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October 23, 2000

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: First question for Joe.

Q. Before we get started on last night, tell us if you decided on a Game 4 pitcher, and what the thinking is there?

JOE TORRE: I'm still thinking. I had both pitchers in today. To me, Game 4 belongs to both of them, and I'm not sure which way I want to do it yet. I'm still talking with my coaches and getting some ideas, and Mel Stottlemyre, and all that stuff. So as I said, I talked to both of them and told them it was their game, I just wanted to see in which order I wanted to do it.

Q. Can you remember a time where you've ever been as passionate in defending a player over an incident like that? Did any of your players say anything to you about it after watching you?

JOE TORRE: I probably have been as passionate, but I didn't have the audience. I've never been in the post-season -- probably not a lot of people listen to it. Nobody's said anything. I really haven't seen a lot of my players since last night.

Q. A 14-game winning streak is unusual enough, even in a regular season. Can you put into perspective what a 14-game winning streak is in a World Series?

JOE TORRE: I really can't. It's getting to that many World Series to begin with. But for me, my childhood dream was just being in a World Series. Of course, as a player, that's what you dream about as a child. Then to go through my whole career without getting there, and then getting this surprise job that I'm in right now and finding myself there four times in five years. It's really tough. The way you think about it, right now we have a 2-0 lead. Everything takes on a life of its own. You look at it, and it can become a little overwhelming when you think about all the teams you've played, and winning every game. And sometimes you were leading, sometimes you weren't, but you always end up winning, which is incredible to me if I allow myself to think about it.

Q. Over the last three or four years, one of the hallmarks of your Yankees teams have been professionalism, and as you like to point out, playing the game the right way. Regardless of whether you think this has been overblown or not, comments from the Mets talking about "that's not how you play the game," does that detract from what you've tried to build here?

JOE TORRE: Well, I can understand their comments. I mean, I'm not obviously criticizing that, because if I'm on that side of the fence, I have my point of view in that regard. I mean, I've had Derek Jeter at the wrong end of Roger Clemens, and got very angry, got thrown out of a game one time fighting for that. When Roger Clemens first came over here in '99, he wasn't the pitcher I remembered trading for. We had several conversations. And what I got out of that was the fact that he was trying to fit in. I told him, "Don't worry about fitting in. Just be what you are." Because I think pitchers sort of fall into a separate category. They have to be self-motivated on how they can get the job done. Now, throwing a bat at somebody is obviously not part of that. And it was the wrong thing to do, and I still -- I'm convinced that he wasn't throwing it at him. But Roger took a lot of criticism the early part of last year about why can't he win, he's through -- this, that, and the other thing. He was characterized as sort of a wimp because he wasn't challenging people and going after people. Then on the other side of the coin, now that he's been successful, now he's getting criticized for the other thing. I'd still like to believe that my ballclub responds professionally. Understand that Roger is wearing our uniform, and we're going to go overboard to back him, not necessarily agreeing with everything that happens, okay? But, again, it's like anything else - when you have someone, the whole package is included. You can't pick and choose what part of it you like and what part of it you don't like. The end result is that he is successful and he does -- the pitching aspect of it, he's going to push people off the plate. And that's part of his success. The thing that happened last night, I mean, it's something that is unfortunate. It really was. That's all I'm going to say. That's all I want to say about that part of it.

Q. I think you actually mentioned this. Did you see any replays, or did you specifically avoid watching replays of the incident last night?

JOE TORRE: I saw it very clearly when it happened. I saw Roger, I saw the reaction, I saw him throw the bat. And I said, "Oh, my God." Because as he was throwing the bat, Mike came into my frame. But he, in picking the bat up and throwing it, he was throwing it in our direction. Get-it-off-the-field type of thing. I have not changed my perspective of the whole thing after trying to sleep on it.

Q. A few moments ago you were saying that Roger, when he first got here or Yankee Stadium, got in trouble trying to fit in. He adjusted his approach, perhaps. Does he fit in now?

