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October 22, 2001

Joe Torre


Q. Can you talk about what you get out of Derek Jeter even when he's not hitting?

JOE TORRE: I think all of our players are the same way. We don't necessarily have to have contributions in the batter's box for them to help this ballclub. There's so much intensity in that locker room and in the dugout that the guys just push each other all the time. I know tonight, we have a 3-1 lead, but there's certain -- there's an immediacy to want to win tonight and we know we have the advantage. For a young kid, he's got a great deal of leadership ability.

Q. Soriano, how much different of a player is he now from April? What were your concerns in April?

JOE TORRE: You know, I wasn't sure. Here is a kid, we had a sense when we saw him in spring training, he came on the scene and was very impressive in spring training and backed off a little bit. We brought him up, sent him down, brought him up, played him at second, played him at short, and in retrospect, we didn't do him any favors doing that. In spring, we knew he had to be a regular player. He knew he was asked for on all of the trade requests that we were making, and we didn't know where he was going to fit. Again, we had Knoblauch at second, and of course Jeter just signed to a ten-year contract and he's the shortstop. And I remember talking to him in the Spring, and I told him if he was going to make this club, he was going to have to be a utility man. But the one thing we did notice from spring training on, he never appeared to change his personality or his work habits or anything like that, which was very impressive, because Opening Day, Yankee Stadium, that's usually the first thing you look at and he went out there and just played a game. The first game of the post-season, he went out and played a game. So I really haven't seen any change in his demeanor. However, I have seen change in his play because he has made adjustments along the way and he seems to have a real good feel for hitting. And last night, the play he made early on, getting the force on Edgar at second base, that is something that, you know, you have to have a feel for baseball to understand doing that, is important.

Q. Was there any concern about Paul O'Neill on the bunt play and was he removed only for the matchup?

JOE TORRE: Usually the seventh inning is about the time when I take him out of the game. Defensively, it starts barking at him. However, I had asked Paul out by the batting cage, and evidently McLemore deked him a little bit. He was going to slide, but he just sort of got caught in between; that's what the hesitation was at second base on the bunt play. It's sore, but again, it doesn't keep him from doing what he needs to do in the outfield. I watched him. He sprints, chases the ball down off the bat. It's not like a pulled muscle where it could get worse. It could hurt more, but I don't think it is going to limit him any more.

Q. Can you talk about the friendship between Jeter and Posada, how it has developed and helped the team chemistry?

JOE TORRE: Well, they are very close. I think Jeter was the best man at his wedding.

Jorge is probably a little more fiery than Jeter, as far as emotionally, and Jeter has a more stable influence on Jorge. I think he has helped Jorge a great deal, just on the baseball end of it, and they have become very close friends. They have a mutual respect for each other. I think they learn a little bit from each other, you know, the fire that Jorge has and the demeanor and the ability to win that Jeter has. As I say, they are close, you see them together all the time, and I know one thing, they are both very focused for having the limited experience they have in the big leagues.

Q. You guys seem to have contained Ichiro pretty well. Is it a matter of just seeing how far outside you can pitch him and whether he will keep swinging at pitches out there?

JOE TORRE: Well, I don't think it is any one place. You really have to move the zone around on him because he's too good of a hitter and he is going to make adjustments. You know, it is tough to know, you know, what is going to be successful. Again, different umpires -- I'm not going to say different strike zones, but they change somewhat. So it's really tough to make a plan as far as how to pitch him, and for sure, you can't pitch him one way. I think we have had success getting him out because we have changed from maybe not only at-bat to at-bat, but pitch-to-pitch, we change sequences. That's the only thing we knew going in is that he was too good of a hitter to pitch the same way all the time.

Q. All of the trade rumors about Soriano, do you remember times where you said to yourself, "This kid is definitely gone," and you were prepared to just not have him in your future plans?

JOE TORRE: No question. At the time we were talking about that, we were looking at him as a shortstop and didn't figure that was going to happen here, with Jeter. You really didn't know what his abilities were going to be at other positions. I learned in spring training, that he could play -- he could play the outfield, without a problem. I mean, when we flip-flopped both he and Knoblauch, he was doing a good job at the time. Spencer, not being ready after his surgery gave us the opportunity to see him a lot more than we thought we would.

