Winter Meetings interview with Joe Torre

. Do you have any opening remarks?

            JOE TORRE: I don't. Just answer questions, if that's okay.

 

            Q. I'm doing a story on the manager and general manager relationship, and how it evolved during your career, with the development of the advance metrics and all that.

            JOE TORRE:  Well, yeah, I guess I was still managing when this started, the metrics came in. And I know that Brian Cashman used the metrics. Again, it's a combination. A combination of numbers and feel, at least that's the way I went.

            As a manager, managing was ‑‑ well, baseball, period, was always a personal thing for me. And I really put a lot more stock in just the feel of the players and there were, obviously there were numbers that if something jumped off the page for me, then, you know, I would pay attention to it. But I didn't use the numbers as much as they're used right now.

 

            Q. Was it more just for the front office folks?

            JOE TORRE:  Well, you know, as I say, if there was something. But mainly the numbers I used were really ‑‑ well, there were only pitchers and players. But in pinch‑hitting situations, if there was something. And again, it had to be something that had to be a good ‑‑ just a good number of at‑bats for me to pay attention to it.

            Certain things I look for in matchups, you know, maybe not the fact that ‑‑ maybe a guy was like 3 for 20, but there were no strikeouts in there. So that told me more than a guy being, say, 0 for 4 and three of them were strikeouts. That would tell me a little bit more.

            And then, of course, the pitching, I put a lot of weight in the fact that if a pitcher pitched better at home or on the road or in a particular ballpark. In fact, if you go back to 2001, in the Division Series against Oakland, Mike Mussina had pitched very well in that ballpark. And he pitched Game 3 and that was the one that I think Victory and Jeter play.

 

            Q. There was a lot of attention being paid to the advancements in replay. One of the arguments is eliminate some of these arguments, have to accelerate the game, and now we're into a situation, do you think it's a big deal, what's left to be done?

            JOE TORRE:  Well, I didn't think we were concerned about speeding the game up by bringing in replay. I think it was just a matter of not ignoring the technology that was out there that could make our game better. And to be honest with you, I didn't think replay, although you needed to have it, obviously, during the season, but I thought it was more important in postseason, because of the number of games you play, where one game can tip the scales.

            During the season you play 162, you know, and I remember talking to a general manager or two and this was before the replay and they would always talk about, well, this call that was so obvious, blah, blah, blah. I said, How about when there was a bad call made in your favor? Well, we don't count that.

            So I think what we're looking at now in regards to pace of game is strictly pace of game. Not necessarily length of game, although that would pick up if you helped the pace. And part of that was I guess you could look at the replay stuff where the challenge system, where we had managers go out. I tried not to take that away from them.

            Initially when we talked about rolling out replay we basically talked about if you go out of the dugout you can't challenge it. That was the first thought we had. And then I said, I hate to take that away from the manager. But I didn't really, in thinking that way, I really didn't plan on watching managers meander on out, which really didn't ‑‑ that looks bad.

            So we're going to talk about that tomorrow with the managers. I have talked to a number of managers during the course of this last season, probably two‑thirds of the managers. And that was something they were uncomfortable with.

            And they made adjustments on their own. I know Ned Yost, he pretty much just came out of the dugout top step, just to sort of alert the players that I may be doing something. And that worked well for him.

            So we're looking at something like that. But, again, it's going to really depend on our meeting tomorrow and what the managers favor, because this is their baby.

 

            Q. Now if you take the replay out of the equation, just talk about the pace of the game, you've been at this a long time. At the time you were playing the game to now, the time it takes to play a game ‑‑

            JOE TORRE:  They had no visual proof when I started playing this game. You have to go on my word.

 

            Q. How big an issue is it or is it being overstated?

            JOE TORRE:  Well, I don't think it's being overstated. There is some dead time. We've added, during the course ‑‑ and this was really going on when I was a player, walkup music.

            But the thing about being a player, whether you're a pitcher or a player, is the fact that you become a creature of habit; guys getting in and out of the box, Garciaparra, if you remember, used to step out of the box and adjust both batting gloves and get back in. It was more of a nervous habit than anything else.

            That's the thing we have to make sure ‑‑ we don't try to disrupt what players are used to doing. We sort of in talking to the Players' Association about it, we're just seeing if there's a way we can speed the game up or the pace of the game without changing habits, because we certainly don't want to get blamed for a guy being uncomfortable doing what he needs to do.

            First of all, back when I played we didn't have batting gloves. Not that you didn't have them, you never used them. If you had them on one hand or stuff like that. I look in the middle '90s when the strike zone may have been a little different, and when you watched how those Braves pitchers pitched, they could go through the eye of a needle with such great control. And then it looked like the strike zone sort of got back to where it is now.

            And the thing I notice, our pitchers, try to, from the first pitch, they're trying to stay away from contact. I don't know if it's just habits they got into. They're trying to make a perfect pitch every time. Depending on your ability, that could be an issue. And that's what can really run into a little more lengthening of the game.

 

            Q. How did you like the 20‑second pitch clock, any chance we'll see that in the Major Leagues?

            JOE TORRE:  I don't know, you know. I was never a proponent of introducing the clock in baseball. But I went out there the one afternoon and I was pretty impressed. It was there. But it really wasn't intrusive in any way. I thought it was just something that was sort of part of what they were doing. And granted, we have youngsters in the Fall League that we can sort of tell what to do.

            Again, it gets back into the Major Leagues, you're talking about having players do certain things. But I think the clock worked in that environment. I'm not discounting down the road that it may be a benefit, maybe some kind of variation of it.

            But I was very surprised that it really didn't stand out to me, which is good. And yet it got the job done. And if you watched the players play, nobody seemed to be uncomfortable doing it. It just sort of picked the pace up of the game. And it was ‑‑ as I say, I was pleasantly surprised.

