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December 9, 2008
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Q. Are you working at all?
JOE TORRE: Here I am. This is work.
Q. Other than this, I mean, are you involved in all the day-to-day --
JOE TORRE: I talk to Ned, yeah. We stay in touch. I mean, we sat together -- we sat for a while together last night. But I'm here if he needs me for anything or if he wants me to make a call to anybody or stuff like that.
Q. But you're not a prisoner for however many hours a day?
JOE TORRE: No, no. They didn't think it was necessary, so that's fine with me.
Q. What were your emotions with the Hall of Fame announcement?
JOE TORRE: You know, it's really strange. Every year or every couple of years, I mean, the rules, they've been trying to sort of formulate them where they're able to come away with voting for someone.
I got so many calls this year that initially -- to mention that I was going to be one of the ones on the ballot, and then my son called me, my sister called me, and I just think just from the inquiries I've been getting, I probably paid more attention to this one.
Although, to me, the fact that I'm still managing I thought was probably not something that I really expected to get voted in, for some reason. As I say, the rules -- I've heard different things, that the rules included playing career, not paying attention to the managing stuff, because obviously if they don't pay attention to managing stuff, I haven't gotten any more hits since I stopped playing (laughter.)
So it's just a matter of what the people who vote, the criteria, and what they're thinking. Certainly they're people I respect in the Hall of Fame, not only for their ability, but a good number of them are dear friends of mine.
But really, for some reason, the Hall of Fame is obviously a great, great honor, and I'm not trying to downplay that. But it's just something I have no control over, and I really don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. Not because you don't want to be in it, but just the fact that you have no control over it.
So I really didn't have -- I was on the golf course when somebody called me with the results, and my wife called me with the results. You know, I don't know what to say, other than other people were more excited about the results than I was.
Q. Is there stuff out there that you guys might be interested in?
JOE TORRE: Well, they're obviously not free agents. I obviously can't talk about them. They're good players, and I think it's natural, the fact that I used to manage over there and they played for me. But I certainly can't get myself in trouble. I lose enough money here without having to talk about something like that (laughter.)
Q. Were you surprised that (inaudible) had the kind of year he had?
JOE TORRE: You know, he's still young. He's a special player. But, yeah, I think I was surprised to see the lack of consistency in him.
Q. Can you comment on Blake and Loretta?
JOE TORRE: I really can't, because nothing is done. Obviously they're good players. We had Casey last year, and in Loretta's case, he used to beat my brains out with the Red Sox. Every time you thought you had him out he'd get a base hit to right field.
But these are certainly the types of players that I think if you're trying to build around young players, there's certainly a major consideration and a big advantage. But I really can't do anything more than that until we know for sure what's going to happen.
Q. The crazy rumors that I just read was that the Red Sox were kicking the tires of Pettitte. Could you imagine him ever pitching for the Red Sox?
JOE TORRE: I go back, and I think of Mike Torrez who did it. Of course Andy who was -- Torrez was with the Cardinal organization. Andy came through the Yankee organization. I know in Don Mattingly's case, he was even holding his breath that the Red Sox didn't draft his son for obvious reasons, the fact that the rivalry was so strong. Yeah, I would find it hard to believe that Andy would go there.
Q. Have you ever experienced this kind of an off-season with so many uncertainties as a manager, because there are a lot of holes to fill on that roster?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, I think managers do this every year since free agency has come into being. You're going to have time with players and then they're going to leave. The Yankees every year we lost someone that was major to our success. The first year with John Wetteland, who was the MVP of the World Series, he left and Tony left, and of course Girardi was important for us. We just were very fortunate to be able to plug somebody else in on a regular basis.
But I think certainly my job is a whole lot easier than a general manager's job. That I know. When you think about contracts, and I'm sure the climate of what's going on in the world right now makes things a little more uncertain, I'd say.
