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October 2, 2000

Joe Torre


Q. Did you get a whole lot older this last month?

JOE TORRE: Can I? Yeah, it wasn't a lot of fun. I caught my first cold of the year; that must have had something to do with my resistance. I don't know. Yeah, it was very stressful, and I know I made a statement about I didn't do a very good job. And again, I don't say that leaving something to chance. I said that because I just couldn't find a way to relax them. You know, we never took it for granted that we were going to win, even though everybody else did. And you can understand why. We had a big lead and all you have to do is win 12 out of 30 or whatever it is. We didn't do all those things. So I think the longer it went, the more stressful it became, and it was -- there was something similar I had mentioned to Jack Curry earlier. There was something similar that occurred in '98, when I had a little meeting with a couple of my hitters during the game in Texas. They were all trying so hard and weren't getting anything done, and I had a little meeting. This was similar, except this lasted so much longer. And I think a lot of it is the fact that we had this big lead, and we're supposed to win, and we felt we were going to win, but we couldn't do it. So as I say, I think it was more tension than it was pressure, because pressure is part of what you do every day in this game.

Q. Did it frighten you?

JOE TORRE: It frustrated me I think more than it frightened me. I mean, what am I going to be frightened about? I just looked at it -- it was very frustrating for me because I was trying to find different ways, even to the point of Friday when I had a meeting in Baltimore, and I asked the guys if they wanted to have the champagne before or after the game. I thought maybe before the game would help relax them. (Laughter.) I was trying to press every button, but nothing seemed to register because we were all very tight.

Q. Why would that happen this year? You had big leads other years, too.

JOE TORRE: I don't know that. I don't know the answer. We didn't have very good pitching during this stretch. We had good pitchers but not good pitching. And it's just something that went -- I mean, we never lost four, five, six games in a row. We did that a couple of different times this year. And if you look at our season, this has been the strangest season of the five I've been here. We started the season 13 games over .500 and didn't find our way back there for about two months, maybe longer. It's just been very much of a roller coaster ride. And I don't know that, the fact that you're human and you want something bad enough, maybe it keeps you from playing. I don't know. But certainly, when people say all you have to do is win one game when you're in the middle of this thing, you're saying, okay. But you still have to go out. And every time we went out there as a team, pitcher-wise, you know, we gave up five, we gave up seven. And it's not our style where we can come back out of those things. I'm just glad it is over with. The last two days, Saturday and Sunday, even though we lost games, that wasn't part of it. Even though it was part of the losing streak, we rested, guys were smiling, we were relaxed. It was a different sort of thing.

Q. Do teams get old all at once? Is that a thought; that's a valid question?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think if they get old, they are not going to do it from July to September; they are doing to do it before the season. I think we got tired, is part of it. But that's an excuse. Like a lot of other clubs, we didn't have a day for 30-something days; it maybe felt like longer. And the thing about wanting to clinch it was the fact that we could rest guys, and we just never could do it. We just couldn't clinch it.

Q. You've seen this group over the past couple years, what kind of challenge do they pose to you?

JOE TORRE: They are a loose club. They are an underdog because nobody expected them to do what they have done, and it's a great story. We watched that yesterday, and you couldn't help getting caught up in that young, upstart team that, needless to say, have talent. They have talent. And watching their pitchers pitch -- I had a couple of their pitchers on my All-Star team, and they are pretty damn good. They are playing with a lot of confidence. Again, they are very aggressive. And again, it's going to come down to pitching. If we can't pitch, we are going to have a tough time winning. But that's been our signature for the five years, and that's what was missing over these last two and a half, three weeks.

Q. How will you deal with Jason Giambi, and how big of a factor is he in everything they have done?

JOE TORRE: He's obviously their MVP candidate in the middle of that lineup. And a lot of it has to do with if we can pitch to him when it is not bases loaded; that certainly makes a difference. You know, you don't want to be in a position where he's going to hurt you, and that has to do with who is on base and what the count is. I think if we can pitch, and we always like to preach being aggressive. But again, with this ballclub, if you're too aggressive, they are going to knock your brains out because of the ability to hit home runs. But Jason Giambi is having a terrific year. And you know, we're just going to do the best we can. What can I tell you? I think all of these questions are going to be answered in the next couple of days.

