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October 24, 2000

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: First question for Joe.

Q. How is your confidence now in Denny Neagle? Where do you think he is? Does he feel back in the groove or close to where he was when he first arrived here?

JOE TORRE: Well, the last two starts have been fine. He started twice against Seattle. The first one was very good. The second one was good enough to win if we had a little more support, run support. I went to get him in the fifth inning of the second game, because A-Rod and Edgar were coming up. I made a change. But to me, the last two starts, if he pitches that way and throws strikes -- because he throws strikes -- he gets people out. When it was between he and Cone, things on his side of the ledger were basically that our left-handers have done well so far against the Mets and that he could probably give us more length than Cone. Cone, obviously, for the fact that we're playing in Shea Stadium, he's done this a lot. But not knowing how many innings I can get out of him to start with. But I told him yesterday before the workout, before I made up my mind for sure, that the game belonged to both of them. I was just looking for a way to line it up.

Q. How is Orlando's health right now, a couple hours before the game?

JOE TORRE: He's fine.

Q. How was he this morning, the first time you saw him?

JOE TORRE: I just saw him actually for the first time on my way here. He's in the clubhouse. He seems fine. He was swinging a bat. I hope that's a good indication. But he is fine. If there was anything going on, it was probably a little cold or something. But he's pitching tonight.

Q. We were seeing a lot of great hitters over the years in October struggle because of the pitching and the scouting and all those things. Why do you think Jeter is immune to that?

JOE TORRE: Well, Jeter's a very aggressive young man. He'll go into slumps, but he won't wait to come out of them. Sometimes he forces it a little bit too much. He's a tough kid. In 1996, all our rallies, especially in post-season, either started with him or ended with him. That stuff, you can't teach that. He's perfect for our situation in New York. All the attention we get here, he has not rattled one bit, whether he's had a good game or a bad game; he's bounced back equally as well.

Q. What's your reaction to Major League Baseball fining Roger?

JOE TORRE: I don't have a comment on that.

Q. Do you feel like the approach of your hitters has changed somewhat in the post-season? Have they gotten more patient? If so, is that something you encouraged them to do after struggling through the last couple weeks of the season?

JOE TORRE: You know what's interesting about the last couple weeks of the season, we got behind by so many runs. It's easy for me to preach patience, because that's the way we do our best work. But when you're down by six, seven runs, the hit-and-run is taken out of it. The singles don't amount to much. I think there was more frustration and anxiousness on the part of our hitters. In the post-season, we had gone back to what made us successful and didn't really start really -- actually, the opening of the series was fine. Then we struggled for a time. That fifth game, we scored big-time; then went through the first game against Seattle with nothing, and seven innings of the second game. From that eight-run inning, which everything we hit was sort of through the middle or the other way, all of a sudden things started falling into place. I don't care how good a team you are or how consistent you've been, when you struggle somewhat, you still have that human element of trying too hard. I think we went through that; and, hopefully, it's over with.

Q. Did the 2-0 lead give you the possibility of flip-flopping Neagle and Hernandez, just to give Hernandez the extra day to get over the flu, especially since so many guys aren't on their normal rest anyway?

JOE TORRE: Never thought of it. El Duque was fine. I mean, yesterday he came in. He was fine, as I said. If there was anything, it was more cold-like than anything else. If, for some reason he came in today and couldn't pitch, that's what we would have done. But he feels fine.

Q. In '96 when you came back from the 0-2 deficit, you obviously had to start on the road. Do you think what the Mets are facing here is actually a more realistic proposition, given that they're starting three games at home?

JOE TORRE: Well, what's interesting is 1-0 in a best-of-five series is a disadvantage, and all of a sudden we won the second game, and now it's our advantage. I think with three games here at Shea, 2-0, especially with -- you know the pitching they have. The pitching has been their strong suit. They win a game tonight, all of a sudden it's 2-1. And they have two more games here at Shea Stadium, and they play better at home than anybody else in baseball, I think. So it certainly comes down to that, not looking at the big picture as much as this game tonight. I think it could definitely be advantageous if we win in a big way, and in a big way for them. So it's a huge game for both teams.

Q. Do you think the difference in the experience of the two outfields has been borne out in the first two games? They've had problems; you've had some big at-bats. Basically you had better production.

JOE TORRE: Well, I'd like to believe that experience gives you a certain amount of advantage, and our guys have been down that road a little bit. Of course, playing in New York puts that extra pressure on you to perform anyway. They've done a good job of beating clubs they weren't supposed to beat. They weren't supposed to beat San Francisco. They weren't supposed to beat the Cardinals. And they came up with big at-bats and big base hits. I don't really think you can blame the inexperience on it because of what they've gone through in the first two rounds.

Q. Can you talk about what it means to come back to the building where you started your managerial career and managing in the World Series?

