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October 5, 2000
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: Workout Day
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Joe Torre, please.
Q. Did you expect the A's to walk O'Neill to pitch to Glenallen Hill last night?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, I didn't think that was even a choice. I thought that was going to happen, especially since Glenallen saw those three balls in the dirt the time before.
Q. You would have done the same thing?
JOE TORRE: Yeah.
Q. Is part of your job responsibility now checking your players' cleats before they leave the dugout?
JOE TORRE: Not the cleats, I think we have to start using Velcro like my daughter, instead of shoelaces. It was the shoelaces that got them. Yeah, I knew exactly what happened. As soon as he hit the ground, you knew what happened.
Q. You didn't laugh about it until after the inning?
JOE TORRE: Right. It really cost Andy a third of an inning and made the closer come in for a third of the inning. That was fine, we had the rest before and after.
Q. Do you think the win last night is what it will take to get this team to relax and open up and get back in their game?
JOE TORRE: Well, we certainly needed to win that ball game because you never want to fall back two games in a five-game series. I sensed when we scored that first run there was a lot of pressure relieved. It really had nothing to do with what went on at the end of the season. It was just post-season. We went through it in Texas. We didn't score a whole lot of runs last year against Texas - two years ago - against Texas. We were very, very tight, where we won 114 games during the course of the year. So I think it's just the pressure from the post-season. Once we scored that run, the way Andy was pitching, we felt very confident.
Q. What do you think about the line-up? Same line-up for tomorrow?
JOE TORRE: I haven't really made a decision yet. I give it to the players first anyway. They won't be here until tomorrow.
Q. Can I get your thoughts on not facing Tim Hudson all season?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, I thought we were very fortunate. (Laughter.) Watching him pitch on TV, he pitched for me in the All-Star Game, he has that look in his eye. He has that look of a lot of confidence, "Yeah, I know I'm young, but I can get you out." He certainly is a throwback type of guy. He doesn't give in. He's a very tough competitor. We have scouting reports like everybody else does, and it's just going to come down to the pitcher being able to pitch to his ability. And we'll see what happens. I assume it's going to be a low-scoring game and it may be decided by a break but we're going to have to be patient because he doesn't give in; he's the type of guy that knows what he likes to do and he really doesn't deviate from that.
Q. Do you think the pressure swung back to Oakland now that you've won a game?
JOE TORRE: I think the pressure's on both teams all the time. For some reason when you open the season on the road and you finish 1-1, you have to be satisfied with that. If we were home, and I'm sure Arty feels the same way, after winning the first one you get a little greedy and want to win the second one. All of a sudden we have home-field advantage now, we have two home games to their one home game. But we have to do something with it. I'd like to believe that Yankee Stadium gives us an edge. This is a special place in post-season play.
Q. You've been through enough now. What are some of those advantages?
JOE TORRE: Again, it's post-season. They're not as experienced as we are. But I really don't think that's going to amount to a whole lot because they have accomplished so much this year in spite of people not thinking they can do it. Right now they're on bonus time. They're having a lot of fun. I sense they're very confident, even though we beat them yesterday. But they're not going to be tentative. They're going to come out. Again, it's going to be based on -- our people can scream their heads off. But if El Duque doesn't go pitch for pitch and inning for inning with Hudson and vice versa, then it's not going to be the game we anticipated.
Q. In '98 and '99, El Duque's really been pretty extraordinary in October. What do you attribute that to and what do you see different that he might do in the post-season than in the regular year?
JOE TORRE: Well, even though he only has very limited experience at the Major League level, he's pitched big games. He's no youngster. He's been around a while. And of course the experience he had last year and the year before, especially last year, I mean he got the ball in Game 1 of every post-season series. He's just been big in big games for us. This year when he had some problems physically, he wasn't himself, very deliberate out there, just walking around the mound. He just wasn't that crisp guy that we've seen here since he's come back and been off the disabled list. The last few starts, I know on Sunday they scored five runs, did a little fidgeting with his mechanics, I think he got his arm down too low. After that he was boom, boom, boom. He was good. I think having been through this before has helped him, plus he loves the challenge. He just loves the challenge. I remember a game his first year where he pitched against the Mets on a Sunday night at Shea Stadium, it was pitch for pitch. I mean, we wound up losing the game, but he wasn't the loser. I think he pitched nine innings or whatever. He just rises to that occasion. It's hard to explain, except that certain guys are driven by that challenge.
Q. You've managed young ballclubs and you've managed older ballclubs. This is an older ballclub. Can you address this as a factor? Is there a fine line here between a team that gets too old or just old enough? Where does that come into play?
JOE TORRE: Are you going to answer this or repeat the question?
THE MODERATOR: Your club has certainly matured. Can you respond to that? (Laughter.)