Q. How close was Heredia to making the All-Star team?

JOE TORRE: Very close. He was very tough. And I had a personal feeling about this because he pitched so well against our club. And at the time, I know one consideration, and Phyllis is here, where we were talking, that was the toughest thing to pick pitchers, the guys who were pitching Sunday. And he was scheduled to pitch on Sunday, and we stayed away from the pitchers that were pitching on Sunday. So that was probably the main -- well, it was the main reason.

Q. With the way you guys ended the season, a lot of people say: Throw it all out the door. The Yankees are the Yankees. And this is the playoffs, and it all changes. Does it all change? Or do you think that we lost --?

JOE TORRE: I don't. And I'd be very surprised if my team felt that, you know, we had to break this losing streak at this point in time. As I say, I felt on Friday when Boston lost and Tampa beat Boston, and our clubhouse manager came down late in the game, and he says: "What do you want to do? Because we're getting our ass kicked." And I said, "If Boston loses, we're going to pour champagne." And David Cone, not knowing that Robby had come down to ask me that, asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, "We're going to pour champagne." I said, "Fine, I just want to say a few words first." And I did. I just felt it was something that we accomplished. We won more games than anybody in the division. We had a big lead, and I guess that's what part of having a big lead is all about is if you have a chance to squander it. And unfortunately we had a chance to squander it a lot more than we wanted to. And I wanted to relate to the players that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, we would much rather have won to drink the champagne. But the fact that we did win more games than anybody else was reason to congratulate each other and hopefully put an end to the disaster, basically.

Q. How much did the pitching struggles toward the end of the season, your starters getting banged around, the margin of losing, how much did that concern you?

JOE TORRE: It always concerns me when my pitchers don't pitch, because if we don't do that, we're not going to be as good as we should be. Andy Pettitte went out there the other night. I was watching, and I'm saying, "Okay. It's going okay." He throws 11 balls in a row, and you realize there's a couple things going on. He's trying to clinch this thing, and he's trying to win 20 games; and, you know, he's got himself so out of whack. I have to just ignore it and say, you know, "You don't win 19 games by being this type of pitcher." And Roger, the same thing. He tried to take the team on his shoulders in Tampa and was all over the place. El Duque has been good. He gave up five runs yesterday, had a bad inning, a bad few innings. It was a mechanical thing. We left him out there until he got it straightened out. That stuff does concern me, but I really have to look at the bulk of the starts, as opposed to what happened the last couple of weeks.

Q. You haven't been hitting much, either. Do you think the incentive to hit less was you were hopelessly out of games --?

JOE TORRE: It did in our case, because we don't have guys who hit three-run homers all the time. And our players got very frustrated, because we got away from the type of team that we are, and that is a patient, look for a walk, the hit-and-run, and that became very frustrating. We got so far behind so soon that we got tight trying to do something about it.

Q. In '98, Wells started all the first games of the series. In '99, it was El Duque. Do you feel as comfortable as he starts Game 1 tomorrow?

JOE TORRE: Well, that's the reason he is starting. He probably has been our most consistent guy. Last year, I remember asking Roger who he thought should start, and he said El Duque. And this year when I called El Duque in to tell him he's pitching Game 3, he says, "I know." I think when you look at Atlanta, that's a pretty good model. One year it is Smoltz, and another year it is Maddux, and another year it may be Glavine. It takes nothing away from one or the other, but you just want to ride the hot hand. That's the way we were lined up, and there's no reason to change it.

Q. A while ago you said that before you got the Yankee job that you had the reputation as a guy who could get the young players. And when it was time to win, they went and got somebody else. And then you gave a --?

JOE TORRE: That's the old patience thing.

Q. Can you relate to Art Howe winning his first division title?

JOE TORRE: I think it is wonderful. Arty (Howe) is a contemporary of mine. We played against each other, and it's just great seeing what's happened for him. Especially there was a question, I don't know how true it was, but you always heard rumors that he wasn't sure if he was going to be back and whatever. And it was nice to see him accomplish what he accomplished. And again, the thing about managing: Your players do the playing. And I think you understand that they are the ones that play. And I think Arty (Howe) has that philosophy.

End of FastScripts....

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