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October 4, 2008

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Mr. Torre.

Q. Not that you want to change the rules at this point, but could you comment about the difference between the best of five and the best of seven from your perspective; is it as fair a test?
JOE TORRE: No, I've always felt that you go 162 games that the first round would be important to have best of seven, because it's really a tough situation to adjust to. Usually, I mean, the best teams get in after 162. And then to send them out for that crap shoot I think it's -- it's lucky a lot of times if you win.

Q. Based on your experience in the post-season, all those years with the Yankees, what does a player need to really succeed in the post-season? It's an entire new thing with pressure and all that. What did your players on the Yankees all those years have mentally and emotionally to be able to succeed under all this pressure?
JOE TORRE: You know what I think it is, I think it's each other. I think the most important thing is none of us are going to do it by ourselves. We all need help. And we're all in the same boat. So we try to look to each other for support, for help, if you need conversation.
I think years ago we eliminated the fact that no big deal, the great ones are never nervous and never excited, that they seem to just go through it. That's not true. You need each other for support. And then try to keep it to be a baseball game. I think that's the most important thing.
And you really can't do anything about yesterday or tomorrow and try and stay in the moment. I think that's the toughest thing to do, and to really dismiss anything negative that happens quickly, because you really can't afford that luxury of carrying that stuff.
They've been pretty good at that over the years in New York. I think the biggest thing that hurt us in New York more than anything else was just the expectation and trying to live up to it.

Q. Along the lines of you saying that they need each other, players need each other at this point. Do you think that's been sort of where the clubhouse loosening up in general and guys sort of interacting with each other more often I guess has provided you guys a little more strength?
JOE TORRE: I like to believe that, because I'm a real believer in the team concept. I think it takes pressure off the individual if you're thinking in terms of what I can do with this at-bat or go out to the mound with facing this hitter. I don't necessarily have to strike him out, let me just get him out or move a runner over from a hitter.
If you think in terms of the game being the priority, I think it sort of relieves some of the tension that may exist from trying to get two hits, three hits, and just getting a base hit as an individual. I really think that helps.

Q. In terms of trying to keep it a baseball game and not worrying about yesterday and tomorrow, do you think in this series your opponent has had trouble doing that because of its franchise history?
JOE TORRE: Well, there's no question they have to answer questions. I mean, I can relate to that. They have to answer questions, because the expectations and I watched Boston go through it for a number of years. And, of course, being a member of the Cardinals, both as a manager and a player, knowing that rivalry and all the things that fans used to get back at each other with.
Even though players who are playing here weren't born when all this stuff started or whatever generation it was, it's still something that you have to respond to even though you may not necessarily buy into. And it's just sometimes just creeps into your thought process.

Q. Over the years in the playoffs you've been up in these series in these situations and finished them. And another situation you were way up in the series and didn't finish it. Is there anything beyond what we saw on the baseball field that made those two things different, that allowed you to finish most series and didn't allow you to finish that other series? Something happening? Anything you can sort of pull back from those sort of experiences?
JOE TORRE: I wish I could say yes (smiling), because the reason when you finish off the series, when you have the lead, is knowing that momentum switches very quickly, and you don't want to lose that feel that you won yesterday's game.
And I was mentioning earlier to our writers that in '04 when we lost with the 3-0 lead to the Red Sox, we had a 3-0 lead and I had a one-run lead in the 8th inning of Game 4 and I wanted Mariano Rivera out there because I wasn't thinking we have a 3-0 lead so I can have a setup man out there. I wanted my closer. That's how important I felt it was to win that day based on the fact that you can lose, you can lose your momentum.
And in 2001, when we lost the first two games at home to Oakland, we went out there and Mussina and Jeter did it themselves in that 1-0 game and that sort of changed the momentum a little bit and we were able to win the next game and go home for Game 5.
So I think it's something I don't think I learned anything, other than my thinking is what it is and it's very immediate, that you think of in these things, whether it's trying to change the flow or continue it.

Q. The thing in Oakland, I think it was the only time it's ever happened where a team's lost the first two at home in a five-game. Is that something that you've ever mentioned to your team specifically or just --
JOE TORRE: You mean tell them we could lose this thing? No (Laughter).

