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October 22, 2000

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: First question for Joe.

Q. Any further input about the Game 4 starter?

JOE TORRE: No, I'll wait until tonight. Extra innings, I will just assume all our people can pitch again tonight. I almost used Cone last night. I had him warming up while I was trying to make up my mind. I figured it would take him a little bit longer than it would Stanton, and then decided on Stanton. So I'm going to wait tomorrow, after today, and tomorrow again.

Q. Can you talk about the emotional make-up you look for in a closer and what sets Rivera apart?

JOE TORRE: Well, the first thing about a closer is yesterday doesn't count, whether it's good or bad. I mean it's nice to have it good, because you draw maybe on that confidence that you get from that. But to get over the bad outing is the most important thing for a closer. Every time you go out there, it's a new day. And you can't start pressing because you didn't do the job yesterday. '97, he had trouble with that. He really struggled early. A little bit different, even though he pitched two innings a day in '96. The fact that there's nobody behind you makes it a little bit more pressurized, I guess. But he fought his way through it. And right now he's got a great deal of confidence. He has his routine. He comes in and stays focused very well. And he's gotten a little bit better each time, as far as refining his stuff. He's basically a fastball pitcher, but now he has several different types of fastballs. But the mentality is just that -- I mean, I know he looks unemotional at times, but there's a lot going on inside him.

Q. Jose Vizcaino sort of joined a long line of unheralded World Series heroes last night. Does it constantly amaze you how lesser-known players step forward in the World Series?

JOE TORRE: It does. But you spend so much time on talking about the people you don't want to beat you that it's always someone who comes up to pinch hit. I mean, Bubba Trammell did it last night, then Jose did it all night last night. But I think that's a big part of it. You spend so much time in scouting reports, this, that, and the other thing about staying away from having to pitch in a situation to an Alfonzo or Zeile or Mike, and I'm not saying you relax, but the thing is, the role players always seem to be the ones that step up. And it was huge for him, especially being his first World Series game.

Q. Is that why he's back in the line-up?

JOE TORRE: Yesterday I did it because the matchups were good. Today he's in there because he's good. (Laughter.)

Q. You talked for years about how fundamentally sound your team is and how smart it plays, especially in the post-season. Is it to the point where you see a basic play made that you now just sort of expect it's going to be made? Or do you still sit up and take notice?

JOE TORRE: With that relay play yesterday, I still shook my head in amazement, because Jeter made it just so easy. He gave Jorge a nice, soft toss to the plate where it's easy to handle. That's not easy as a catcher to pay attention to the ball coming in and the runner sliding in. To make that throw on a move -- only a guy like a second baseman or shortstop, a lot of times when they do make throws, they're on the move. It was a perfect throw. I still marvel at that. These are the things you work on in Spring Training. You don't pay a lot of attention to it until it shows up, like it did last night.

Q. Bobby seemed to think the dirt in front of the plate was really loose last night, and he guessed that tonight it might not be as loose. How unusual is it for you to prepare fields differently, and do you ever do it?

JOE TORRE: I know one thing, I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. We complain about our own field sometimes. If you were here when Bernie Williams hit into a double play, he hit a ball and it stuck right there. The catcher picked it up, stepped on the plate, and threw to first base. We don't play around with it. It is what it is. We don't do it for one pitcher as opposed to the other. The Dodgers used to do that. That's probably why he's mentioning it. Old Dodger Stadium with Maury Wills, all those people, used to run like hell. But, no, it's the same. We don't try to do anything different. We just try to get it consistent, and it's been tough. We've had problems where the ball hits in front of home plate and just stays there. That's basically what's happened.

Q. Off the beaten path a little bit, can you talk about what Billy Connors has done, stepping in for Mel, and how is he different to work with?