Q. But you lost, what, your ace pitcher and your two MVPs of last season if they don't come back.
JOE TORRE: We haven't lost them. We know where they are (laughter.) Again, that's what free agency is all about. They're going to go out there and find out what's best for them and their families and what makes sense for them.
When we got Casey Blake, that started things going in the right direction for us this past year. Just the fact that he considered coming back to us makes me feel good, because I think he really made a difference in starting to glue the thing that we had going together a little bit.
Q. K Rod is just shy of joining the Mets. What are your thoughts about that?
JOE TORRE: He's pretty special. You got tired of looking at him in October. He had a lot of success against us. He's certainly that dominant guy out there, and he's very durable.
But, again, you know, that's -- it would be more of a concern to me if it was in our division.
Q. You're going to have a pretty young rotation, at least on paper.
JOE TORRE: You know, wicket would take a lot more work, because young pitchers have the ability -- and these kids, I left the Yankees, and I left the Yankees with young pitchers with great futures. Unfortunately last year for them, they had some things that got in the way.
But you need somebody be to lead the way, there's no question. Like I say, does that mean you can't be successful? No, it doesn't mean you can't be successful. But if you do have that one guy they can follow to keep the pressure off the younger guys to go out there and be that guy to stop a losing streak on a regular basis, you know, it's a lot to ask. It's a lot to ask, ability aside.
Q. Any thoughts to that one guy being CC Sabathia?
JOE TORRE: He's pretty special. He's pretty special. In our league I wouldn't mind giving him the bat every couple days, either. He had the longest home run in Dodger Stadium until Matt Stairs hit one (laughter.) But he's obviously the pearl right now.
Q. When you hear him say reportedly tell Ned that he wants to be a Dodger, obviously there's a lot that goes into that happening. Does that get you excited that that is even a possibility?
JOE TORRE: Well, you know, you hear rumors, the fact that he prefers the West Coast. But the fact that he makes a statement like that is certainly -- it certainly teases you. Again, there's a long way between wanting to and going to, though.
Q. You were always one of the Yankees', if not their best, recruiting weapons in the off-season as far as getting you to talk to these guys and schmooze them a little bit. Has Ned even suggested to you that maybe you might want to give Sabathia a call?
JOE TORRE: No, that time hasn't come yet where I've been asked to call anybody. But certainly, as in the past, I'd be willing to do whatever I could. But that hasn't happened yet.
Q. Obviously the Yankees have had a big offer out to Sabathia for a while. When you were there you had lots of success recruiting for agents and getting them to sign to play in New York. Have you found free agents are more reluctant to go to New York than in the past?
JOE TORRE: I don't think it's free agents, I think it's individuals. I really do. The thing I never realized when I first went there, I knew New York was certainly different than other places, but it didn't impact me until I was there a few years to watch just players change from what you thought they were to what they became in New York.
That's not a total negative, it's just that they weren't as comfortable as they appeared that they would be. That's what New York does to you. It's a great city to play in, there's no question. The highs are very high. But it's not easy.
So I don't think it's free agents as a rule, I just think it's what the player wants for him, himself and his family.
Q. What's the state of your thing with Manny now?
JOE TORRE: I met with Manny a couple times. The season was over, and I talked to him. He certainly seemed comfortable playing here, and we certainly loved having him. He made a huge difference. I don't think that's any secret. You know, I think we're just going to have to wait and see.
I mean, he's with one of the elite agents, obviously, who's going to find out what the value is out there for him. I'm really not looking for that thing to be solved any time soon, only because of -- you know Manny. As we go back to it, Manny is Manny (laughter.) He bring a lot to the table, there's no question.
Q. You have another Torre to deal with in the recruiting of Sabathia, and that's Torii Hunter. He said he speaks to him all the time, and he's flying that halo down there big time.
JOE TORRE: I can understand that. But like I said, until I get the go ahead to do something, I'm going to sit on my hands right now. Again, that's not our league, so you certainly don't want to even go down the road there. We play them six times, and hopefully in the postseason.
