Can you give us the reasons for Ohlendorf and Veras?
JOE TORRE: Veras, we all agreed early on about Veras. The experience he's had at AAA. He was up with us at the end of last year, saved a game or two. He's gone through some physical problems. He's completely healthy. And then what he showed us here. We were pretty impressed with the ability to throw strikes, the ability to throw a number of pitches for strikes.
And as I say, he just seems to be able to handle what we're going to ask him to do. As far as Ohlendorf, this was not as simple a choice as Veras. We had to decide if we wanted a lefthander, if that was really more important than deciding on who we think was our best option. We had Edwar Ramirez who had pitched for us a good part of the year. But we were very impressed with what Ross Ohlendorf brought to the table, ability wise, stuff wise.
Again, with the last two guys, we understand the lack of experience and especially in Ohlendorf's situation where he's only been a reliever for a couple of months.
We had our final meeting this morning and it was unanimous on making that choice based on his stuff and his makeup. His makeup.
This is your 12th straight trip to the postseason, which is obviously a remarkable achievement, especially for somebody who doesn't have a contract for next year. And I was just wondering, in contrast to all the other teams in this tournament who probably consider their seasons already a success, the Yankee mentality is if we don't get to the World Series and presumably win the World Series our season is not a success. Is this undue pressure that you guys put on yourselves and do you sometimes feel like being a victim of your own success?
JOE TORRE: Well, that's a good question. I think the fact that you put it on yourself, I think that's appropriate, the way you phrased it. And as far as I'm concerned what we've done here, making up the ground we needed to make up and finally get to level ground where we are right now, my feeling is that we've gone through our pennant race, and we've gone through playoffs.
And I'm talking about this year to get here because how important it was for us to win every game. And the only thing I have said to our ball club is go out there and just let her go and play and we'll see what the results are.
I agree, I think in past years with the need to get to the World Series, the need to win the World Series, 2001 -- I told you the story. We go into Game 7 with a one run lead in the 9th inning, went to spring training the following year after losing that series in the bottom of the 9th and fans are saying we'll do better the next year.
So it's one of those things you still have to understand that these players have to go out and trust their ability and that's pretty much what we're trying to focus on right now as opposed to controlling the outcome.
And I think probably too often in the past we've tried to control the outcome more so than play the game. And whether it's fair or unfair is immaterial, you know, because that depends on whose eyes you're looking at it through.
Again, do you kind of feel that you yourself are a victim of your own success? Because like people could say you spoiled them, you won four World Championships and they expect you to do it every year?
JOE TORRE: Again, it's what you expect of yourself, too, Bill. And right now I feel very excited about going into this considering how much work it took for us to get here.
I don't feel any more pressure in doing what we're going to try to do now in the month of October that I felt probably more pressure the last week of trying to get to the postseason than I'm going to in this series.
As I say, it's all trial and error. And obviously the amount of pressure we've put on ourselves in the past, guys going out there and basically when they swing the bat trying to make the ball go between two guys in the outfield, that stuff isn't possible.
You gotta trust your ability. Do I feel it's unfair? As I say, that's immaterial. It's what we need to do. And I think we have to concern ourselves with our perception as opposed to what other people think we should accomplish. And hopefully we can do that.
You haven't faced Sabathia since 2004. Can you talk about how tough he is especially on left handed batters and what kind of a challenge it is?
JOE TORRE: There's no question. When you look at the kind of year that C.C. put together, you're right, we haven't seen him in a few years. Of course he's much more polished than he was then.
And he goes out there. He's a horse. There's no question. They ride him all the way. And he's given them everything they've needed. And I was toying with messing with the lineup, inserting a couple of right handers, I just decided that this group of guys, left handed, right handed, these are the guys that got us here.
And the reason we were able to turn things around the second half our left handers started handling left handers a lot better. Not that Sabathia is your run of the mill left hander, we certainly know he's not that.
But obviously we're going to have to go out there, and like we've done so often in the past, go out there and try to match 'em. And that's what Wang's job is, to try to keep things close and hopefully we win the ball game and it doesn't necessarily -- it's not necessary for us to beat Sabathia, as long as we win the game.
So we're going to try to play and keep our mind set on the little things we've done to get here and hopefully we can succeed doing that.
Can you go into a little more not having a lefthander in the bullpen with their lefthander?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, that was certainly one of the considerations, Ron Villone. We did give it a lot of thought. And I sort of analyzed, even though, trust me, I mean, you give Ron Villone the ball, you know he's not afraid. You know he's going to give you what he has. His command isn't always what you'd like it to be or he would like it to be. And we just -- basically I decided that when it came down to clinching the games that we needed to clench and winning the games we needed to win in the month of September, we really didn't go to him in 6th, 7th, 8th inning, it was pretty much that decision.
Again, taking nothing away from him, it was just the ability of the other guy, Vizcaino and Ramirez at the time and guys like that we kept going to and Joba when he came on the scene.
What do you remember about your first postseason as a manager?
JOE TORRE: First postseason as a manager? I've got to go back to '82. And I remember we started the game, and I remember the umpires met with us, saying we're expecting rain. Any chance of these not being able to complete nine innings, we're going to pay attention to that and call the game. So in four innings, 4-0, lead and the game was called in St. Louis. And I had Phil Niekro as my pitcher. It wasn't something they blindsided me with. It was disappointing. The Cardinals ran over us and won the World Series.
How is the experience for a rookie manager in the playoffs?
JOE TORRE: To me, I think Eric Wedge did a terrific job. I told him that this spring. And in fact what this ball club went through the last year, it's all about why they're there this year, the experience they have and they went through and they struggled with last year.
