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October 23, 1999

Joe Torre


Q. How does your line-up change with Maddux pitching tonight instead of Glavine?

JOE TORRE: Leftfield is the only change. Ledee is playing there instead of Curtis.

Q. Can you fill us in on the Sojo situation and the roster and all that?

JOE TORRE: Yeah. I'm sort of doing this hesitantly. We -- I talked to Luis last night, and Luis assured me he would be able to be back by Game 3, so knowing how important he is -- and then don't get me wrong, it's not to play defense for Chuck -- I mean that's not the only reason I want him back. But Bellinger's on our club, basically as a pinch runner. I'm reluctant to do that now because he's our backup infielder. It releases him, also. Nothing against Spencer, I think the second infielder is more important to us. So hopefully we'll see Luis on Tuesday, but that's the reason we decided to go without him the first two days. We just feel that he's important for us.

Q. Where was he when you talked to him?

JOE TORRE: I talked to him in New York last night. He was going to Venezuela today, to take care of all the arrangements of the funeral.

Q. What was your reaction to the Commissioner's Office declining your wish to get an extra player to take his place?

JOE TORRE: Well, I didn't anticipate that was going to be anything other than what Bud Selig decided to do. I think it's probably the right decision only because, you know, you open up a can of worms. What's important? What isn't important? I remember back in '96 when we were rained out of the first game of the World Series and having been rained out we lost our workout day here in Atlanta, and I had tried to lobby for getting the off day just so we could work out, you know, in a new ballpark. He said no to that. So I knew that we weren't going to be able to let that fly. Again, I don't disagree with that.

Q. When did you find out you were getting Maddux instead of Glavine, and what was your reaction?

JOE TORRE: I found out -- I got to the ballpark about 2:30 today. Between 2:30 and 3, one of the clubhouse kids came over and gave me a line-up and Maddux' name was in it and he mentioned Glavine was sick. You understand those things happen. Just because it's a World Series, doesn't mean people aren't allowed to get sick. So I hadn't really made a line-up out anyway up to that point, even yesterday I didn't tell the players even though they pretty much anticipate what I was going to do because we've done it all year.

Q. Can you talk about your decision to leave Irabu off, and does that leave you at all susceptible if one of the starters gets in trouble?

JOE TORRE: I wasn't sure as of Thursday what I was going to do. Plus side, Irabu pitched very well against the Braves, I know it was only spring training, but he pitched four or five innings against him, I think it was last spring. The decision to make the change was because of this National League ballpark, you know, in Game 3 in Boston, Roger was knocked out early and we just put Irabu out there and let him pitch. Can't do that in a National League ballpark. You need to pinch hit. And you're going to probably need that pitcher more than one time, so because he is pitching or has pitched out of the bullpen, I think he gives us a little more flexibility where we can use him more than one time as opposed to worrying about not having that extra starter. If we needed another game to be started, Mendoza is capable of doing that.

Q. Can you just give us your impressions of Rocker and just personality-wise, if you can contrast him to Mariano?

JOE TORRE: They're a little bit different. Mo is a -- I don't want to say calm, because you know he's not calm inside -- Rocker is what short relievers are all about. They've always been colorful people, for the most part. I get a kick out of him. Again, you have to sort of dismiss some of the things that he might be saying critical of fans and the like, you know, he's got a lot of confidence. He doesn't mind telling people. You know, the thing about it, he talks about it and is able to put his money where his mouth is. So I respect his ability, and I understand his exuberance. We don't really react or overreact to what people say because we know the game has to be played on the field, but I think he's good for baseball, that type of individual.

Q. Is David Cone now as strong as he was around the time of the perfect game in July?

JOE TORRE: I think David is fine. That particular game is very special. That's a once-in-a-lifetime, whether you're David Cone who is middle to late 30s, or he's 25. David Cone, over his career, has thrown a lot of pitches, and I knew early on that game there was something special about it because he didn't hit anybody early in the game and it wasn't that he tries to hit people. But trying to find that release point sometimes, he's a little wild with a splitter or a breaking ball. But arm-wise, with the rest he's had over the last month, I would say he's as durable as he's been all year right now.

Q. Do you think it's appropriate that this series has been hyped as the decision-maker for the Team of the Decade? To a large extent, the Braves, what they've done, what you guys have done, do you think that's right?

JOE TORRE: Well, I guess you need to give it a label, you know. The game we played in Boston with Martinez pitching against Clemens, I enjoyed that hype even though it didn't live up to the advanced notices. But the Braves, I have a great deal of respect for what Bobby's done here during the '90s. I know he's taken some abuse for only winning one World Series; that's not too bad. Especially because I hadn't been in one for 30 years, I appreciate only one World Series. But whatever, you know, we just can't get caught up in it. I think it's something we look back on and it's something we'd be proud of if we won another World Series, that we could look back on and say the '90s were very special for us. But I think with the turn of the century coming, I think we're making a lot out of what's happening, and probably with good reason. The last World Series, and the thing I like, to think that the two clubs that are in it are the two that deserve to be in it. They had the best record in the National League; we had the best record in the American League. Supposedly we're supposed to meet. We just hope this World Series lives up to expectations. When I say that, I'd like to see, you know, somebody win the World Series instead of having something negative jump out as the reason the other club lost.