I'm sure that it's great to be a free agent, it's great to be 28 years old, 27 years old, be a left-handed pitcher. He's got a few things going for him right now, and I think in fairness to himself, he's got to sit back and see what makes sense for him.
Q. Have you had a chance since the season ended to talk to Joe Girardi at all?
JOE TORRE: I spoke to him today, several times.
Q. Now that the season has passed, do you get a sense of how he felt about it, how he thinks the second season might be easier?
JOE TORRE: Well, there was a lot of pressure on him in my mind. Knowing Joey, knowing how serious minded he is, how proud he is, there's no doubt in my mind that his capability as a manager is certainly up there with anybody else as far as I'm concerned. It's going to be an adjustment. It was an adjustment period. A lot of things happened. There were a lot of players who were established.
You've got the rivalry with the Red Sox, which certainly over the last six or seven years has really taken on a life of its own. But I'm sure -- and I didn't ask him about what did you learn, stuff like that. I mean, we just talked in generalities. I think it beat on him a little bit this year.
I saw him in July. I called him after he came back from Boston the first time, after their first meeting up there, and said, "How did you like that one?" I certainly don't miss that crowd. It was exciting and I had 12 years of it, and I certainly wouldn't change anything. But enough is enough.
Q. Do you think he's going to necessarily become a better baseball manager? Do you expect in the second year things might be easier for him?
JOE TORRE: I think it'll be easier, no question. I think it'll be easier. Again, you're going in, and when you're a young manager you want to make sure you do everything. It's not that easy to satisfy all the things you have to satisfy in that city.
You know, Joey is, as I say, very bright, and I think it will be better for him and easier for him, even though it's not going to be easy. It's going to be easier for him.
JOE TORRE: I talked to him the last day of the season when he won the 20th game, and he said he was going to do it at that time. Just like when I called Maddux the day after the season was over and he told me at that time that he was probably going to retire.
Moose puts a lot of thought into things that he decides to do. I'm sure 300 would have been appealing, but it wasn't going to be that easy to get there.
Q. Do you think players have to adjust to Joe's personality being different than yours and that's more than a one-year process?
JOE TORRE: That's a player's job anyway, just like it's a manager's job to adjust to the different players that you have on your team on a year-to-year basis. You may have one team -- you manage a team, and all of a sudden you're replacing someone who was a certain type of player with someone else that's a different type of player. That's my job to adjust to that. Players have to do the same thing. It's just part of their responsibility.
But I think it takes a little time to sort of get used to the situation. I got lucky my first year. I mean, I had a team that had gone to the playoffs and was going to go to the playoffs two years in a row except for the work stop package in '94. So I was very fortunate to inherit a lot of responsible people, there's no question.
Q. Is it your perception that there was a general resistance to him being more of a stickler on a lot of things than you?
JOE TORRE: You hear a lot of things, especially when a club is struggling. You hear all the reasons why this happened and that happened. I don't pay a lot of attention. I don't think it's fair. New York, more than any other place, just the distractions are really tough. They're really tough.
It's the media's job to let the fans know what's going on. I think over, again, the last six, seven years it's become a lot tougher.
Q. Can you talk about your priorities and coming into this season, how you would rank them, the top few?
JOE TORRE: I think pitching. If you're going to utilize a young staff -- I certainly got excited about watching McDonald in the postseason, not necessarily the results but just watching him go out to the mound, because I didn't get a chance to see him in the spring because he had hurt his arm and then I went to Beijing and I never did see him.
And then to watch him again -- we didn't watch him in his normal role, we watched him in the bullpen. He certainly was impressive. But I think pitching, to me, it's always been a part of the game. Rod Walker taught me that a long time ago. We're the only game that you can't run the clock out, so you need guys to get 27 outs.
