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September 30, 2008

Joe Torre


Q. Wrigley Field, you've played a couple of games here. Your thoughts about Wrigley Field and playing in this ballpark?
JOE TORRE: It's one of those ballparks that it's obviously been here a long time. There's always something unique about it, the fact that the wind blows out, anybody can hit one; the wind blows in, nobody can hit. One of those thoughts.
But when I played here, which I enjoyed playing here because I enjoyed day baseball, it was great, especially when I was playing with the Cardinals. We played these guys a lot, and it was pretty -- it was a lot of fun. It always happened to be on the weekends, and people were sitting on your shoulders out there. And then we came here a few years ago with the Yankees. You had one of those days where Wood was pitching against Clemens.
Yeah, there's a lot of history here, and in my days I go back to Ernie Banks talking your ear off and saying he wishes he was playing a double header all the time.
But this is fun. I mean, I spent eight years with Zimmer, and he talked about his Cub years. We came close that one year a few years ago, when they lost to Florida in '03, of being in that World Series. But hopefully it'll be as much fun for us as we'd like it to be.

Q. Do you believe they're cursed?
JOE TORRE: Cursed? I don't believe that stuff. You're dealing with a former Yankee manager who had a 3-0 lead against the Red Sox and who went on to win the World Series (laughter). Sorry (smiling).

Q. You have a chance to help both long droughts out.
JOE TORRE: That's true. That's true. Be a part of history in a very dubious way.

Q. What's your plan of action for Furcal? And what are you hoping to get from him this postseason?
JOE TORRE: Furcal? He's going to be in the starting lineup tomorrow. We've played him a few games, and when I started talking to him, I guess we were in -- I guess the conversation I mentioned earlier was in Arizona, but it was really Colorado. We started chatting with him about the prospects of postseason play. At the time we hadn't clinched anything but we had a lead. And I just let him know obviously his career is the most important thing. What we're trying to accomplish is important, too, but only if he's healthy.
And we just sort of took it a step at a time. I think the legs were the last thing that came for him as far as being comfortable. He got a little experience swinging the bat here over last weekend, so we're going to start him. He played six innings on Saturday, and it seemed like he could do -- probably go nine, so we'll see what happens.
But he's been a big lift for us, and as I say, the most important thing is health-wise for him, and I reiterated to that. Whether he's going to tell me the truth or not, I don't know, but I think at this point in time, he seems ready to go.
Q. Do you have a lineup?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, it's Furcal, Russell Martin, Manny, Ethier, Loney, Kemp, DeWitt at second base and Blake, Casey Blake.

Q. Competing against Lou's teams for so many years, and this year, too, what are some things that you admire or respect about the way Lou manages the game? And also on a personal level, there were rumors flying around about maybe Lou replacing you in New York. Never happened, but did that ever strain you guys' relationship?
JOE TORRE: I don't think so. There was one other thing: Don't forget that Alex was talking to Lou with how he can shake his slump (laughter).
No, that stuff never bothered me. I knew Lou, first off, was very dear friends with George Steinbrenner. They're both from Tampa. Lou and I have a good relationship as far as I know, and I respect the heck out of him because his passion for the game has not waned at all. He manages, he's got a plan, and he's very emotional. Again, he has the feel for the game.
We put so much stock now into statistics and how fast this happens and how fast that happens, but I have a sense that Lou doesn't need all that information to help him make decisions. And I respect him because he's had success. He won the World Series with Cincinnati in 1990. And I may say at this point in time I had never been to the World Series, and I was managing the Cardinals, and my wife insisted we go home to see her family in 1990, and I had to be standing in the streets when they were winning the World Series and having everybody tell me I had never won one before. Members of my family were telling me this (laughter).
So I certainly respect what he's done in the game. He's worked with several different jobs in New York, had that season in Seattle where they won 116 games. He's been all over the joint, and still, as I say, has the passion to do it, and this is a great city to have the success he's had.

Q. Manny, what made you think it could work, number one? And maybe, what do you know, if anything, about him now that you didn't playing against him all the time?
JOE TORRE: Well, when his name was mentioned to me, and this thing came together very quickly that last day, was the fact that he was going to certainly enhance our batting order. That was the first thing. I had managed against him for 12 years, especially being in the Eastern Division against the Red Sox, we'd seen him more times than we wanted to. I had him on several All-Star teams. Always seemed like a guy who had a lot of fun, but knew firsthand that he could hit.
And then when he came on board, what I didn't know about him was his work ethic, as far as how he gets ready to play a game every day. Every day. Every day. He's a creature of habit in that regard, which it's nice to know that he doesn't hit like that by mistake; he certainly works at it.
So I think that's the one thing. And really how good a teammate. That didn't really surprise me based on the fact that for years -- and again, whatever happened in Boston at the end was obviously different. But his teammates were always happy to have him as a teammate, and he's been that guy here for us and for a lot of the young players.

