me 30 years to get to postseason, and he thinks it's supposed to happen every year. He certainly has responded. Even last year when he was certainly not the healthiest guy on the field, I think everybody likes to look around and see him standing at shortstop.

Q. Just to follow up on your topic of the money player, a lot has been said, written, about the fact that the Angels have one player who's had previous play in the postseason. Nerves, big crowds, can you tell the difference between the fellas who can respond well under that pressure?

JOE TORRE: Again, I get more nervous, to be honest with you, watching a game on television than I do sitting in a dugout. It's the announcer's job to build up the tension. You've been to as many big games as anybody, you know what that's about. When you sit in the dugout, you really have to convince yourself it's a baseball game and it's nine innings and you still have to bunt in a certain situation and do certain things. You probably pay more attention to scouting reports. When you get to postseason, you're playing teams that you really don't play a lot. So you spend more time with that. But is it all right to be nervous? Is it all right to be scared? Sure. Because there's -- the word "brave" doesn't come from people who aren't afraid. It's being able to do your job in spite of being a little nervous or whatever. That's where the bravery and the toughness comes from. I think it's okay, where years ago, we weren't allowed to admit that. It's a little different now.

Q. Is going righty, lefty, righty, lefty with your starters something you considered to try to get them to adjust, change their line-up, or was that how it worked out?

JOE TORRE: No, we've done that during the season. For some reason, we just don't like lefty, lefty. We like to split them up, just not to give the team the same look two days in a row, even though our lefties are very different. It's not something that we need to do, but with being able to line things up, that's what we've done. I don't think -- as I say, with Wells and with Pettitte, they're so different. So it really doesn't give them the same look. It's just something we're used to doing, basically. I can't give you more than that.

Q. Back to Jeter, please. He gets powered inside all the time. He seems to be able to handle it. That home run he hit last night, his left elbow was up above his shoulder. Is that unique to him? I don't remember anyone else who can do that.

JOE TORRE: It is. I can't relate to him when it comes to hitting as far as trying to tell him something other than comparing him to himself, because he's got a very unorthodox approach to hitting. He's in more of an upper-cut mode than most hitters. You watch Barry Bonds, you usually allow left-handers to be more upper-cut than right-handers, even Barry is a controlled upper-cutter. Jeter is very unusual, in that type of swing, to be that successful. Normally if you see a hitter like that, he has hit a lot of home runs and hits about .250. Jeter's a .300 hitter. You realize, when the ball is here and the bat is coming this way, how the timing has to be perfect for it to happen. I think a big part of it, the kid's not afraid to let the ball come close to him. He hides the ball a lot from the opposition because the ball gets on him so quickly and he sort of muscles the ball off him. That's probably why he doesn't hit a lot of home runs, is because he doesn't elevate it as much as some other hitters.

Q. Is Anaheim a difficult place to play in?

JOE TORRE: In Anaheim?

Q. Yeah. Is it difficult? Playing Boston is a hostile crowd?

JOE TORRE: We're very close to Disneyland. The noises are similar, sometimes, when the National Anthem's played and home runs are hit. But I don't know if it's difficult. You know, they've changed the ballpark for the better since I worked out there. It's a much more attractive ballpark. But I think everything's fair. Ball travels a little better in the daytime, I do know that, in California. Playing whatever time we're going to play, five o'clock or whatever, I don't know if that's going to make a difference. I think it's a fair ballpark.

Q. When Jeter hits that home run in his first at-bat in October, are you shaking your head in amazement at that point or have you taken it for granted?

JOE TORRE: You never take it for granted because you know how hard he's worked here for the last ten days to find that stroke. All of a sudden it came into being. Here it is, first at-bat in the postseason, and he's got -- his hands are very quick. The reason his hands are quick, mechanically, he stays back, he doesn't drift out with his body which he has a habit of doing. But the light goes on for him. You say to yourself, "Well, why can't he do it all the time? Aren't the other games as important?" Yeah, sure they are. And he gives you 100 percent every time he plays. But you just have to chalk it up to the fact that he's a special kid. He made an error in Game 1 of the Division Series in '96 in his rookie year, and I was asked after the game if I thought I had to talk to him because, you know, he is a kid and his error maybe led to the, you know, the run that cost us the ball game. I said, "I really don't know if I have to talk to him." No sooner I said that, he peeks his head in my office on the way home. He says, "Get your rest. Tomorrow's the most important game of your life." This is a 20-year-old kid, a 21-year-old kid. He has a sense of who he is. You're out there long enough, you're going to make some boo-boos. He's able to deal with it.

Q. Could you tell us about Rondell and the hamstring?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I knew during the game right after he did it, he was trying to beat out that last ball at first base. He felt something. It's not a real -- it's not the worst, and it's not only slight. He's playable. He gets wrapped up, he can probably pinch hit. But I'm not sure how much more beyond that we can do this week. But he did it running to first base.

Q. Joe, after what you've seen the last six, seven years in October from your team, are you more surprised when you don't come from behind and win a game or when you do come from behind and win a game?

JOE TORRE: That's a good question. During the year, you sit there, and after I've been spoiled for all these years, and we have a regular season game and the situation where Bernie is hitting and all of a sudden he pops up, you say, "Well... All right." You'd like to think better things are going to happen. All of a sudden it's the postseason and Bernie hits a home run. I still -- I'm still amazed by it. However, it's happened so often, I think a big part of it is that we allow ourselves, because of our experience, to have the quality at-bats you need to have as opposed to getting caught up in the moment. It's a good feeling, because that's -- I think if there's an advantage to having experience, it's when you get to situations like that, that players have been there. I remember watching, say, Willie Stargell in 1971, he couldn't buy a hit in the World Series. In 1979 he's the MVP. It's just something you have to experience.

End of FastScripts�.

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