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October 18, 1999

Joe Torre


Q. Talk about the job that Hernandez did for you tonight and what he's meant to the team this season.

JOE TORRE: I mean it seems like 100 years ago when I saw him in spring training of '98 and watched him throw on the side. Wow, that big leg kick, I don't know if we can do that. Then all of a sudden, to watch him grow, that Game 4 he pitched against Cleveland, ever since then he's dared people to beat him. Tonight was just another example of that. That first inning was phenomenal. Especially coming on the heels of our scoring two runs and to be able to shut them down like that.

Q. Who are you going to be routing for watching the Mets and the Braves?

JOE TORRE: The best part about it is I don't have to pull for anybody to win now. I've been pulling for our club to win all year. It's nice to take a day or two off. Whatever way it goes, it goes. I tell you, what the Mets have done over the last couple of weeks has enabled them to just walk with pride. There's no question, whatever happens from here on out.

Q. When it all comes down to it, what was the difference in this series?

JOE TORRE: Well, excuse me -- champagne. (Laughter.) Just the pitching. Our starting pitching was phenomenal, all but Roger's game. Our starting pitching shut down the Red Sox. Let me tell you something about the Red Sox, this is as tough a team that we've had to play since I've been here. You say this guy's better than that guy on this team. The way they played, and it's a credit to Jimy, they just would not go away. I picked Toronto in August when it looked like, you know, with the injuries and everything, but they just wouldn't go away. They had a lot of tenacity, and I really congratulate them on the year they've had.

Q. The '98 team had all the mystique about it, the aura. Is this team just as effective without that aura of invincibility?

JOE TORRE: That's a good question. You know, we've been being measured against ourselves all -- I guess all year. And I try to warn the club in spring training that we cannot compete against ourselves because that's a once-in-a-lifetime type thing. But you're right. Maybe ballclubs -- we had to earn it this year. Last year when we won so many games, a lot of ballclubs felt they sort of didn't have a chance against us. This year, I don't want to say they played harder, but I think they felt they had a better shot at us. It was probably more satisfying this year.

Q. Mendoza only faced four batters in this series but certainly he did got it done.

JOE TORRE: Not really. He faced five tonight.

Q. Okay, okay.

JOE TORRE: I know what you mean, though. There's no question, what that young man has done. This year was sort of a spotty year for him. But the growing he's done since 1996 has been enormous. They're starting to call him, "The Iceman." It's funny, he's enjoying the situation. It was very tough last year when El Duque -- it's funny that one should get the win and one should get the save. Because when El Duque came, all of a sudden Mendoza wasn't a starter anymore. So I guess it's just, you know, some kind of justice that it happened that way tonight. Because he's taken to the bullpen so well and it was doing us a favor, because he was doing a good job as a starter.

Q. With what you've gone through off the field this season, what does this mean to you tonight?

JOE TORRE: Well, when that whole thing started with the prostate cancer in spring training, you know, you really didn't care about baseball. You go through that. And then when you're going through your recovery, you're not sure if you're going to care when you get back. And then once you get back, actually, during the time I was watching the games, it was like I was a fan; I'm watching. Then once I got back, it was sort of like let me study myself. Then all of a sudden my stomach started hurting and I realized the passion was there. In the post-season, it's identical to last year, maybe even a little more so. I'm all the way back as far as the emotion of doing what I'm doing. But it's been a wild year.

Q. Was there a game during the year that you knew, mentally, you were back into it?

JOE TORRE: You know, I don't know that. I don't know that. I know a lot of players had said I was a little bit different because I sort of had this philosophy or perspective that it's only a game of baseball. But I think heading -- when we lost three in a row to Boston and then went up to Toronto and lost the first game and then won the next game with Bernie's grand slam and O'Neill's grand slam, that probably was an emotional turnaround for me and I realized how important this was for me.

PHYLLIS MERHIGE: Thank you, Joe. Congratulations.

JOE TORRE: Thank you.

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