JOE TORRE: I didn't want him to alter what he does as a competitor to fit in. As soon as he puts on the uniform, he fits in with our ballclub. I mean, if you look back over the years, there's been one thing or another that has followed this ballclub since I've been here. It's Darryl Strawberry coming in in '96, and I didn't particularly want to sign him, but that was the decision. And we brought him in, and once that happened, everybody rallied around him. Hideki Irabu, the same thing. We made a rotation spot for him. He never pitched in the Big Leagues. Everybody rallied around him, made excuses for him if things didn't go well. That's the nature of this ballclub. I'm proud of that. You put on this uniform, we're going to do this together. What I say about pitchers is they have to be who they are. I mean, they're people that everybody works with that you may not go out and have dinner with. But in order to get your job done, it's important that you all do it together. And, again, not that I wouldn't have dinner with Roger Clemens. I enjoy Roger Clemens. Bob Gibson, I keep going back to him -- he called me this morning. I had a feeling what that's about. He said, "Stop dragging my name through this stuff." (Laughter.) But I wouldn't go across the street to say hello to Bob Gibson. Now I hug him and kiss him. When you wear the uniform, you become a different person sometimes.

Q. Mike Piazza said, and Bobby Valentine just endorsed it, of perhaps having Frank Robinson look at this incident. As much as you want to put this behind you, how would you react if there were further baseball investigation of this?

JOE TORRE: Well, I welcome that. I mean, I do. I talked to Frank Robinson this morning. He asked me what I thought and what I saw and what I felt. I told him that, and he thanked me for that. I understand that. I think to be thorough about it, that's probably the right thing.

Q. Just wondering overnight if you could explain why you were so angry, annoyed last night at the line of questioning?

JOE TORRE: Probably the same reason I picked up that bat and smashed it when we had that collision at home plate when I was managing against Pittsburgh with the Mets. Just the emotion of the game, probably, was a big part of it. When I asked the question about why this happened and somebody said, "Because he wanted to hurt him," that, I know, is not true. I know that takes away from what we're here to do, is to win ball games, not to get even or hurt somebody. And if you're going to do any intimidating, it's with a ball in your hand. If he's going to want to hurt somebody, he's got the ball. What better sphere can he use than a ball, and throw it, and be within his rights then to want to do that?

Q. There were concerns when John Rocker came here this year, because he was like public enemy number one. If that's the way Mets fans now perceive Roger, do you have concerns about his safety, bringing him over here?

JOE TORRE: Well, as you know, since the start of this series, I've been concerned just about hopefully the fans don't get -- I mean you want them to get excited about it, but not to the point of wanting to do harm to anybody. I think any time you have a World Series, but especially one involving two teams from this city, there's a lot of passion going around. A lot of people that are very loyal to their team and families are split. There's always a concern. I mean, I'm not going to worry about it, because we're not going to do anything different. And hopefully we're not sorry about that.

Q. Getting back to baseball for a minute, how different is your mindset managing here in a National League park?

JOE TORRE: Well, it's a lot more complicated. You have to be a lot more on your toes when you make pitching changes and you decide to try to sneak this extra out through with this pitcher, because he may be the second or third hitter in the next inning. There's a lot more managing to do. I have a tendency to say it's easier in the other league. I just say it's less complicated in the other league, because there obviously aren't as many decisions you have to make. So you really have to be on your toes not to run out of players to begin with, which is easy to do, especially if you get behind in the game, you start pinch hitting a lot. It's just more work.

Q. Rick Reed was in here and said from his perspective as a pitcher, if Mike, as the batter, ever threw a part of the bat, even in Roger's general direction, he certainly would have been ejected. It should be the same way when a pitcher throws a piece of the bat in the hitter's direction. What do you say to that?