JOE TORRE: Well, it's very unusual. I mean, I started managing 20, 23 years ago here, and it was a great opportunity that I had gotten from M. Donald Grant, who was the chairman at the time of the Mets. I remember in 1976 I was asked by the general manager, Joe McDonald, if I'd be interested in going to the Yankees. My ears perked up pretty good. I had never been in a World Series. I sort of bit my tongue. I said, "Not if it takes me out of the mix if you're making a managerial change here." As it turned out, I never got traded. I had the opportunity the following year to manage. If you don't get started, nobody knows you can do it. So it was an opportunity I'll always be thankful for.

Q. Tino and now O'Neill are out of their slumps. Besides the patience that you've shown with them throughout, have they done anything special to get back to where they usually are?

JOE TORRE: Tino has been doing well in the whole post-season for us. Paul O'Neill, I told someone earlier, it's like he's in the laboratory mixing this with a little of this, and he comes up with a different swing every at-bat that he needs to have against a certain pitcher. He obviously isn't as comfortable as he has been this year physically. I'm not saying that he's hurting, but I just -- by looking at him, you know he's not as comfortable as he could be. But Paul O'Neill, he's been a remarkable player for us over the five years I've been here, and so has Tino. But O'Neill is the one I think that's working at trying to manufacture something. Tino right now is in a pretty good groove. And obviously, I hope he stays there.

Q. Two questions. What's the biggest difference as far as Posada from this year to last? And, also, what was the disagreement you had with O'Neill as far as his aggressiveness?

JOE TORRE: Posada was a matter of playing. We had Joe Girardi here, who was a great teacher for him. He used to be with Jorge after every half-inning in games he caught. He brought him along slow, and then turned it over to him this year. I called him this year. I said: "Jorge, it's yours. You're going to be catching more than you have caught, but maybe more than you need to, also." I would certainly like in the future not to have to catch him as much as I have. As far as Paul O'Neill, I didn't think he was as aggressive in his second start in Seattle than he was in his first start. He thought that he was. And it was a matter of the strike zone. Then we discussed it, and that was it. The thing about it -- and I know he had gone to the media. I went to him right after that, not to say anything other than, "If you have a problem with something you hear that I say or I may say, just come and talk to me. Let's talk it out." Because I always try -- obviously, as you know, when it involves my players -- to be as positive as possible. And if someone gets the wrong vibes from what I say, I like to talk to them face-to-face to make sure we clear the air. But it lasted, the whole conversation lasted with him about a minute or two minutes when we discussed it after the media came to me and told me what he thought about my remarks.

Q. Given how difficult it is to get to the World Series, is 14 straight one of the most remarkable achievements in all sports history?

JOE TORRE: It's pretty darn good. Again, you don't allow yourself to think about it. We're here in the year 2000 trying to win four games in a World Series - I mean trying to win 11 games in post-season, four games in the World Series. Obviously, if you allow yourself to think about it, it's a remarkable feat, considering if you go back and replay them in your head, all the games that we had deficits to overcome. And for obvious reasons, against the best teams in all of baseball. It's truly remarkable. You have to have a certain element of luck, there's no question. You get a blooper here or a blooper there, and things work out for you. I think probably the thing that's helped us be as consistent as we have has been our relief pitching. From '96 it was good. And once we made the trade for Graeme Lloyd, I think that really enhanced our bullpen. It's been good since we added Stanton to balance it out.

Q. Have you settled on Vizcaino throughout the games at Shea? And, secondly, how does the absence of Knoblauch and the addition of Vizcaino, not a classic leadoff hitter, affect the top of your line-up, getting on base?

JOE TORRE: Well, we'll find that out. After being asked the question so many times on Knoblauch, I thought about it. I thought about it, and then realized it wouldn't be fair to him, probably, to put him out there after not playing there. I know I said he was going to be the second baseman, and I still think of him that way. But I think in a situation like this, knowing that, first of all, he's not 100 percent physically sound with his arm, and I just told him yesterday that I was going to go the other way. The reason I settled on Vizcaino is he's probably more of a leadoff hitter than Sojo would be, because I'm trying to keep Jeter in the No. 2 spot. Again, we'll take it game to game and see. But there's always a chance I could use Sojo at second.

Q. Essentially a follow-up question: Given as well as Vizcaino's played, are you still in a disadvantage because there's no designated hitter and you have to jiggle your line-up to get Knoblauch out?

JOE TORRE: Well, sure. We're used to playing with a DH. There's a lot more involved in managing games in a National League ballpark. You have to be on your toes. You try to squeeze that one pitcher through another inning. It's probably more important in a game in a National League park to get a lead so you don't have to pinch hit for your pitcher in that sixth, seventh inning, or fifth -- something right there, which you may have to do. So it's a disadvantage only because of the way we're used to playing. And it just puts you -- there's a lot more decision-making, I guess you could say.

End of FastScripts....

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