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October 18, 2001

Joe Torre


Q. This time of year, manager's moves are often scrutinized. Do you manage a post-season game differently than a regular-season game, and can you remember the toughest strategic decision you've ever made in a post-season game?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I do. You manage a little bit different because you realize it's not 162 games. You have to win now. You're not here to make friends. You are not here for long-term efficiency. You're right now. The important thing in managing like that is the fact that the players understand it, not that they are happy when you pinch-hit or take somebody out early in the game, but they understand it. You know, the more experience you have at it, I think the players understand a little bit better. The toughest decision I've had to make is easy. It was Game 5 of the World Series in 1996. We were winning 1-0 and I decided probably in the fifth or sixth inning that this was as many runs as we were going to score and we had to keep the other team from scoring and Andy was pitching. We were in the top half of the ninth inning, and I had Mariano Duncan hitting. He was at first base and it was two out and Leyritz was at the plate and he was hitting. I had Mariano Duncan try to steal, figuring he was going to get thrown out, but he stole. Now they walk Leyritz and I have to make a decision on having Pettitte hit for himself or having to pinch-hit for him; I wanted him to start the ninth inning. I let him hit for himself. That was the toughest decision to make, having the pitcher hit in the ninth inning. When we were in Atlanta, I still had people screaming at me next to the dugout, but I had Zimmer there and he kept, "Sit down everybody." I came to find out later that my wife was sitting next to Andy's wife, and Andy's wife was like, "What's he doing"? And my wife could not come up with an answer. Wetteland was not available, but I wanted Andy to pitch to Chipper Jones hitting right-handed. At that time he was not as efficient as he is now hitting right handed and the second hitter was Fred McGriff, so I wanted him to go through those two. So Chipper, doubles down the right field line, and I knew I was a dunce at this point in time. So McGriff grounded to second base and got him over to third, and we played the infield up and I brought in Wetteland and Javy Lopez grounded to third and fly ball to right centerfield that O'Neill made a great catch on. But that was definitely the toughest decision I had to make.

Q. With the success that you enjoy now, can you summarize how the perception of you has changed over the past decade or so, as well as trying to summarize how you've changed since you first headed a team?

JOE TORRE: Well, the way I've changed, you know, baseball has always been my life. At a young age, my brother, Frank, played baseball for the Milwaukee Braves and then the World Series in 1957-58 and just being in that locker, that atmosphere knowing how important that World Series was, I probably made it bigger than it really is, because I always felt that my career was not totally whole until I got a chance to do this. Of course, I get traded to St. Louis in '69 and they had just been in two World Series in '67 and '68. You go up and down the hallways and you see all of the rings, pictures of rings. That was the one thing that I felt was missing. You even think to yourself, "Well, maybe I'm just not good enough"; I was not good enough to lift this club or that club." That part of it, professionally, coming over to the Yankees, being given an opportunity to manage a team for an owner who wants to win; he's going to spend money to have that happen, there's no question. And to get to the World Series in '96 was the biggest thrill , and all of a sudden, you win it. You get asked the same questions about, "Why don't you retire now that you've reached this thing", and let's see what happens. And what has happened since then has been remarkable to me. It's changed me -- I mentioned to somebody the other day, because they mentioned how I don't seem to be any different. I hope not. And I said, "Maybe the good Lord was making me do without all these years for this reason and I would not have handled it so well if it had happened to me earlier." I may have become a real jerk or something. I certainly appreciate everything. I'm just glad that -- I think I've been given a lot more credit than I deserve for this because the players I know are responsible for doing all this, and the thing I probably have enjoyed over the last six years more than anything is the fact that when I do talk to the players, they listen and they respect the fact that I'm the boss and I make decisions that are tough and they have bought into this thing. To me, that's made managing a lot more fun.

Q. You've often been described as a players' manager. Not any manager would allow Bernie Williams to go off to be with his sick father in the middle of the season. Why did you do that, and why do you feel that things like that are important?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think we sometimes get away from the fact that we are people here and we're human beings. If I say, "Bernie, it's best you stay here, I don't want you to leave," then I'm not going to have Bernie. I'm going have a piece of him, but I'm not going to have the part I really want, and that's his heart and soul. That one year, we lost a few dads Brosius', Sojo's. Paul O'Neill's dad died the day of the last game of the World Series. I remember Pauly's wife calls me and said that, you know, he's going to need to play today. It was very sensitive that early afternoon, and I showed up at the ballpark early and he was already there. There was no question what he was going to do. I think we have to remember, and so much is made of -- I don't want to say players being robotic, how much money they make, we take the human element away from this thing, but the first element to me is that first and foremost, they are people and they hurt and they feel great and I think you have to deal with that before you deal with any kind of strategy in the game.

