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October 20, 2000

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Joe Torre.

Q. Two-part question: One, your impressions of Timo Perez and how he's helped their team give them a different dimension they didn't have, perhaps; and two, how do you compare the way your lefty field line-up handles left-handed pitchers compared to the way it handles right-handed pitchers?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think the second part of that question we'll just have to wait and see. I'm pretty confident with my left-handers. I'm not really rearranging the line-up to keep them away from hitting where they normally hit. If Al and Mike Hampton do get them out, then obviously they bested us. But I'm -- our left-handers are not one-way players. They played against left-handers, and both O'Neill and Justice have hit well over .300 against left-handed pitching. But, again, it's how we execute game to game. That's their job. And as far as Perez, saw very little off him other than noticing how aggressive he is both offensively and defensively. Any time you have someone that can run at the top of the batting order and there's a guy who's aggressive, he's always a concern. But, again, we have scouting reports, and it's just depending on how well we execute our game plan.

Q. Aside from Rivera, how confident are you right now in the other members of your bullpen?

JOE TORRE: Well, I'm very confident. Our setup guys, it's been like this. I know we've missed Mendoza, we've talked about that before. And the other people coming out of the bullpen, you have Stanton and Nelson, who I would go to without hesitation. When I have bypassed them in the past, it's to go to Rivera. I don't think that's any slight on my part to them. But when I get into the eighth inning with four outs to go or five outs to go and Rivera hasn't pitched for a couple days, I mean that's an easy choice for me. But the job -- we wouldn't be here without Mike Stanton and Nelson. Then we have some starters who are in the bullpen, they haven't really done that job a great deal, and that's Gooden and Cone and the Grimsley, who's in and out with the elbow problem. So in that regard, there's some question mark there. But as far as the setup guys, I feel good about that, as long as you don't overuse people. And a big part of using your bullpen is how much length your starters give you.

Q. In '98 and '99 you were pretty much a juggernaut. Is there a different sense of the satisfaction this year getting to this series, given how many players and others said you were too old, too broken down, or it was time for someone else?

JOE TORRE: There's a certain amount of satisfaction I get from watching these players prepare themselves to play the game and realizing maybe that every time we swing the bat there isn't a line drive, there's a base hit in between somebody and a ground ball, takes a bad hop. We've had some magic stuff stay with us for a long time. This year it hasn't been as easy, but I never noticed anybody getting frustrated to the point of thinking they couldn't do it anyway. And that's what I probably most admire and am most proud of with this team, is their resolve and their grittiness. You don't make it this far without wanting it bad enough, and I think the same can be said about the Mets.

Q. You've talked about sitting in the left-field upper deck for Larsen's perfect game. Was there a feeling of sameness with the Yankee-Dodger Series back then as opposed to the dramatic novelty it is now?

JOE TORRE: I was spoiled. Any kid growing up in New York, you got to see the World Series every year in your town. I thought that's the way it always was. So I maybe didn't have the appreciation at that time, because we were spoiled. It was the Giants against Cleveland, or it was the Dodgers against the Yankees. It was always pretty busy in New York during the World Series time. I guess because I was spoiled having baseball here all the time, I never really appreciated it as much until you get away from it and realize how tough it is. Especially nowadays, to get this matchup and know what you have to come through to get it.

Q. Follow-up on that, being able to look back, many years now back in the '50s, how long it's been since there was a Subway Series, can you talk from the heart what this means to you just to be a part of it? Maybe not necessarily being the manager, but just even being a New Yorker and being able to witness this?

JOE TORRE: I am feeling that everybody wants to witness it. We're getting a lot of calls at the house. There's no question that somebody wants to be a part of it. It's an event. It's not just a baseball game. I always criticized the interleague play because it was a World Series and circus-like atmosphere. But now we're allowed to have that, because that's what this is all about. I mean, I feel -- I'm not critical at all. In fact, I would trumpet this whole thing, because the City of New York benefits, and now, our playing the Mets is what it's supposed to mean. I mean, it's the best team in baseball. It's exciting. As I say, I think there are sections of other parts of the country you may get a yawn because they're anti-New Yorkers, they say, "Good. Have it. Keep it there." But we have so many people that follow us. And there are New Yorkers all over the world, but especially all over the country that just feel that we belong to them, and this is -- I mean, this deserves a big-top in the spotlight that it's going to have. Hopefully, the games live up to the advance notices, I think that's really important.

Q. In Game 5, you were very intense on the bench in the late innings. After the game, you were extremely emotional, almost as emotional as after winning the '96 World Series. Why did that particular series mean so much to you?

JOE TORRE: Having to fly back to Oakland, anybody would cry, believe me. (Laughter.) Nothing against Oakland. I'm talking about after having a 2-1 lead and having to get on a plane and play a day game the next day. Part of it was exhaustion, plus the first three-out-of-five series scares the hell out of me. Watching Andy Pettitte go out there on short rest and throwing a lot of strikes, but the Oakland club wouldn't let him do that, they kept making tough outs after tough outs. Finally, we got through. You bring your bullpen in the fifth inning, that causes a lot of emotion. To finally be able to come through that and win it, because we worked very hard to get to that point, I think our ballclub sort of turned the corner on that trip out west, because nobody wanted to make it. In essence, when I went into that, I was emotional before that game started because these players were ferocious in that dugout before that game. That made me feel really good. They were tired. They'd been travelling a lot. But they weren't about to let that interfere with what they needed to do.

Q. Can you give a line-up and accompanying rationale?

JOE TORRE: Would you just settle for a line-up? (Laughter.)