So in our case, Derek Lowe doesn't look like he's going to come back. But the fact of the matter is that we need someone that's done it a little bit. These young kids, Billingsley right now is that guy, and he's still learning. It's not that he's afraid to take on that role, but I think it would help everybody concerned if we could just get a little more experience.
Q. What about after pitching, though? The next couple of priorities, what would they be?
JOE TORRE: Well, pitching is complemented by defense. Last year we were a little short in the infield. Hopefully we're on the way to solving that.
But, again, offense to help our young -- like we want to help the young pitching; we want to help the young hitting. We're certainly interested in Manny, I don't think there's any question. He's one of a kind, probably one of the best four or five hitters that's ever played this game hitting to the right side in my lifetime. So we'll see.
As I say, I think he enjoyed himself with us, and that's certainly not enough. I think we have to find out what he's comfortable with.
Q. You've seen Derek Lowe from both sides. How would you describe him as a pitcher?
JOE TORRE: He's a gamer. He's a gamer, takes the ball, volunteers for extra work. I took him out of, what was it, Game 4, and he came back the next day and said, "I'm in the bullpen. I hope to get the call." He's a gamer. Son of a gun is tough.
I really appreciated that, because we ran into -- I think it was in Cincinnati where he was scheduled to pitch a day later than we wound up using him, and he had no hesitation in agreeing to do this. He took the ball. He took the ball and was pretty durable.
Q. You've always talked about Boston is such a high-pressure environment. Do you think his personality lends itself to the east coast?
JOE TORRE: He's done it before. He beat us in Game 7 back there in '04, and he won a big game in Oakland. You know, to me, he's an excitable guy, and he wears the emotion on his sleeve pretty much. But it doesn't mean that he'll have trouble handling that.
You know, Andy Pettitte is a guy that -- I know I mentioned it more than once -- you watch him prepare for a game, and he looks like he's scared to death. He goes out there and he may be jumpy, but he doesn't get in the way of what he needs to do.
I think Derek Lowe is a gamer and can handle the pressure.
Q. What was the thought process behind giving up on Dimmel, needing a lefty out of the bullpen situationally?
JOE TORRE: You know, you make decisions on what you want to do, and we just felt that Joe was inconsistent. Again, I love Joe for the same reasons that I liked E-Lo, the fact that he takes the ball, and whether it was good or bad, he went out there for you on a regular basis.
But he didn't have as good a numbers as he had against left-handers as he had in the past. Again, you're looking to do something different.
Q. Along the same lines, another guy that's clearly not coming back is Brad. I know you were going to meet with him.
JOE TORRE: I have not done that. I saw him at the Breeders' Cup and I talked with him there. I have not had lunch with him, which I would still like to do.
Q. Were there any issue at the end where you thought it was best if he went another way?
JOE TORRE: I thought it was best he go out there on his own. It was just -- he was uncomfortable. I know physically he had some issues. Out of the bullpen it looked like he was -- we tried to get him to help us out of the bullpen, and I think he was a little hesitant about doing that. The fact that he was going to become a free agent could have had something to do with that.
But it's too bad. Brad is a likable guy and he's got great stuff and he's still young, but we just felt that it would probably be best for both his and our options to go somewhere else.
Q. It's a heck of a transition, though, isn't it, to pitching, from last season to this?
JOE TORRE: Oh, yeah. Hopefully we can keep guys healthy this year. You know, Kuroda last year, he was in and out early, and all of a sudden you watched him win big games at the end of the year. That was huge for us.
Q. If it's possible, would you like to have had Hideki Matsui on your team?
JOE TORRE: Again, I can't do that. That's another tampering thing. I love Hideki, and I saw him just about a month ago, actually. He was at our dinner in New York. Again, hopefully for his sake he stays healthy, because I know the injuries were a big part of the inconsistency he showed last year.