Q. You've had to handle Chuck Knoblauch rather gingerly as far as his psyche goes. You got him to the point where he was accepting the possibility that Sojo could replace him. Now that he's gone for a couple games, how do you think he'll respond to that?

JOE TORRE: I think he's fine. He understands. He wants to play nine innings. I think he just showed me respect to the point of if that's what I want to do, that's fine with him. But, again, Chuck is not going to say are you going to send somebody out there in the ninth inning, he's not going to come up to me and say that, but he'll understand I might say that to him once in a while. I don't anticipate doing it here in the next couple of days. I hope I have the ability to do it at least -- well, depends what happens, but at least four times because that means we're in a position where we're winning a ball game. That's like bringing in a closer. You're not going to do that unless you're ahead.

Q. What were your impressions of the All-Century Team and what players were you particularly happy for?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think it's -- I get a chance to see my friend Bob Gibson, I think that's wonderful. Again, I haven't looked up and down the list, but I know one thing, that there was some talk -- and this was early on, I guess about Pete Rose, who I have a great deal of respect for as a player because nobody played harder to win than Pete Rose. But in terms of Pete Rose instead of someone and one of those instead-ofs was Stan Musial, to me, Stan Musial belonged on that team because of what he has accomplished in his life, and just player-wise, the ability to do a lot of things. I didn't think that was, you know, fair to put Pete in that category. I think Pete's in a category by himself. He could play any one of the positions and qualify.

Q. What's the biggest adjustment your team has to make in cold weather, playing cold-weather baseball?

JOE TORRE: I don't know that -- we played one -- I don't anticipate it to be colder than it was in Boston for Game 5. It was very, very cold up there. And El Duque's the same pitcher. So I think the question that he has to answer, he answered there. If he's not right tonight, I don't think we can blame the weather for it. But I think it's just a matter of, you know, playing our game and not trying to be distracted. The weather could very well be a distraction, but I think playing in New York, we like to condition ourselves not to have things we have no control of distracting us or trying to use that as an excuse. We don't like to do that. So hopefully, I think the pitchers, first off, have an advantage in the cold weather. The pitchers have an easier time pitching than the hitters have hitting.

Q. What were some of the things you did in your first couple years to end the talk that the clubhouse was like The Bronx Zoo?

JOE TORRE: Clarify that.

Q. The kind of things you did to calm the clubhouse down in your first couple years in New York.

JOE TORRE: I noticed like everyone else, when you read a story about the Yankees, there was one fight or another, or George screaming at somebody or somebody screaming at George or Billy doing something. I realized a lot of those things weren't baseball-related other than it involved the Yankees. So in coming in here, I definitely had an idea what I wanted to do. I wanted to have try to have everybody concentrate on baseball, and I would help, as best I can, to eliminate as many distractions to keep us from concentrating on baseball out of the clubhouse. And that was important for me, because I know -- and, you know, you read or you talk to players, people could get a little distracted and sort of had this built-in excuse, if they allow that to bother them, that that's the reason they couldn't concentrate, blah, blah, blah. We can't do that. So I think that was the one really plan I had, coming in and talking to the club, was media-related, distraction-related. If I have anything negative to say about a player, I just try to assure them they're going to get it from me first. Not that I wouldn't tell the media, but they're not going to read about it there or hear about it there first. So far it's worked well, and I think I'm close to being able to -- have been able to do that all the time.

Q. Can you talk about Mo, how he was able to shake off that one bad period you call hiccups in July when he blew three out of five? Also how he might not have been able to get up over that so easily early in his career.

JOE TORRE: Well, Mo is a special guy. He came in in very critical situations for us in '96. '97 he had trouble functioning as a closer early on. It's different. You don't have somebody behind you ready to pick you up like we had Wetteland in '96. We kept saying you're going to get the ball, I don't care how many times you spit it up. You're going to get the ball. You're going to keep getting the ball. At the end of '97, he gave up the home run, we had a one-run lead against Cleveland. He gave up the win to tie the game. They went on to win the game and they beat us the next day. Mo was very low. He felt he let everybody down. That was part of the growing process for him. We have to credit Dennis Eckersley because of the way he came through, the home run by Kirk Gibson, which I think he was a great role model for all closers realizing you're a part of what happened as opposed to be it could be the worst thing that ever happened in your life. When you're out there, it's not always going to be good. Even though you anticipate good things happening when you're closers out there. This year when he lost a couple of games, we thought he struck Franco out in New York on that Saturday afternoon for strike three, then he hit a little line drive to right centerfield and we lose the ball game. So, sure, that was a blown save. Then right after the break against the Braves, he did the same thing. But we -- Mel and I talk to him early on in '98 because of what happened in '97. He has been the guy that takes the ball and goes out there with that attitude that, "I'm going to give you whatever I have today. If it's good enough, fine. If it isn't, fine. I'll come back tomorrow." I think it's been more of a mental approach to him once he got used to the closer's role. He was able to take it and run with it. There was no problem this year. He just gave up a couple saves and that's it. It didn't change anything or we didn't say anything to him to have him change anything.

End of FastScripts…1

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