JOE TORRE: Well, you know, it's interesting. When veteran clubs go in the slumps, it's because they're old and can't hit anymore. When young teams go into slumps, it's because they can't stand the pressure. I don't know how to answer that. I don't think my club's old. They're older than other clubs, but I don't think they're old. Paul O'Neill, right now he's pressing. I think physically, I'm sure he's not perfect, but he's a whole lot better than when that hip was bothering him. Right now he's doing more fighting with himself than anything. I think he's all right physically; I really do. Jeter's hitless. He's not old. It's interesting, I mean we've scored seven runs and Luis Sojo knocked in three of them. You get some help from unexpected places sometimes. We have Bellinger knocked in one, Brosius knocked in one, he knocked in three, Glenallen Hill knocked in three, and Tino with a sacrifice fly. So I'd like to believe that we had something coming from the middle of our line-up.
Q. Obviously El Duque last year started Game 1 of all the series, as you mentioned. At this point basically this is Game 1, it's a three-game series. Is he the kind of guy that can just kind of play that in his mind and flip the switch and say, "Okay, it's Game 1, I have to go out and win this game"?
JOE TORRE: Well, it is Game 1 for him. It's the first game he's pitching. There's no question, when I called him in to tell him he's pitching Game 3, he says, "I know." You're around the ballclub all the time, you get a sense of what's going on. We pretty much keep all the pitchers informed as to how our thinking is going. But tonight he obviously knows that this is a very important game. In fact, the other day we were going to send him home after we lost the game, he came in, he said, "Do you want me to stay?" As to say, "If you need me here, I'll be here." I said, "No, you go home, get your rest, pitch Game 3." He realizes now, it's a two-out-of-three series right now, he's pitching the first game. Hopefully we can get off on the right foot tomorrow.
Q. In all your years in the game, where does El Duque rank in terms of post-season pitchers?
JOE TORRE: We won three World Series, we've had pretty good production from a number of people, Andy Pettitte of course, takes a back seat to no one. David Cone has won big games for us. Roger, winning Game 4 last year in the World Series. But El Duque, for someone with the limited experience that he's had, I have to put him with Andy because Andy in '96 was probably as inexperienced as El Duque is now, so I have to put him on that level right there. He doesn't scare. I mean, he comes out there and makes up his mind that you're going to get a quality start, and you do and it doesn't guarantee you're going to win. But the thing is you know you're going to be in the game.
Q. You're like the Zen master of baseball. What do you expect from El Duque? What does your gut tell you?
JOE TORRE: Well, I know he'll be ready to pitch. I remember a couple years ago in '98 when he pitched in Cleveland after we fell behind 2 games to one, I had seen him in the coffee shop. He was serving all the people at his table, you know, getting extra spoons and cups, he's pitching that night. That was the first game he was going to pitch in the series. Actually, in the post-season, because the first one, we swept the first series so he got backed up again and he hadn't pitched for 15 or 16 days. I watched him that afternoon. I said, "He may not win, but I know he's not scared." I sense that he's going to go out there with a great deal of determination and just because you have that determination doesn't mean you're going to be effective. Hudson's going to have that same kind of determination. It's just a matter of maybe getting a call on a corner or not getting a call on a corner even though you're not going to bitch about it and say, "This happened, that happened," that's part of the game, those types of things. It could come down to something like that, but I know he's ready to pitch and he's healthy, and that's important for us.
Q. I know you're not announcing line-ups yet. Are you leaning towards starting Knoblauch tomorrow?
JOE TORRE: I really don't know. I've given myself a day off from this, to be honest with you. When we lost Game 1, I went to sleep thinking about it. I woke up and I started writing names down. I'll probably do that again tomorrow. I'm just not even thinking about it right now.
Q. What are your thoughts in general on a five-game series, especially how quickly things can change?
JOE TORRE: Well, I would rather have the first series, a seven-game series. I understand that's tough to do, especially with the season as long as it is. You'd wind up running into November and it would really be a problem in a lot of cities. But the five-game series is really no room for error, your patience is low, you make changes quickly which is really uncharacteristic of my philosophy, but I think you have to do that. Zimmer taught me that in '96. We had a pitcher get in trouble early, he said you better get somebody up, I said it's only the second, he said, "So what, get somebody up." I learned a lot from him. I realized at that point in time there's no time to sit on your hands here; we have to make moves. So the five-game series is definitely a frightening experience, but the only thing that keeps you level there is that it's frightening for the other manager, too. So you just sort of hope that everybody -- you hope you make other teams beat you as opposed to beating yourself. I think that's the one thing that all managers wish for; that you don't want to beat yourself.
Q. Having two formidable starters in the bullpen, David Cone and Doc Gooden, did that come --?
JOE TORRE: And Neagle.