Q. Do you think it's better for him to stay in the American League?
JOE TORRE: Well, I mean, the American League gives you more options, there's no question, with the DH situation. So I think managers managing the American League have a little -- can do a little bit more with the variety of players.
You know, I think Mike Scioscia does a great job not necessarily having that one guy who's a DH, but he uses that spot as sort of half a day off for these guys and rotates it, which I think is what keeps from tying your hands.
The American League gives you options as a manager that you can take advantage of.
Q. How do you feel about your chances if you went into the season at this point without a Manny and without the top of the rotation pitcher?
JOE TORRE: The thing is, when you go into the season as a manager, you're finding a way to make this work, whatever "this" happens to be. I know in the past I'd wring my hands over, I wish I had this guy or that guy. I wish this guy didn't get hurt. It starts with injury. I lost David Cone in '96, and I know Zim and I talked in the spring, if you lose this guy there's no way.
You have to make it work, and we were lucky, Gooden stepped up and filled the spot.
The last thing I want to do is have the players, when I'm talking to them in spring training or during the season, think that we shouldn't be here or we have no chance to win. I don't know what's going to happen.
Q. Did you see anything from the young kids that made you think that even without Manny they could produce this coming year?
JOE TORRE: Well, Manny is going to go away eventually. These kids are going to have to go out on their own and be more consistent. You know, Russell Martin, who I didn't see him before this past year, even though we all know his ability and he plays a very special position, he had some inconsistencies. He needs to get better for us to contend, and I expect he will. I spoke with him actually a week ago.
You know, these young players, it's nice to have a security blanket for them or a safety net, but eventually we all have to go out there on our own and be able to handle what we need to handle. But Manny certainly, just like the pitcher I was talking about, it certainly makes it -- again, easier is probably a bad word. You sort of have more security when you know there's somebody else that can carry some of the load.
JOE TORRE: Russell called me. We're going to exchange phone calls until he finds his way out here after the holidays. When I say out here, out west.
Q. Your thoughts on having Mark Loretta and ways you might use him?
JOE TORRE: I can't talk on that. We haven't done that yet. We're interested, and I like the type of player he is. He played against me when he was with the Red Sox, and he's a guy that looked like he handled the heat of the game really well.
I'm very -- I've been a fan of his for a long time, bouncing around from one team to another, because he'd do a lot of things. Plus he's a good hitter that can play a number of different positions, which is really a plus for a manager.
Q. I know there were some reports a few weeks ago about you were going to talk to Andy. Have you talked to him recently?
JOE TORRE: I talked to him the other day, and it was just -- I had called him and he finally called me back. It was like two or three weeks.
But the original call was based on the fact that his agent called the Dodgers. I jumped at that opportunity just to let him know that we certainly have interest if he's interested.
Q. Having talked to him a couple times now, do you get a sense that he wants to pitch again whether it's the Yankees or somewhere else?
JOE TORRE: Right now I think it is like it is most times after a season. He's back with his family, he's comfortable, he's recovering from the rigors of the season. But I have a sense that he'd like to pitch again, and certainly the Yankees are his first choice.
That's why he came back to the Yankees initially, because it was just something that he was missing, even though he was sitting home in Houston. The New York scene was different.
Q. If it didn't work out would you try to refer him out to LA?
JOE TORRE: You bet. Andy Pettitte is a stand-up guy, and he's one of those guys that finds a way to get things done.
Q. From what you were saying about the need for a veteran at the top of the rotation, given a choice, could you choose between -- if you could only have one or the other, would you go for Manny or CC?
JOE TORRE: That's a great question, and I'm not going to answer it. That is a great question. You know, you're dealing with two guys who are just about at the top of their game.
Yeah, I'm not going to get into that because I know -- I'm going to say I'm not going to answer that question, so I'll wind up answering that.
Q. Money is just so important in this thing --
JOE TORRE: There's no question money is going to be a big part of it. And, again, what's going on in the world -- it's nice to say baseball is not affected by a lot of things, but when you watch what goes on every single day and the different companies who you never even thought -- give second thoughts to, all of a sudden they're struggling and going out of business.