JOE TORRE: If it's purposely done, I can consider that. But that's my contention, that when he threw it, he had no idea that Mike was running to first base, because the ball was foul. And Mike, I think, even admitted the fact that the reason he ran is because he didn't know where the ball was. So if the ball was way foul, and if Mike had seen that, he would have been standing at home plate. I seriously doubt that Roger would have thrown the bat at home plate. I really do. Again, that's my opinion. That's my true feelings.

Q. Could you talk a bit about El Duque's post-season success?

JOE TORRE: He's been remarkable. The last outing wasn't one of his best, but he persevered and hung tough until we were able to win the ball game against Seattle. I go back to that first game he pitched against Cleveland in '98. We were down 2 -1. He hadn't pitched in 16 days. As far as the focus and the determination, it's been pretty remarkable. It has. I know he was a rookie, so to speak, but he obviously pitched a lot of important games. You can't teach this. Certain people are born with that desire and that need to be in the middle of everything when it's important. It's really tough to see. I mean, what is he? 8-0 or something like that? Which is remarkable that he would get that many decisions and all be on the positive side. There's something inside there that drives him, and I'm glad he's on my side.

Q. Do you grudgingly accept the inevitability that this replay of Clemens and the bat and Mike Piazza is going to be shown ad infinitum through the World Series and probably beyond this World Series?

JOE TORRE: Unfortunately, whichever team wins this World Series -- if the Mets win, I think they're going to use that as a motivation for coming back and beating us. I mean, not that the Mets won't, but I'm saying it may be put to the public that way. And if we win, it's still going to be a major part of it. It's unfortunate, because baseball should be first and foremost. And the World Series should be a fun, competitive time to celebrate two teams that are trying to be the best for that year. I was living in New York in 1969, and I was with the Cardinals. And this is obviously nothing as serious as what went on here or even back in July, but I've watched myself hit into that double play to put the Mets in their first World Series I don't know how many times. That was torture. So this is definitely going to be torture if you have to watch that time and time again.

Q. If I could sneak in a two-part question here, where does the manager draw the line between passionate support and defense of his player and a point where you say, "Well, what he did was wrong." And, secondly, you're up 2-0 in this series. You're standing here today. You don't look like a guy who's up 2-0. You look like you're almost at a funeral. Could you address those two things?

JOE TORRE: I'm glad you left the funeral part out. (Laughter.) Where do I draw the line? I don't condone what he did. But, again, I still hold to the fact that he didn't throw it at him, okay? He threw the bat. And as I say, if someone had brought something up to me last night -- that normally when a bat comes at you, you try to avoid it, I can believe he didn't know it was the bat or the ball when he reached for it initially. Then when he picked it up, he fired it. When you think about this, you're coming down here, you're looking at this object, then you throw, then all of a sudden you're seeing where you're throwing it. Okay? The reason I'm passionate about it, because I'm convinced, and as I say, I saw it. Nobody had to tell me what happened. We had to view it from our side. As I said, it was the wrong thing to throw the bat, no question. I'm not defending in that regard. But I am defending to the point of thinking he was trying to hurt Mike Piazza or anybody else. We're up 2-0. But you know me, that's far from being over. The Mets are certainly capable of winning four games in a row. They've done it many times this year, and they've done it over the last couple of years when their backs have been against the wall. Their backs aren't quite there yet.

THE MODERATOR: Do you want to give a line-up?

JOE TORRE: Yeah. I decided to not play Chuck Knoblauch at second base. I gave this a lot of thought. There were a number of things that kept me awake last night, and that was one of them. Just basically because he hasn't played a lot there. With all the questions that have been asked, you keep asking enough questions, you start thinking about the answer. I just decided to play Vizcaino, which I just didn't want to take the chance of a guy out in second base, and not being as familiar with it as he had been in the past or will be again. So Vizcaino is leading off. It's going to be Jeter, Justice, Bernie, Tino, Posada, O'Neill, Brosius, and El Duque.

End of FastScripts�

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