JOE TORRE: The thing about this organization is you do have a lot of people involved. I mean, it comes from Spring Training. Billy's around all spring, and he's basically with us -- even though the Minor Leagues will open up, Billy will be with us just about every day. If he's not sitting next to us in the bench, he's in the stands. When we knew Mel was going to have to miss a time in September and if we went further than that, that he was going to miss it, we had Billy around. So they could work together and talk a lot. They talk a lot on the phone during the course of the summer. Billy is very knowledgeable, and I give him a lot of credit, because it's not easy coming in here following Mel and to gain the confidence of the pitching staff. But it's been a great transition. And it was a little rocky for a while. We used to kid him, Zimmer and I, that three-week span we went through, getting our rear ends kicked, we kept blaming him, kiddingly, to try to relax him. It wasn't easy, but I think he's done a nice job.

Q. You now have this winning streak of 13 games, an all-time World Series record, which is very impressive, obviously. What do you think the significance of that is? What does it say about your team? Second question, this one I don't think you necessarily want to talk about, but can you talk about the anticipation that many people have about the Clemens-Piazza thing tonight?

JOE TORRE: Well, the record, believe me, it's the last thing -- the last thing on my mind last night was the record. We wanted to win Game 1. When you look back on it, it's pretty incredible to win that many games, when you consider that in October, especially the World Series, you're playing the best team in the other league every year. The only thing I can say is our ballclub has just grown confidence-wise, playing every single day and playing every single inning. And probably the thing that's been the most consistent for us has been our pitching, especially out of the bullpen. We win a lot of games late, and that's the reason for it. I watched both Fox and ESPN today, one time ESPN had Mike getting hit 36 times in 36 seconds, in the head. Kept standing him up. I guess that's what makes people watch. I'd like to believe they'd rather watch the World Series than to see if Roger Clemens is going to hit him again, or if Mike is going to throw the bat at him. I don't like it, but I guess that's not my decision. You know, you're trying to get people to watch, and if that's what they want to do, that's their choice, not mine.

Q. Andy Pettitte has talked about how Roger Clemens has taken him under his wing. A lot of times you see them in the dugout sitting together the whole game long. How much of an impact has Roger made on Andy, and perhaps has Andy helped Roger in some ways? I know they workout together a lot now.

JOE TORRE: They do. I think that's been a big plus for Andy. I think it's helped him become more athletic on the mound. He seems to be moving around better. He wasn't a great fielder, but I think he's reacting better to the ball. And I think the big part of it is the physical stuff he goes through with Roger. I'm sure he gets things from Andy, too. Andy is one of our best when it comes to locking in. Let's admit it: Every time Roger pitches, there's a lot of distractions. That's one thing Andy doesn't have to deal with. He's not the second-class citizen, but he's not the spotlight guy like we've had on this staff in the five years I've been here. So he gets a chance to do his stuff without a whole lot of recognition or people getting in his face. I don't know if he's helped Roger in that regard, because Roger, every time he's out there, there's a story, whether he strikes out people or throws close to people. There's always more going on than just the game. So if he has helped Roger in any area, maybe that's it.

Q. When you watched Paul O'Neill's at-bats yesterday, what were you thinking? Did you say anything to him last night?

JOE TORRE: Well, he was so discouraged -- or disappointed, I guess is a better word, when he hit into the double play. I just told him he never would have had a chance to hit if he didn't have that at-bat the previous time. That was a remarkable at-bat against Benitez. Benitez is tough as it is. Then have Paul make up his mind that he was not going to make an out, I guess. But O'Neill, if you look at his record, he's done a lot of first-ball swinging. He's gotten a lot of big hits on first pitches. He had the right approach. I mean, in a situation where there's a man on third base, you're basically thinking about through the middle because there's more room there. Hopefully, you're hitting the ball in the air. And Glendon Rusch just made a good pitch on him, as he did Timo. I didn't say anything about it other than to support him. It looked like it was going to be a good pitch. The ball probably shot in on his hands a little bit.

Q. Your team has a reputation through the post-seasons of resiliency and toughness, the ability to take a punch. Do you see those same qualities in the Mets?