Q. I'd like a rationale.

JOE TORRE: Knoblauch will DH and leadoff. Jeter, Justice, Bernie, Tino Martinez, Posada, O'Neill, Brosius and Vizcaino. He's had some success against Leiter, and why not? He and Sojo are interchangeable for me as far as defensively, and I think what jumped out at me when I looked at the numbers that he's had against Al.

Q. As indispensable as the Jeter's, Rivera's and Bernie Williamses' are, because you have backup at each position, is Posada about as indispensable a player as you have?

JOE TORRE: Yes, no question. There were games that I got our rear ends kicked that I got Jorge out of there in a hurry because that was one area where we didn't have a lot of depth. And take nothing away from Chris Turner, he's done a nice job as a backup player. But Jorge caught more games probably than I wanted him to catch this year, and did it very well and put some numbers up. But, yes, you're right. He is one person that we need to have playing.

Q. Even given how partisan both stadiums are going to be, is it especially important for you guys while you have your home-field advantage to hold serve in these first two games?

JOE TORRE: I feel that the pressure is always on the home team because you're supposed to win. It hasn't always been that way, in our past, knowing that we have played well on the road I think keeps that pressure from being that much more. And, again, we're just going down the street. But still, you certainly want to win at home. You have certain advantages at home. You hit last. And if it's a tie game, you get to go home without defending it and all that stuff. There is more pressure, no question, when you play at home. And we need to basically establish -- I think both teams need to establish in the first couple of games what might happen. And we feel -- I think we feel that pressure to win early.

Q. Can you talk about any relationship, any talks you've had with Valentine over the years and how you view his job across town and what he's done with that team?

JOE TORRE: He's done great things with that team. Bobby played for me when I was managing the Mets. I released him when I was managing the Mets. But while he was here, we talked a lot about managing. You could see the aspirations there at the time he was a player. He came through the Dodger organization, and that's why the guy sitting next to me, Don Zimmer, is so important to me; because one thing about the Dodger organization, they taught you how to play baseball and fundamentals, and they had a lot of stability with that old Brooklyn Dodger and LA Dodger club. So I think a lot of that came from being in that organization, plus close to Tommy, who's one of the best managers who ever managed. And we talk. I mean, I saw him last year. We did a commercial together for Continental last year. And it was during a terrible time that they were going through, and you could see that look in his eye that I've seen in my eye when I looked in the mirror when your club's struggling. You're saying, "What the hell do I do next?" I thought that was really the turnaround for the club, probably what helped them be so good this year, is they were able to pull it together there and come back, especially after losing out the year before. He's a good baseball man. Bobby is a good baseball man. He's young; he's energetic; he's very confident. I know he's respected by a lot of baseball people for his knowledge of the game.

Q. Don Zimmer said he thinks this is your best job of managing. I wondered two things. One, would you agree? Secondly, could you talk about the challenges you face this year that you hadn't in the previous years, including maybe even the brief thing with George when you got Canseco?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think it was a lot more work. I mean, you put in as much time; but this year, trying to fiddle with it enough where you hit on it. A big part of it, we lost Knoblauch for a time, you lost a couple of your starting pitchers. I lost El Duque and Clemens for a time. Any time you do that, all you're trying to do is just keep it together and sort of "knit one, pearl two" until you get it healthy again. But, again, this has been probably the most satisfying, because it really wasn't as easy to write down names in the line-up on a day-to-day basis. You really had to do more messing around with the line-up and trying to do different things with the line-up as far as playing the game. As far as the thing with George with Canseco, I felt very badly. The one thing I didn't want to get across in that whole exchange was that I didn't want Jose Canseco. I was just stunned by it, because all of a sudden I have Jose Canseco. He's not a fill-in player. This is a person who's used to playing every day. The thing that bothered me is I didn't know how I'm going to get the at-bats for him. Glenallen Hill was doing well. We had Polonia on the club. At that, I was surprised. Meanwhile, when you look back, I think Brian Cashman and I have a very good understanding; he understood my reaction, because general managers claim people all the time, but they don't normally get them. And we happened to get him. I was just -- my first impression was that I was stunned and surprised. That was it. I know it didn't help to ask my reaction after we got our ass kicked that day, too; it just happened to be a losing game. The one thing I had to get across to Jose is: "You're here. We figure out what we do with this, and I'll try to get you some at-bats." But he has been, from that day to this day, as classy an individual as I've ever had around. He's been, I mean, a big-time player. He did some great things in this game and still has the potential to hit home runs. And he has been a team player. I'm very pleased that he is on this club because I got to know him a little bit.

Q. You mentioned Zimmer a couple minutes ago. Can you talk about what it's been like having him on the bench next to you the last five years?

JOE TORRE: The one thing about Zimmer, he was on the top of my list for bench coaches. It took me time to convince him to come because he wasn't sure it was my idea. Even though we knew each other, we never really had any kind of relationship. The reason I hired him or wanted to hire him was because he had been in New York a couple of different times with the Yankees, coaching for Billy. I thought it was important to have someone on my coaching staff like that. Plus, I know he's a very honest person, and he's a gambler of sorts because -- I'm more conservative than he is. But we've met somewhere in the middle over these last four or five years that have really benefited us, I think. I never expected to become as close a friend of his as we have become. He's been great. And every time I think of the fact he's getting close to not wanting to do this anymore, I think we have enough time -- enough fun at the right time to convince him, "Let's try it again." But has been huge for me. Any time you manage -- I think you can talk to any manager -- you're basically alone in that dugout. When you make those decisions, even though you may talk to different coaches or whatever, you make that decision, you're on your own. But when you have somebody to bang it off of like a Don Zimmer who's managed four different times and has been successful in doing it and has not been afraid of failure, it means -- it's a lot less sleepless nights because you go back and forth and talk about things. I think when you make a decision, even though the decision doesn't necessarily work, that it was well thought out.

End of FastScripts�

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