Q. Was there ever any one trade where you thought he was definitely gone?

JOE TORRE: Well, there were probably a couple that were pretty tempting for established players, and especially for an established team where you figure that one guy could really make you a better ballclub. Yeah, I thought that there was a good chance that he would be traded. But again, nothing ever came like an inch away from being made. It was just there was a lot of talk and a lot of premium players were part of that mix.

Q. Pitching question for you. You've been blessed with some great pitchers, obviously; how is this staff different from other World Series teams?

JOE TORRE: In a lot of ways -- they are very similar in a lot of ways. Because, again, they know how to pitch, okay. They have the ability to throw certain pitches, but I think, you know, not necessarily being overpowering but the ability to pitch, and I credit Mel Stottlemyre with that. I have given a lot of credit to our advance people and they deserve it, but Mel Stottlemyre probably prepares a pitcher to pitch a certain game better than anybody I have ever been around. Because he was a pitcher, he understands that everybody can't pitch the same way because their stuff is different. So he prepares a pitcher as well as anybody I have ever seen. But over the years, you know, Andy has been here the whole time I've been here, El Duque has been here a few years and we added Mussina and we added Clemens and we had David Cone for five years. I think like most successful pitching staffs, they sort of challenge each other and they learn from each other. They are very unselfish when it comes to sharing information.

Q. What about Andy specifically? Why do you think he is so good in the big games?

JOE TORRE: It's tough to teach that. I think you're born with that kind of ability. You have a big heart, and again, he goes out there and he's not afraid to make a mistake. I think that's probably the most important thing for anyone to perform, whether you be a pitcher or a player, not being afraid to screw up is important. The first game of the World Series back in '96, he got lit up pretty good. You know, talking to him after that start, he was just trying to do more than he had done during the course of the year, which he pitched well enough to be considered in the Cy Young standings. So you just learn from your mistakes, and he certainly is very serious about what he thinks over the last year or so, with Roger Clemens' influence, the physical part of his game has gotten better. He seems to have gotten stronger because of his conditioning program.

Q. Joe, in light of September 11, could you say what kind of significance it has had on the post-season play of the Yankees and even up to and including the fact that the Yankees very nickname is symbolic of America?

JOE TORRE: Well, yes. The Yankees and the NY we wear on our cap when we play the games, we feel that we are representing more than the Yankees now, with what New York has -- and the country has gone through since the 11th of September. There's definitely a piece of what's happened in this city, and I think the more that goes on, the more firefighters and the EMS workers and the policemen and the police are always -- their presence are felt here and it has been felt here forever, since I've been here. There's always plenty of policemen. All these people we take for granted, and we certainly understand it, and a lot of attention is being called to it just by how they have given up themselves for this terrible, terrible tragedy. Yes, we feel that we are inspired by what's gone on. I don't think it would be fair for me to say that that's been our motivation because we've done this before, before this tragedy, and we've always been a highly-motivated team. But, for sure, they are in our thoughts regularly.

Q. Your pitchers have done an exceptional job on Edgar Martinez this series. Can you talk a little bit about how determined they were to not let this guy beat you like he did so many times previously?

JOE TORRE: Well, no question. Like Ichiro, Edgar is probably the most balanced hitter I have ever seen. He's a good hitter. He can hit a home run. He can hit the ball over the right field wall as well as he can pull it down the left field line, as the Yankees found out in 1995. He's such a good hitter, and you can't pitch him any one particular way because he uses the whole field. But we have been able to pitch him well. I was so proud of Mendoza last night, after giving up the home run to Bret, to come back and strike him out, because that was huge to just stop that inning right there. Again, we have the ability to pitch well, and I just hope it continues tonight. I mean, that's all I can say. There's really no magic formula here, other than we would like to believe that we prepare ourselves, and so far, we have been able to execute pretty good.

Q. Recognizing that Pettitte was very good in Game 2 against Oakland, most of his signature playoff performances have been on the road. Here at home, he has been hit as often as he has not been. Can you think of any reason for the discrepancy?