            So, again, I'm not about to say it can't happen, but I think we're a little ways away from that.

 

            Q. The clock being phased in in the minors?

            JOE TORRE:  We just came back from a meeting with Pat O'Connor and the Minor Leagues. And it was part of the discussion today. And it's something that we'd certainly like to see more testing done with it. And there is a chance that will happen.

 

            Q. What kind of feedback have you gotten from the players on that, if any?

            JOE TORRE:  You know, Tony Clark and I, you know, we communicate often. And this is something ‑‑ Tony is on the Pace of Game Committee. And again, that's just one of the subjects we're going to talk about.

            Again, players weren't there, so they can't really say. They didn't take part in the Fall League, so you can't really get feedback. I think any kind of change in our game ‑‑ and I can't dump it on the players, because we're all the same way. We've been into this phrase of, That's the way we've always done it stuff.

            And I understand it. Change is going to have to, I think, be done with the understanding you can't say, This is what we're going to do, because the players play the game. And we want to make sure that we're not disrupting what they do. But I think there's still some time in there or still some dead time in there that we could pick up. And we're into discussion. John Schuerholz has had his fill of being committee chairs, with the Replay Committee and of course the Pace of Game Committee, and yesterday we had a meeting on the Replay Committee. Tomorrow we have a Rules Committee meeting.

            It's an ongoing discussion, which is good, because I think the discussion is more credible than just saying, We should do something about this. I think we're into the stages of trying to get down to the nitty‑gritty on that.

 

            Q. I don't think it's equivalent of asking the father which one of his children loves more, if 3‑2 is what used to be and maybe we're getting back, and middle was 10‑8, do you have a preference?

            JOE TORRE:  I can tell you, matching Madison Bumgarner in the postseason was like an artist painting a picture for me. I mean, he obviously used scouting reports and his ability to do what he needed to do with the baseball.

            I think a good number of the fans find it entertaining and TV, I'm sure, does if the lead changes hands a dozen times. But as a former manager, that's not good for your stomach when that happens.

            But I find what Bumgarner did and watching Maddux all those years, he was the one guy that I watched pitched and I said, I'd like an opportunity to manage him. I was lucky, I had the last month of the season in '08 just to ‑‑ because even though he pitched against you, you admired how he did it. Because he wasn't a power pitcher, and he showed you how changing speeds could be so deadly, as much as 100 mile an hour fastball.

 

            Q. Can you get a 10‑8 score generation to sort of enjoy 3‑2, from an entertainment, are you worried about it, because it seems to be a big conversation at times?

            JOE TORRE:  Well, right now we've had a lack of offense lately. And we're certainly looking at trying to diagnose that.

            To me, again, I've been involved in both, obviously, all the years I've been in the game. And we had one in the World Series, I think it was ‑‑ what was it, Game 4 of the World Series we had one of those in '96, where I think we won 10‑8 or 8‑6, whatever the heck it was. Those games can be ‑‑ you hang on every inning, depending on ‑‑ if it's a 10‑1 game and it turns out to be 10‑8, that's not really exciting. But if it goes back and forth and it's a high‑scoring game.

            Although the Commissioner and I differ on like the All‑Star Game in Milwaukee where it was a tied game, 7‑7, he wasn't too crazy about that. And I was one of the managers. But I had said to him, but still it didn't carry any water, I said, If you had the fans coming through the turnstile and asked them if they wanted to see a 7‑7 game, or whatever the score was, or an 8‑0 game, which one they'd want to see.

            But, again, our game is not meant to be a tie. That certainly took a lot of enjoyment of how the game was played.

 

            Q. Getting back to pace of game, no pitch intentional walks, was that discussed?

            JOE TORRE:  Yeah, yeah, it was discussed. Of course, you see the postseason how someone fired one through the back of the screen in trying to walk somebody.

            But in looking at it and having the guys who pay attention to all those minute details, it didn't save a great deal of time. There aren't that many intentional walks. And it doesn't take any time to do it.

            Did we talk about it in the Rules Committee? It will probably be brought up again tomorrow. But just from our research it really didn't save any measurable amount of time.

 

            Q. The managers who use catchers now as kind of like proxies a lot more than when you played. It seems like there are a lot more interaction from the pitcher and catcher on the mound.

            JOE TORRE:  Well, I don't know if it's more so. I think it's depending on the pitcher and the situation. When I was managing the Yankees, 4‑hour games were ‑‑ 3:20, 3 and a half, 4 hours with the Red Sox, because every single game was a season when you played them. So you made more trips to the mound and you made sure situations, everybody was on board.

            But the catcher, even back when I was playing, the catcher and the manager were ‑‑ had more conversation than anybody else. I don't think that's ever changed, really. Except maybe probably now instead of the manager talking to the catcher, it's more the pitching coach that will talk to the catcher.

 

            Q. Any conversation about that playing game now? I don't know if 162 could ever be changed. Has there ever been a conversation about bringing 162 to 154, making it the best of three, any way to play with the schedule in a playing series, as opposed to a playing game?

            JOE TORRE:  Playing game to me is dynamite, really. I've been a proponent of that ever since the Commissioner introduced the second Wild Card.

            There has always been talk about anytime the season's going to end or the series could end in November, there's always conversation about shortening the season. But that really never gained any kind of momentum.

            And again, we discussed the two out of three situation. And probably the biggest drawback to the one game is that one of the teams that's in it doesn't get a chance to watch it. But I think the impact, and this past series was certainly an indication, we had two Wild Card teams. And the team that won had to play that Wild Card on the road. You talk about earning your way. And that was pretty darned good.

            But I think starting the postseason with basically a Game 7 is really an attention getter, I think.