Q. And Neagle, did that come into your play in pitching Roger for Game 4?
JOE TORRE: No, I decided in this series, the way the off days were situated, that we were going to go with three starters because they had been pitching the most effective of the five starters. It was just basically the other starters, Neagle and Coney, Coney had the physical problem, Neagle has struggled somewhat. So we just decided to let it fly with three, and hopefully we get to the next stop and we add somebody. But it was basically because they were pitching well.
Q. I know you're taking a day off from the line-up stuff. Having made the decision that you did in Game 2, how difficult was that for you particularly in regard to Chuck, to take him out?
JOE TORRE: It was very tough. There was a time there when he was on the disabled list. I didn't think we were going to get him back. Then when he came back, he wasn't feeling real, real good, and then I remember in Kansas City, having this conversation with him on an early workout during the day, he started throwing and said it felt all right. I said, "You just take ground balls for the day or two and we'll send you out there, see what happens, if your arm hurts it hurts, if it doesn't, we play." That was our plan, and we did it. Send him out, then we went to Boston and we did it there. We were successful. And then it got to the point where I sensed that Chuck was a little more comfortable, and I was, too. Just because even though his throwing problems haven't been what they were earlier in the year, I'm still taking him off the defense in the seventh and eighth inning, that tells me something. And with the lack of our offense, how we haven't been scoring a lot of runs, I just felt that I didn't want to take a chance defensively in giving anything away. Again, to me, in my mind, Chuck Knoblauch is still our regular second baseman, but as I say, when you get in one of these short series, you're trying to plug all the holes the best you can and hope that in the event he doesn't play, that not having him offensively isn't going to hurt you.
Q. It seems this losing streak and all that was your first major crisis in five years. Yet you seemed outwardly at least very calm. Were you calm?
JOE TORRE: No. At first, the thing was, any manager gets a big lead in a ball game or a big lead, you tend not to take a relaxed atmosphere because you don't want your players to sense that. What we wanted to do, because the schedule is very tough for us - like everyone else, I mean we had no off days - we wanted to lock it up so we could start resting. In the meantime, I had Bernie go down, he was hurt, and Paul O'Neill was hurt. I know I was accused by Toronto, I think it was, of resting players against Boston. Meanwhile, I wasn't resting players; they were hurt. At first, managing numbers, double figures, I don't pay any attention to it. Then it starts getting down. The only way we're getting it down is the other teams are losing. This whole year we've been lucky. Early in the year we didn't win a whole lot and nobody else did, but I didn't like that. I was still very confident, but I always laugh at the people, say, "Well all you have to do is win like 4 out of the next 13 games, then you lose 6 or 7 in a row and it's different."
Q. Were you outwardly calm?
JOE TORRE: I try to be, yes.
Q. To keep the players calm?
JOE TORRE: I try to be, yes, I really do. The only thing I'll do with them is go around and just let them know I support them, let them know what they're going through, let them know -- I may refer to my 1982 team in Atlanta, we lost 19 out of 21 games. Then what happened? Pascual Perez got lost coming to the ball park and we won 15 out of 20 games. You explain it. That's not good managing, just strange happenings. If something like what happened to Luis last night had happened two weeks ago, it may have broken it right there. We just needed something like that to --.
Q. But you had to win the game last night for it to break it?
JOE TORRE: For sure. But there was a lot of tension because the guys sensed they wanted to get it over with. They were tired and then they were tense. It's something I've never really gone through before, because in essence we really weren't threatened to lose the whole thing.
JOE TORRE: But --.
Q. But it developed --?
JOE TORRE: We didn't want it to develop the way it was developing. I remember when David Cone came down and said, "What do you want to do if Boston loses and we clinch?" I said, "We're going to pour champagne." We still won more games than anybody else and I think this team needs it. I remember meeting that night before the game and I said to the players, "Do you want to drink this champagne before the game or after, it may help before more than after." You try to lighten it up. You didn't get many smiles because everybody knew what they had to do. But it was a tough time. It was a tough time. I was happy when the post-season got here because it was pressure, but pressure of a different kind. The only thing that bothered me through it, which was understandable, the question is asked, you keep adding on to the losing streak at the end of the season and it's a whole separate thing.
Q. You had never gone through anything like that.
JOE TORRE: Right, right. But again, in '98, this club was very tense. I think the fact that we won so many games during the season --.
Q. Going into the post-season --?
JOE TORRE: -- Made them that way. In fact, I had a meeting during one of the games in Texas, I brought them down the steps behind the dugout and talked to several of the hitters.
Q. Because there was so much expectation.
JOE TORRE: I said, "Guys, we're ahead two games to none. They're not, we are. Relax."
Q. During the third game?
JOE TORRE: Right, yes.
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