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October 26, 2000

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: First question for Joe.

Q. Has this been the longest season for you?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, there's a lot more going on this year than the other years. A lot more things to tend to, I guess. We've missed out on a lot of our people this year, like we haven't had in the past. We missed Knoblauch for a period of time, Clemens, Hernandez. Early in the year, I said how lucky we were. It looked like it could be a long year. We started the season 13 games over .500. It took us I think two and a half months to get back to 13 games over .500 and stay in the race. At that point, I thought we were lucky. If we were in a different division, we'd have a pipe sent down to see daylight. But we were fortunate to be where we were. I guess you could say this was a tougher year.

Q. How spoiled have you been by Derek Jeter, and what is it about him that makes him impervious to post-season pressure?

JOE TORRE: There's something about this youngster. I mean it started out before I even met him, basically. When we had Tony Fernandez on this club, he was going to be our second baseman, or try to be our second baseman, along with Kelly. And we had Duncan, we had several people. I remember saying that he was going to be our shortstop. This is the decision the organization made, that he was going to be the shortstop. Then I heard him on an interview, and he sort of cleaned up what I said. He basically said, "I'm going to get an opportunity to be the shortstop here." To win the job. Wow, that's a 20-year-old kid putting it in a pretty good light. When you watched him play, and you realize that he was the same kid every day, coachable, he learned as he went along. He did a lot of improvement on his play. After he won Rookie of the Year, I had him in my office the following year, making sure all his priorities were straight and just answering the questions on after he won Rookie of the Year in New York, he won the World Series. He was straight on as far as what he thought was important. This kid, right now, the tougher the situation, the more fire gets in his eyes. You don't teach that. It's something you have to be born with. His parents are a big part of that, to me.

Q. The other things you remember about '96 Spring Training, when this all started, and the Yankees were not considered the overwhelming machines they are considered to be now?

JOE TORRE: Well, I know toward the end of Spring Training there was some question whether he could be our shortstop. I thought it was funny when somebody brought that up. I said, "Well, we're too far gone now. We're in the last week of Spring Training. He's going to be the shortstop, and we're going to find out what we have." But it was an exciting spring for me, because I looked around, I saw about six or seven starting pitchers that I hadn't seen in any of my managing stops. So I was excited about being with the Yankees for that reason alone. I know that when you have pitching, you got a pretty good chance. Rube Walker taught me that you have a pretty good chance to win if you have pitching. He did it with the '69 Mets.

Q. Whenever we get here to do this in June or July, you say "If only we could meet them in the World Series." Has this felt like the World Series?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, it certainly feels a lot better than the midseason Subway Series type of thing. This has felt like a World Series, because now I can understand all the hoopla that goes on with this series, as opposed to the one that goes on in June and July. I have no problem, no criticism of this, because this is what it's all about: The two best teams. They had an incredible year. We had one of those spotted seasons, I guess. But when it came to post-season, we're where we wanted to be. I'm not sure about midseason, if we felt we'd be here. But we certainly have played well at the right time. But, yeah, this feels like a World Series. The only thing strange is when you change venues, you don't have to get on a plane, which is nice.

Q. Could you talk about Mariano Rivera, what he's meant to the success, not only this year but other years, and also could the success have happened without him?

JOE TORRE: Oh, definitely not. I mean, I don't think the success could have happened without Mo. You talk about how many times have you argued that pitchers and everyday players, if you trade one for the other, who gets the better deal. But when you're dealing with a closer like Mo, he's like an everyday player because he plays five days a week. So you can't freeze the ball in this game. You need to get 27 outs. And the last three, four, five, six are the toughest ones to get. He's been as good as I've ever seen anybody.

Q. Can you imagine a clubhouse without Paul O'Neill? And even when he's not hitting well, what does he bring to this club?

JOE TORRE: Well, he's a lot like what David Cone brings to this club. A lot of stability, a lot of heart, a great deal of leadership, even though they don't have to brag about the fact that they're one of the leaders on the club. I think if you mention that to Paul right now, he'd shy away from that. But he has a passion for the game. And when so much is made of how much people make and being a free agent and doing a lot of things, I think Paul just enjoys the passion of the game. He's enjoyed playing here. When he was traded over here from Cincinnati, I'm sure it was quite a change for him, going from the Midwest to New York City. But he has really relished the opportunity to win -- even though he did win in Cincinnati -- to come here and do what he has done. If he's not here next year, it would be a big hole in it for me. I don't think he's made up his mind yet, what he wants to do.

Q. Could you, in the vein of those last six, seven, eight, nine outs you were talking about, piece together for us how you managed the pitching from David on last night, bring David in, and then Nelson, and from that point, what was the process?