Q. Is there anything more valuable during the playoffs than to have a closer like Rivera, whether it be for one or two innings?

JOE TORRE: You can't end a game unless you can finish it, and he certainly is the best I have ever been around. I know being on the other side of this thing a few times that it puts a little pressure on the opposition because you always want to beat a team before they get in a position to use this guy. Especially at home. If we're at home and we're facing the Anaheim Angels, we want to keep Percival out of the game. If we are on the road, we have to have a lead to keep Percival out of the game because we'll come in in a tie game. For sure, you manage against a team -- years ago when I first started managing, Bruce Sutter was with the Cubs and that's when closers were pitching 7, 8, and 9, and so you had a six-inning game. I think it does just change -- it changed it for the other team, and it is easier to plan, for me, knowing what we have to -- at what point you get to him and in Game 5 against Oakland, we just needed to play seven innings with a lead for me to bring him in and it worked for us.

Q. Obviously, your pitching has been doing well this post-season. But offensively, some of the guys, Jeter, O'Neill, Justice, Posada, even Velarde, some of the guys have been coming through for you offensively, had a real weak September. Can you talk about what was going on in September? Were you concerned with the offense of some of those guys and them coming back now?

JOE TORRE: Well, O'Neill was easy, because he was laid up most of September, basically, with the broken foot. Velarde hit the ball a couple of times real well early on when we got him, then he struggled. I still have to look at what they have done over their career and that's what I really rely on more so than what they have done lately. Even Justice. Justice, probably he could tell you right now this may have been the most disappointing season for him, but when you get to post-season, you get a chance to redeem yourself. But I still have to look at what he's done in post-season, and that's what I expect him to do. And if he doesn't do it, it surprises me. Again, I guess that's the advantage of having experienced players who have been tested in the post-season. So they seem to rise to another level. But again, for me personally, when I made some of those changes, and it was a little tough for me to make those changes against Oakland. I started against Mulder with the left-handers because those are the guys we came to the dance with, and when we struggled, I decided to go lefty/righty and hoping that the results would improve. At this point in time we are swinging the bats a little bit better, once we got through that first series, and I feel pretty comfortable with whichever lineup I put out there.

Q. The other night, you guys and the A's finished off a tough series in New York, the whole inspirational comeback with you guys, but at the same time on another network two winless teams were playing football and that game got higher ratings than your game. Do you have any thoughts or theories on that?

JOE TORRE: That surprised me. I think Rick Cerrone told me that. I have no clue. Dallas, they have their following for sure. I don't have any idea, except that probably there are a lot more football fans than there are Yankee and Oakland A's fans, that's the only thing I can figure out and if you're a football fan, you're going to watch even teams that you don't necessarily root for. Maybe they are saying October comes and baseball should be done with by now. I don't know.

Q. I know he's on the other team, but do you still marvel at what Moyer has done, the way he pitches, total offspeed. Do you still marvel at a guy who can do that in his career?

JOE TORRE: I admire the hell out of what he has done. He pitched for me one spring when I was with the Cardinals and you always think in terms of getting left-handers out, do this, do that, you always think in terms of power, but he has taken a page out of Maddux's book, and he went soft or softer. It certainly messes a team up. There's no question. He's had success against us. I watched him against Cleveland and he pitches with a great deal of confidence. You know, I think it's great. He worked very hard at what he does. You see all of these big thumpers, big home run hitters, and he has them down on their hands and knees the way he pitches. We certainly don't look forward to facing him because we have not had a lot of success against him.

Q. I know Steinbrenner opted not to join you guys here. What was the last conversation you had with him and what did you guys talk about?

JOE TORRE: Well, he came down. He was emotional after Game 5 against Oakland . Hal Steinbrenner, one of his sons, is out here representing the ownership. But he does not normally travel. I'm sure he'll be there when we get home. But the conversation was just about the comeback we made and how proud he was of the team and he went around and let a bunch of them know that, too. He's tough. There's no question he's tough and very impatient at times. But we've been fortunate enough to be able to put a smile on his face the last few years.

Q. Do you think there's any -- by now, an aura around your team that contributes to other teams making mistakes? The second year in a row, the A's had some missed plays in Game 5, and yesterday, this is the best fielding in the League and they missed some plays; is there anything getting spooky about it?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, it is spooky. I would like to believe we are in other people's heads. But the only reason that we continue to win, or have won, we still have to keep proving ourselves every day in my mind, is the fact that we still play baseball every day. We don't want to get into what happens, as opposed to making sure that we play well, so good things happen. If we get caught up in this whole mystique, I think everybody will run by us like we are standing still. But I think the biggest reason that we have been successful is the fact that we have been efficient, and whatever other teams feel about us, if it works to our advantage, fine, but we have to make sure that we don't get caught up in it ourselves.