These are the same people that are buying tickets and doing things, so it's frightening right now.
Q. When you were asked a bunch of times during the Manny -- three months or so, would you have him back, you answered a lot, I want this guy back, highly motivated, happy kind of guy. It seemed to me that he maintained that demeanor throughout the season for you.
Any sense then, whether it be sort of the month between phone calls from the agent or the things he may have said walking out of the clubhouse about the price of gas or things like that, lead you to believe this is not the guy you would get if indeed you were able to come to terms with him?
JOE TORRE: I think I'd get the motivated guy, I really do. You know, Manny, whatever went on in Boston, evidently it was obviously more than the Red Sox wanted to put up with, and Manny needed to go somewhere else.
But Manny is a very proud guy. I mean, he spent a long time in Boston doing good things before something cropped up that made that split necessary.
But I just have a sense that Manny enjoyed the LA area. I mean, it was a place that he could basically lose himself in and just play the game and not have to deal with a lot of stuff he had trouble dealing with evidently.
Q. Have you spoken to him?
JOE TORRE: I haven't spoken to him.
Q. Do you think one hitter, be it Manny, be it Albert Pujols, be it Matt Holliday, can that one guy substantially alter the dynamics of a lineup, not just the one player but how everything works?
JOE TORRE: I think so.
Q. Why do you think so?
JOE TORRE: Because if you're the pitcher on the other team, you're saying I've got to get this guy out before this guy comes up, so it puts a lot of pressure on the opposition knowing there's one guy they want to stay away from in key situations. Again, if your guys understand that, also, which it took us a little time when we finally moved Manny to the three hole and it seemed to work best for us, but to me it puts a lot of pressure on the opposition, and I can tell you that from trying to manage against him for the last eight years. You want those guys hitting with nobody on base.
Q. It seems like the market is a little bit slow. Has it been kind of nerve-wracking at all?
JOE TORRE: I think it's the economy to be honest with you and the fact that when you're talking about lengths of contracts, you know, I'm assuming people -- as I say, even though I'm in LA, and I see Ned from time to time, I'm not into the day-to-day operation of what the talk process is. I'll get a call about this player or that player, but that's the extent of it.
You know, I think everybody is waiting, whether it's the agents trying to plan what they're doing, but it's a matter of who's going to be that first signed guy, and I think all of a sudden things will happen after that.
Q. Have you just not thought about it as far as watching this team kind of be put together?
JOE TORRE: Well, I'm watching, but as I say, the only thing I can do is give my opinion on what I think would help us and let the chips fall.
Q. Your owner has been a little bit concerned obviously. You mentioned the economy and contracts and contract lengths and stuff and how money should be allocated. Has he asked you for your opinion as far as risks of doing certain things?
JOE TORRE: We had a meeting, I don't remember -- today is the 9th? It was probably three weeks ago maybe. Yeah, we talked about the type of players that I thought would help our ballclub.
Q. Do you get the sense, say especially with a guy like Sabathia, do you get the sense where if you say this is a guy we really need, that that money will be spent?
JOE TORRE: I don't know that. I really don't know that. Again, first of all, years ago, you'd never even consider long-term pitchers. I remember I got a call in '96 about David Cone, would you give him a three-year contract. Wasn't it three-year initial already or three-year and an option? I said, yeah, I've got a two-year contract, give him a three-year contract; that's fine with me. That was considered a long-term deal at that time with pitchers because they were so fragile.
Now of course as pitching becomes more and more scarce, you have Santana and guys who can demand and possibly command that kind of money, and you have to look at them.
Q. Do you think he's worth the risk?
JOE TORRE: Do I think he's worth the risk? I think he's the best guy out there right now. Again, it's easy to ask a manager about players because I don't have to pay anybody.
End of FastScripts