Q. There's nothing like say this has happened before?
JOE TORRE: No, the only thing I'll ever remind them about is just that feeling you've had the last couple days, just go out there and let's not look too far down the road, let's just pay attention to right now. As I say, it's a lot easier for me to sit here and say it than to go out there and be able to do it. That's why I think it's important to look to each other and sort of draw on each other's support, more so than trying to get too excited about the finish line before you get to it.

Q. Do you think entering a series like this that people back in the Midwest and the East can underestimate or can't grasp how good a team like the Dodgers are because they don't see them a lot, the games are about the West Coast games ending late and they don't know a lot about them. Is it possible that it happened here?
JOE TORRE: That's possible. That's possible. Of course, this ball club has become a different team over the course of the year, with having Furcal early, losing Furcal. Now having him back sort of made a different team of us, and getting Casey Blake midway through and then Manny, Maddux, even though Maddux has pitched in a handful of game he's still had an influence on the way this ball club thinks and acts and all that stuff.
But I think that's certainly significant that people don't get a whole lot of information on us or watch enough of our games to see how good we've actually pitched over the course of the year. And I think that's the one thing that's been the most consistent part of our game over the 162 games is how well we've pitched.

Q. The younger guys, Ethier and Kemp and Loney, from the earlier days from Vero Beach when you first saw them until now, how much have they grown and matured and is it reminiscent at all in your past managing history to anybody else you've encountered?
JOE TORRE: Well, these players really didn't need anybody to tell them they were talented. They felt pretty good about themselves because they've all had a little taste and have all had some success.
The only thing I think that was missing was just the consistency of it on a day-to-day basis and how to bounce back from bad games or bad weeks or whatever. I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves.
I got spoiled in New York. There's no question. I had the one rookie in '96 was Jeter, and this kid was pretty unusual on how well he handled everything. Got to the point where older players from about July or August on were looking for him to do something.
But the thing -- and I learned from stuff like that. Knowing, after being with the Yankees and watching other clubs win, knowing what it takes. You have to eliminate the highs and lows. You've got to be able to handle negative stuff and setbacks and all that stuff. And that's what really accentuated our conversations, really, is the fact that we just needed to be that same guy every day and be that same guy. And it took some time.
I think when you look at Ethier, he's come a long, long way for me in how he approaches the game. I'm not sure -- I'm not saying that he doesn't go in there and bang a helmet, but he's able to not carry it. Because I've seen him earlier in the year give away a number of at-bats because of the way he's let this thing beat him up sometimes when he's not satisfied with his at-bats, but he's been working at it and working at it for a long time.
Matt Kemp hasn't played a lot of baseball. I've seen a lot of progress on him. James Loney, I think you're just scratching the surface on how good this kid is going to be. I'm not sure he knows that right now. But he's got some ability that's going to come out here in the next few years.
And Russell struggled all year to try to get to the way where he seems to feel right now and hopefully we can keep him that way.

Q. If there's a Game 4, who is going to be your starter for tomorrow?
JOE TORRE: I don't have a plan for Game 4.

Q. It seemed a lot like this year when Hiroki gets on a positive roll he really sort of cruises through, but one bad sequence can sometimes take him the opposite direction. Is he a guy you have to keep a closer eye on during a game like this?
JOE TORRE: Yeah. And any game. We'll do the same. He's had some rest. We've had good results and he's had good results with extra rest. But, you're right. When he gets to a couple things go wrong, he has a tendency to probably overthink it and overthrow it sometimes. We'll keep an eye on it. A little bit like Billingsley, although he solved his problem early the other day.
But for sure we'll keep an eye on the rhythm of it, because I think that's the important part for him. And then once he gets in that rhythm, he has a lot of pitches he can call on.

Q. Can you give us an idea where Furcal is right now in terms of his back? Seems like the schedule, night game, night game tomorrow if you play it might be helping you in that regard. There seems to be a little space between some of these games for you. But just in terms of what you're seeing from him and how he's feeling and if he's all that delicate right now or just good to go?
JOE TORRE: Knock on wood, because I don't want to push the envelope. But health-wise I think he's fine. The last thing that came with him were his legs. And I kick myself the first day in Chicago because I took DeWitt out for a defensive replacement and I didn't even think about him. We had the five-run lead I asked him after the game he said he's fine. He has no issues right now.
So I'm not sure -- I'm sure the schedule helps us all. And we sort of recoup a little bit. But I think he's pretty good right now. I think the only thing he's lacking is the games that, get in game shape. But I think physically everything's fine.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Joe.

End of FastScripts

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