Q. Much has been made about the Yankees' scouting system for the post-season. Without revealing state secrets, what is special about it, how do different players employ it, and from what you know, is it drastically different from what other teams do?

JOE TORRE: It's very thorough. There's no question. We have a lot of scouts. Even during the course of a season, where most ballclubs who have advance scouts, they usually have one guy; we have two, which they bounce things off each other. I think we get a lot more information. Sometimes that doesn't help because what we try to do is get the information and then sort of figure out what stuff we want to pass on to the players. Because we really don't want to clutter them up because it still comes down to how well we do our thing. And then there are certain matchups with pitchers and how to pitch certain hitters I think is more important. And then of course how their pitchers like to pitch in certain situations. These are the things our players pay the most attention to. But the information is so available all the time anymore, with all of the video. And again, there are times I've talked to my team about, let's just rely more on our instincts, as opposed to this pitch did not do what it is supposed to do. I think sometimes we get caught up in being too electronic. We get a lot of information. I think other clubs do, also. But our scouts have very good at doing what they do. I credited them a lot last year. We beat the Mets and we shut down some good players over there, and I have to credit the scouting system for doing that.

Q. Do you ever feel that you are managing against the other manager in the other dugout? Specifically, what does it mean to you that you are managing against Lou Piniella in the series?

JOE TORRE: There are times you'll manage against a manager that does not have as much experience as you and you feel that there are some things you can do that would surprise that manager or be able to get away with something. But it doesn't work. I mean, Lou has been down this road. He's been in New York. He's managed championship teams. You know, he's tough. He's tough. I read all about that stuff. I heard all about that stuff, how he's changed -- he has not changed. (Laughter.) Did you see him come out of the dugout last night after that check-swing stuff? I love him. He's full of passion. He knows how to win. I think that's the most important thing. But there are times you do manage against managers because when you make a decision on changing a pitcher or changing a hitter you have to sort of assume that he is going to counter in a certain way, and then that way, you'll manage against a manager like that.

Q. You have a lot of players who are very clutch who perform well in the post-season, Rivera, Mendoza, Stanton, Jeter; was that a matter of scouting, was that luck or do they use the mystique to motivate them?

JOE TORRE: I think that's in them. I think that's in them. We don't know anything about Mike Stanton other than he had been around a while, and then all of a sudden, he caught everybody's attention last near in Oakland, I think in Game 5, even though he did some good things before that. But he stood tall. And then Mendoza, what he did a few years ago against Boston; he come in out of the bullpen in the Championship Series against them. Jeter, right from day one, 1996, he was the start or finish of every big thing we did. And Rivera, the same thing. He came of age very, very early in '96. He was our setup man. We had a very unique situation. We had a starting staff that really only gave us about six innings. We had a formula that made my job a lot easier, where Mo would pitch the seventh and eighth and then Wetteland would pitch in the ninth. That certainly gave us an advantage. They learned the only way you get good at this is to practice it and experience it and understand that -- and I'll give you an example. Andy Pettitte went into the '96 post-season thinking he had to do something different than what he did to be successful during the season, and he got his rear end kicked a couple of times because he was trying to make the ball do something he couldn't make it do. And then once he settled in, realizing it's still a baseball game, he became a lot more efficient and he's been that way ever since. But these guys, they just know how to focus; I guess that's what really helps more than anything else. Because there's so much attention being paid to them. There's so much made, as was talked about earlier, every move or every little thing is magnified. And rightly so, because this is the only game in town at this point in time, ours and the National League, and you really have to be able to keep that from distracting you.

Q. After Cleveland lost Game 5 they said their hitters were not disciplined and could not make the adjustments against Moyer. What is it about him that is so challenging to opposing hitters?

JOE TORRE: Off-balance is it. We are going to find out Saturday. We know what he throws. We know how successful he's been. I'm sure we're going to have players griping that the plate is too wide, but it's the same for both teams. We can't get on that stuff. When I was broadcasting for the Angels, you would have someone come in who threw offspeed stuff and have these big home run hitters: You had Winfield, you had Reggie and you had people over there, and nowhere, and all of a sudden the next day, somebody throwing some fastballs, they hit some home runs and it's the same team you saw the day before. There's something about changing speeds that disrupts hitters because they are so into, what does he throw, how hard does he though throw, and we get this information during the game. A lot of the ballparks, they have it up there: That one was 74, that one was 92, and guys gear to that thing. Warren Span said a long time ago, he said, "Hitting is timing and the pitcher's job is to upset that timing, and you don't necessarily strike people out, but you keep them from taking a good swing at it."

End of FastScripts....

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