JOE TORRE: Oh, no question. No question. Let's admit it, all they had to live with was the fact they couldn't beat the Braves. But they're here, and the Braves aren't. They have had to overcome a lot of things in the last couple of years. I'm talking about '98 and '99. What they went through in '99 and almost getting to the World Series after really getting cold at the wrong time of year and holding it together. I think they really became a team at that time. This year, they're -- I like their balance. Their bullpen is deep. They really don't have a soft spot in that bullpen. Their hitters, they're tough to pitch to. We had success last night because we pitched well, basically. But you make one mistake, they can kill you. Again, we talked about it before. You concentrate on Alfonzo and Mike and Zeile, and all of a sudden Agbayani has a couple of hits and Payton, and you really can't relax through that line-up.

Q. You've worked for both organizations. You're a New Yorker. What truth is there to the statement that the Mets want to win the World Series; the Yankees have to win the World Series?

JOE TORRE: Well, when I was with the Mets, we were -- it was an austerity program, basically, until Nelson and Fred bought the club. And I was there for a year under that regime. I think because the Yankees have been around much, much longer than the Mets, and what we have done over the years -- I mean, long before I got here with all the championships. And I know personally from playing against the Yankees in Spring Training, whether I was with the Mets or any other club, the Yankees always had that aura about being invincible, even when they weren't good clubs. You always took pleasure in beating them. I think the pressure has always been on the Yankees because of what The Babe Ruth's and the DiMaggio's and Mantles and Berra's and Elston Howard's have set us a very high bar. The Mets to me, just like the National League, when I was growing up, the Yankees -- I mean I was a Dodger fan or a Giant fan because it was like, I just felt to me you were going to get dirty more. That was the feeling, where the Yankees were always this elite group of players. For good reason. They won a lot. Pressure is always on us. I think instead of poo-pooing it and saying it doesn't exist, you acknowledge it and do the best you can.

Q. When you have a dire situation like the one you faced in the ninth, how much do you think the run of World Series victories helps your team's belief in itself as far as getting through a situation like that?

JOE TORRE: I'm sure it was on our minds at the time, just the fact we didn't want to lose, and we came this far. We're going to make them beat us. We don't want to beat ourselves. I think the experience we've had in the past, if you go back to Game 4 of the World Series in 1996, down 6-0, wind up winning that ball game, Game 1 of the World Series last year where Maddux had us beat 1-0 and we won that game. I think we were losing Game 3 in San Diego, we come back and win that game. All these things definitely are in the memory bank and at tough times of the year. There's nothing you have to prove. So I think you take that pressure away that we have to prove we belong here. We've done that. Now it's just a matter of doing it some more. And I just feel it helps our ballclub focus on what needs to be done. And our approach, I think, helps in situations when you're facing pitchers who can overpower you like Benitez, where you're not trying to hit home runs. We're just trying to put the ball in play. Those kind of hitters used to drive me nuts when you're trying to set them up for something and they wouldn't let you, like a Pete Rose type of thing.

Q. Why is this infield cut grass to each foul line?

JOE TORRE: I think a lot of them are that way. Somebody called it to my attention a couple years ago. I don't know the reason. If we do it for a reason, I wasn't let in on it, to be honest with you. When I saw it, when somebody did call it to my attention a couple years ago, I noticed some other ball parks are the same way. I don't know what the reason is.

Q. Talk about Game 2.

JOE TORRE: We had lost Game 2 to Maddux, which I had said I had a meeting before the game, and told the players: "All you need to do is win one game. And we just have to keep working at it. We've come so far, have seven games left in the season," or at that time six games, "and this is no time to think you're beat." We lost that night. I think it wasn't because he beat us. We had no chance to win. I think it's easier to live with yourself when you don't have to lay in bed thinking about all the opportunities you had. We had no off day because the first game was rained out. They took our off day away. I remember getting on the bus, fans cheering outside, come back next week, blah, blah, blah. The players seemed to have a good frame of mind. At that time, right from the time we won the Division, nobody really expected a lot from us. To me, I felt that, sure we wanted to go longer into this thing, but we had accomplished a lot. I think that kept too much pressure from being on us. And then we were going away, and we were underdogs, and we felt we were better than them, basically. And David Cone, the starting pitcher does a great deal for momentum changing. When we had David Cone pitching in Game 3, that gave us something to look forward to. And in my five years here, that was probably the best decision I made, because none of our other starters had ever pitched in Atlanta's stadium at the time.

End of FastScripts....

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