JOE TORRE: No, not really. I really don't. He pitches to the hitter, he pitches to the catcher, and usually, where you are playing really doesn't enter into it. It's nice to have a pitcher that's comfortable on the road, but what we need is for him to be comfortable at home tonight.

Q. Do you remember first putting the Yankee uniform on and what are your thoughts on that? I've talked to a few people and they say it's a totally different feeling.

JOE TORRE: It's a completely different feeling. It's a uniform that gets your attention, okay. I know even when the Yankees were not winning and I was a player and we would play the Yankees in spring training, it was a special day to play the Yankees, even though the game didn't mean anything. But to beat the Yankees, even though maybe they were a struggling team at the time, it was still a feather in your cap. You don't have to be a baseball fan to understand what the Yankee pinstripes represent. And when I put on the uniform and walked into that dugout and walked on to that field it was an amazing feeling for me. I've been in baseball my whole life, been with some pretty good organizations, the Braves and the Cardinals and a lot of tradition involved in both of those organizations. I remember what Yogi told me he said, "when you get introduced" -- he told me this in '96 -- "in the first game in the World Series and you run out to that first base line, you are never going to forget that feeling," and he was right.

Q. Considering the long odds that you had on beating the A's and what you are on the threshold of doing now against the Mariners, both teams were statistically superior to your club this year. Would you consider the 2001 Yankees a special team? You've said in some sense that it's given you your greatest thrill because maybe it's not the most talented club of all?

JOE TORRE: I think we say that every year. We are not necessarily the favorites every year, but we seem to get the job done. I think it all comes down to pitching. You know, we try to simplify it as best we can. If we go back to '96 -- I know I keep using it as an example, we thought about leaving here 0-2 and going to Atlanta, trying to win three games, if you thought of that big picture it would have been pretty awesome to try to accomplish that. But when you realize that your pitcher can match their pitcher, and the determination on the part of this ballclub has only grown since we have established ourselves as a good ballclub and a good ballclub, especially in the post-season. Yeah, we've been questioned: Yeah, you turn it on and off. And at times, I guess I just have to let it go and stop fighting that question, because it seems that we've become a better club in post-season. Don't ask me why that is. I know experience is a big part of it, but we -- I would like to believe everybody is proud to play this game. We seem to want to play nine innings. I guess that's the only way to describe it. We've played every inning of every game, and when we look up, we hope we like to see the results the way we want to see them.

Q. Jeter obviously was the dominant player in the Oakland series. What do you think it says about your team that you have been able to control this series without him maybe playing to that same level?

JOE TORRE: Well, again, we try not to rely on any one individual. We learned that, again -- go back to '96 when we lost Cone with the aneurism. To me, it's great to have those guys who you rely on, but if they are missing, you realize sometimes you rely on them too much. So we try -- everybody tries to contribute their little bit, and have it -- make it work, basically. But if you look at our lineup, I mean, Knobby, he still gets on base here and there. But Jeter, and, of course, Bernie the last couple of days has contributed for us, but he has struggled somewhat. Justice and Tino, you know, Tino is trying to contribute, like everybody else. We really have not scored a lot of runs, there's no question. And our pitchers have been dealing with a lot of pressure and they have been able to do it very well. Again, we try not to rely that if somebody doesn't show up, because during the years I've been here, we've had to lose Bernie for two weeks, three weeks a month at a time, and we still manage to function because we like to believe that we can hold it together until those people start doing something or show up again.

Q. Playing the best competition in the post-season, you have won 39 out of the last 50 games, is there anything that has allowed you to win at that percentage? Does that amaze you?

JOE TORRE: It's not going to amaze me until I leave here and look back and realize, you know, what's been accomplished. We try not to -- I try not to pay attention -- well, first of all, to the fact that we are up 3-1 and everybody is assuming that we are going to be celebrating. I get more nervous on these games than I do maybe we are down 0-2. It's just that you want to make sure you maintain that. You know, we have been good in the post-season, no getting around it. We've done it more than once or twice, which makes my job easier in the respect that I don't have to keep reminding these guys where we are and who we are playing and what it means. I think that's the most important thing. Sure, it's tougher to repeat, but again in some ways it's easier because they understand what ingredients are needed.

End of FastScripts....

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