But they didn't feel in not making it last year that they weren't capable. And I think that comes from the top. He's very bright. He knows his baseball. More importantly, he knows his people. And I think that the fact that they're starting at home is probably a plus based on the fact they've got a lot of success here.
Looking at your lineup and the composition of your roster, you have some more speed in the outfield with Damon and Cabrera together. You have Mientkiewicz in there, younger arms in the bullpen. In your mind, is this a better built ball club than for the style of baseball than you've had the last three or four years?
JOE TORRE: We hope so. Cano and Cabrera had the experience last year, even though we did make some changes when Sheffield and when Matsui came back last year, and sort of took Cabrera out of the mix. Games we play, especially the games we play against Boston every year, we play 18, 19 games, you feel like you're in a playoff game every time you do that. These guys have had that experience.
The unknown it's Ohlendorf and Veras and of course Chamberlain, even though he's been very impressive. And Hughes. We trust them all. But this is the first time they've been playing in October.
So it's going to be interesting for us to watch. We obviously feel comfortable with putting this responsibility on their shoulders. But it is very different. And the fact that young kids today are so different than years ago when I played, because these guys just feel they belong here. And it's not in any cocky way. It's just a very confident group of people which, as I say, the composition of this club, aside from the lack of left handers coming out of the bullpen, we feel good about it.
When you talk about pressure and the younger players, do you think some of them, their personalities, sort of easygoing, Cabrera, Chamberlain and in particular Cano may help them in that situation?
JOE TORRE: I think when young kids come up and they see other young kids, to me that is something that gives them a bit of support. I played against this guy or I played against this guy. He can do it, I can do it.
I think I found out today, because we were going back and forth on Ohlendorf, we knew he loved this stuff. We just weren't sure. He's been inquiring all week, I come to find out, about the roster. Which I like.
I think it's great. These kids they don't have negative thoughts. Does that mean they're going to succeed? No. But the fact that usually the team and the players that do well are the ones that aren't afraid to fail and hopefully that's the case with these guys.
Ten years ago you guys came here, lost in pretty staggering fashion. A year later you guys were probably in the biggest hole you were that year and you won two big games, Games 4 and 5. When you look back at those two years here, does that help forge the soul or the core of the team, that they went on to win those three straight championships?
JOE TORRE: Wedge, last year he used it as a stepping stone for this year. Last year we came in -- didn't we have a 2-1 lead and then -- maybe not. I'm not sure. We won the first game. Whatever it was, but I remember we were in a position to -- I guess we were in a position to put it away when Mariano gave up the home run to Sandy Alomar. And it was at that point that you had to find out about Mariano Rivera and we spent a lot of time the following year with him in the spring just making sure that he didn't keep that memory as a negative as opposed to a learning process.
It was a situation, two balls, no strike, if memory serves me. He wanted to throw a strike. Boom. Sandy let him know about it. But he grew from there. And to me I think that's the part about getting older, that you maybe use constructively is the fact that instead of dwelling on things that could have been different, you try to figure out how you can learn from it and teach players from it.
But, yeah, I think -- first, I've been very fortunate for a guy who during his whole playing career never got to a post season came close, last day of the season a couple of times. But all of a sudden to experience what I've experienced here over the last 12 years, all of a sudden I'm a veteran of this thing and I never picked up a bat, which I certainly wish that was the case that I was able to.
But understanding it's still baseball and trying to teach people from my experience in the postseason and lack of my experience in the postseason, but when you watch the youngsters, like Posada and Jeter when they came on the scene ten or 12 years ago, how much of a difference they made in our ball club, I'd like to believe every day is a learning tool for us, whatever happens, good or bad.
When your lefthanders were struggling so much early in the season, did you ever doubt that plan did you ever doubt in that plan to have so many lefties in the lineup and also what were some of your other options?
JOE TORRE: I really didn't have any options. I mean when you look at Abreu and you look at Matsui, you look at Damon, I think those three. Cano is one of them, too, but again he was a young kid. Hit .340 last year. Still a young kid. You can't really count on what he was going to do. Johnny Damon physically wasn't all there. I mean, this is later on. At the time it was going on you're saying if these guys don't hit we're not going to win.
I mean, it's not like you're looking to substitute because of the quality of these people and players that we're talking about. I wasn't about to make wholesale changes, because I don't care how good the player was that you were going to put in for them, they weren't as good as them. Once you make a decision how you're going to go about it, if it doesn't work, then we made the wrong decision. But I think in looking back, Damon didn't get -- he wasn't in shape. Bobby Abreu had the rib cage in spring train and never got in shape until later on. Matsui started on the disabled list.
So I think there are legitimate reasons even though at the time we weren't going there mentally. We were just more confused about the at bats that they were having against left handers. Figuring if we misjudge these guys and stuff like that. But we weren't about to go anywhere else.
As far as tomorrow is it a possibility?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, we did. We thought about Duncan. And I thought about Duncan at first base. And I just felt with the number of left handers that Cleveland can throw at you, left hand hitters, you know Mientkiewicz and Wang, a ground ball pitcher, we feel defensively we're trying to hold people in pretty much what we did in that last game in Boston.
We're just trying to hold things in and hopefully we can grind it out. Because our left hand hitters, I have no hesitation to have them hit against a left-handed pitcher. I grant you Sabathia is something special, no question. Again I have trouble going into Game 1 if I didn't have Matsui and Abreu and all these guys in the lineup even though it's going to be a tough job, because of how much they meant to us getting here.
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