JOE TORRE: Well, I was in the fifth -- we had David Cone up in the fourth inning along with Grimsley. The reason we had Grimsley up, if Denny got in trouble real quick, I didn't anticipate Cone getting ready as quickly as we needed somebody. We had both of them up. When we got to the top of the fifth inning and you saw who was going to hit for the Mets in the bottom of the fifth, Zimmer and I talked along with Billy Connors and just decided that I didn't want Denny to pitch to Piazza again. I mean, taking nothing away from Denny, he made a pretty good pitch. Mike just sort of flicked the ball, it goes 400 feet. He's that kind of hitter; he's scary. I didn't know the situation, what was going to be. There was going to be one man on, nobody on, two men on? I knew he was going to pitch to him and finish the inning. So we let Cone know in the top half of the fifth inning, just mentally, so he would be prepared for that; that he was going to pitch to him. Obviously, I didn't let Denny know, because he was a little shocked when I went out there to get him. Then when I brought him in, I anticipated that he would finish that inning and pitch the next inning, when we had two men on base. I felt obligated to pinch-hit for him. It sort of accelerated my bullpen. Normally, I'd go to the seventh inning to Nelson or Stanton; and we made it to the sixth inning, which moved Rivera up to the eighth inning. But I'm not sure even if it was the seventh inning that I brought Nelson in, that Mo wouldn't have pitched the eighth because you wind up with the middle of the batting order. Sometimes in my mind that's the safe opportunity in the eighth inning, especially if he was rested. If he had been pitching every day, I couldn't have done that.

Q. One other Paul O'Neill question. Did you anticipate this turnaround coming at all in the World Series? Do you think he was motivated at all from being pinch-hit for in the previous two rounds?

JOE TORRE: No. I knew he was probably hurt and -- because he's a competitor. He's a competitor. But, again, he has respect for me. He knows how tough it is for me to do that. But I know Paul O'Neill will work at it. He'll never just say that, "I'm not hitting. I'm going to come out of it sooner or later." He continues to work at it. That's the one thing, among other things, that I admire about him, that he continues to fiddle with what he does at the plate. And he finally found something. He really did. Now, all of a sudden, he looks very balanced again in hitting. And he's using both fields, which is important, I think, in his success.

Q. Is there any sense of urgency to close it out tonight, just to avoid two full days of Clemens versus Piazza?

JOE TORRE: I don't think I'm worried about the Clemens and Piazza thing. I would like to believe we're sort of on the last couple of holes of that course, you know. I think the urgency to do it tonight is because we've got the hammer right now. We'd like to be able to do that. Momentum shifts very quickly in a short series. We're down now to, what? Three more games left. We need to win one. But we want it to be this one. So that's the urgency. We're not worried about what's going to happen if we have to play Saturday.

Q. Last night I think you used the words, "More difficult," to describe the season. Today you talked about, "Tougher." Does that make each step along the way that you've accomplished more rewarding than it has been in previous years?

JOE TORRE: You're very satisfied when you accomplish getting to the World Series. I mean, that's been my goal since I was a child. You always wish it was as a player. Then all of a sudden this thing opened up to me. But every year's different. It's satisfying for a different reason. Because you spend more times with your players than you do with your family, and you become very close. These guys work hard. They have worked hard. But because it's tough, sure, I think it's more satisfying when you accomplish things when it's a little tougher. Because, to me, when you do win, when you have to go through tough times, I think winning is more satisfying. Anything you work hard for is more satisfying, gratifying, when you accomplish it.

Q. Regardless of what happens this evening, the five-year run that you guys have put together stacks up pretty well with virtually any other run in history. Can you assess this period with recent, other recent dynasties, whether it's the "Big Red Machine," the A's of the early '70s, and how you feel about it?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think we can hold up to any one of those great teams because of what we have accomplished. Nowadays, having to go through the three-out-of-five and the four-out-of-seven, you get to the World Series, which is sort of a relief when you get to the World Series -- all but this year. You get to the World Series, and now you're faced with more hurdles because it's the New York Mets and there's so much more made of it. But I think our run of five post-seasons, four World Series' appearances in five years is pretty damn good. With free agency and players changing teams so often, and anything can happen in a five-game series, that to be able to find ourselves here again is a pretty good run. I think our ballclub, for what we've accomplished, should be right up there with any of the clubs that have put something together.

Q. Regardless of who wins this series, there's going to be a parade. But it's going to be a very different feel for a parade than the ones that you've had in the past. Could you talk about how that would be with one team a loser in this city, whether a loser at all could participate?

JOE TORRE: That's a good question. The City was a winner, and any time -- I've always had this problem when like the Buffalo Bills couldn't win the Super Bowl, but goddamn they got there four or five times, whatever it was. That's a hell of an accomplishment. I think getting to the World Series is what should be celebrated. Unfortunately, somebody is going to win and somebody's going to lose. The team that loses gets that tag of being a loser. But I don't look at it that way. I think both clubs should be very proud of what we've accomplished getting here, because it's not easy getting here. 162 games, you have injuries to deal with. And New York, it's remarkable in New York, because there's so many distractions that go on. Not only Yankee Stadium, but at Shea Stadium. To keep your ballclub focused and to get here, parade aside, it's a little premature for us to think about that. We've done it before. It's a wonderful experience. But the fact that both clubs are in the World Series I think should be reason to celebrate.

End of FastScripts....

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