Q. How different has it been managing here in LA versus New York? And how satisfying is it to be here given what went down last October?
JOE TORRE: Well, it's very different to be in LA, back in the National League, across the country. Last couple years in New York were not very comfortable. We had some success. I certainly treasure my time there, had a great relationship with a lot of the players, made a lot of friends. We had success, obviously.
But I thought it was just time for us to leave, and I think -- I mean, for me to leave. And I have a feeling they felt the same way.
As far as the satisfaction, you never really know when you go someplace new, especially when you've been in one place for 12 years, how you're going to be received. I know I've had success, but that doesn't mean that the players should believe what you're telling them, because you haven't proven anything yet as far as what you can do with this new ballclub.
So the success we've had -- it was a long year. We had a lot of changes, a lot of meetings. I think the players over the course of time learned to trust what we were doing. So the satisfaction of going somewhere else and having us get to the postseason has certainly been rewarding for me, and has given me that feeling of excitement again in the postseason, and hopefully we can make this thing last for a while.
Q. You've had a lot of teams that went into the postseason as the heavy favorite or "World Series or failure." They're actually saying that about the Cubs around here these days. First of all, how do you deal with those expectations? What kind of challenges do they present? And then, are expectations like that fair?
JOE TORRE: Well, somebody has to be, I guess, thought of as the favorite, and the Cubs probably -- if you look around baseball, there are only a few clubs, and I guess Tampa you would say is one and the Angels are another one, and the Cubs, I don't think they really strayed all year long. They were pretty darned good all year long. And I think that's what you need to be successful is the consistency, even when you lose people. They lost Soriano a time or two and yet they really stayed the course, so to speak.
Is it fair? You get to this time of year, there's pressure. There's pressure. I don't think the pressures that other people put on teams is as important as the pressure that you put on yourselves. And you're going to have to deal with it, that's all. But I guess the first year in New York was the only year that we didn't -- we weren't expected to win.
But the pressure after that is really a sign of what you've accomplished, and it's something that you should wear with pride. That's when people look at you with that kind of respect. It's just something you have to deal with.
But the fun part of playing in October is really, for me, what it's all about.

Q. Jeff Kent is not in the starting lineup. What's his role going to be for the series?
JOE TORRE: Well, starting out, I told Jeff over in San Francisco for the weekend that I was going to start DeWitt at second base. I just felt that this kid showed me enough that he could cover the ground. Certainly in my opinion I think Jeff being on the roster was a long shot considering that that surgery was a few weeks ago, and yet he worked his way back. It certainly makes your decision-making very tough because he goes out there, hits a home run, hits a line drive, a few more hits.
But right now I'm thinking of Jeff as a significant guy off the bench. I played him in one game at first base over the weekend, and I just told him that would -- in case I decide to double-switch that he would give me a couple options by playing a couple different positions in the event I want him to do that.
But right now I'm thinking of him as a bat off the bench, and hopefully both he and Nomar could -- I know they can handle the situation. Hopefully they can really elevate our game.

Q. Could you just talk about your Game 1 starter, Derek Lowe, and the thought process of having him start in Game 1?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, well, Derek, he had a rough spot in the middle of the season where he really wasn't getting the sink on his ball. But watching him again -- like Manny, watching him on the other side of the field there with the Red Sox, having to swallow Game 7 there in 2004, he certainly has never shied away from that responsibility.
And the thing I noticed, and even though you sort of had a feel for it, when he takes the ball, he goes out there and he just pitches his heart out. He has been a real pro for us. I think he's showed us a lot of leadership, even though he wasn't our Opening Day starter. That didn't bother him, either. Again, he's just one of those blue-collar guys. And right now I think he's at the top of his game.
And if in continuing the series we decide to go only with three starters, we figured he'd probably be the most capable of being able to come back on short rest. But we don't know if we're going to do that yet.
Q. Were there any particularly difficult people when it came to coming up with this roster in terms of leaving people on, leaving people off? How difficult was it?
JOE TORRE: Well, we're still playing with the pitching thing right now. We're going to take 11 pitchers, and we have a couple of starters that are going to work out of the bullpen. So we're trying to figure out what we're going to do with that 10th and 11th guy, or 11th guy.
But tough decisions is when you have to tell Mark Sweeney that he's not going to be on the postseason roster. He was there all year for us. Delwyn Young, who was there all year.
But we had a very unusual circumstance. We had two veterans, and Kent being the one I mentioned most recently, that had had some injuries, and yet they can still help you. So I think that sort of really was more important than trying to get balance on lefty, righty, even though we have Juan Pierre coming off the bench, a left-handed hitter, but just the RBI person, when you have two guys who played regular. For me it didn't matter whether they were left-handed or right-handed, as long as they were used to playing every day.
But I think Mark Sweeney, telling him that he wasn't going to be on the roster was very difficult, even though in telling him that, he felt that he didn't do the job he was capable of doing. He's been a good guy for us in the clubhouse, a good guy with our young players.

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