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An interview with Joe Torre

An interview with Joe Torre

Given the fact that you guys split the season series, can you compare and contrast both teams coming into this series?

JOE TORRE: Well, we played well. They've played well. We watched them on TV. I'm sure they did the same with us.

But it was weird. We didn't play them too far apart. We swept them in our place and then, you know, about a week or so later they swept us over here.

We know they're a good team. They're dangerous. They're dangerous. They're big inning guys. And it all comes down to being able to pitch. And, again, that's controlling the game and that's what we need to do. And when we've had success this year, just like the last series, we pitched really well.

But they do a lot of things that get your attention.

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There's a couple of young pitchers in the series that have some flashes of greatness and you've seen a lot of playoff pitchers over the years. Can you kind of define what it takes to kind of evolve into that?

JOE TORRE: I think it's all about being able to keep it a baseball game. I had Andy Pettitte my first year in '96 and the first World Series. I think he won 20 games, thought he was going to win the Cy Young that year and the first game he got waxed in the World Series. He just sensed that he had to do something different because it was the World Series. He quickly learned because he won 1 0 his next start.

I think it's being able to keep the game at a manageable pace and trying not to overdo and yet take nothing for granted.

It's pretty much, you know, as I say, I think the whole thing is not letting the game speed up for you too much.

You kind of walked right into my theme is middle relief, which is that Yankees team you had I think twice, a Braves team with what I think will have three Hall of Famers as part of their starting rotation. Why in your view is it overlooked every post season that 7, 8, 9, how important it is?

JOE TORRE: I got spoiled my first year. I had Mariano Rivera pitch the 7th and 8th. So we played six inning games. But to me the bridge to those, the setup and the closer are hugely important. That sixth inning probably for any manager is the toughest one to get through, if you're trying to do it out of the bullpen, because you have certain guys you want to use later than that, and the ones that you're using there are -- especially in the National League where you have to hit for the pitcher when you get to that part of the game.

But you're right; they are overlooked. I remember a couple times in All Star games we took some middle relievers because they were so good and it was really tough to overlook what they were doing.

What did you see in Cory Wade, because he really had not much of a resume when he came, that led you to believe that he could do this role now?

JOE TORRE: The one thing about Cory Wade and Bob Schaefer, my bench coach, kept talking about it. Because the one thing, when we came out of the bullpen we were pretty much hard, hard, hard, and we were given the same look all the time.

And Bob Schaefer kept saying he throws strikes, he throws strikes, he throws strikes. And yeah we did get a look at him in spring training. He's not one of those guys that's going to knock your eye out with his stuff.

But the one thing we noticed especially since we brought him up here is the fact that he does change speeds. Warren Spahn a long time ago said hitting is timing; the pitcher's job is to upset that timing. Cory does a good job of that with his variety of off speed stuff, plus he can throw a fastball by you if you try to sit on that other stuff. It's the fact that he can throw a lot of strikes and do it with a number of choices.

Even though there hasn't been a huge sample size, how do you feel instant replay has worked so far? I know there's been a huge sample size, a lot of plays on it, how do you think it's worked so far and are you curious to see how it will work here? There hasn't been a lot of instant replays so far. From what you've seen, how has it worked?

JOE TORRE: I think it's a good idea to get it right. In San Francisco we had one of those things. It certainly didn't shorten the game. I think they're trying to work out the bugs, because we had an unusual circumstance the last weekend of the season where Bengie Molilna hit a ball to right field. Looked like it was off the wall. And Bruce Bochy had told the runner to run for him if he gets on. Before Bruce had time to grab him by the pants, he was at first base. Once he gets to first base, Bengie is out of the game. And then they replayed it, and they saw it was a home run, so you had your pinch runner running around the bases.

To me, I think it's a good rule. I think the umpires for a long time, years ago, a little reluctant to ask for help. But I think they do it more and more now where they try to get it right and they try to get different perspectives, and now with the addition of the view with the video, I think gives them the advantage of seeing interference, fair foul, home run or no home run, stuff like that.

That's the only sampling we had was that one in San Francisco. But I think the concept is good.

How do you describe Kuroda and what do you expect on his performance in the championship series?

JOE TORRE: Hiro has done a great job. He hasn't pitched for a week and he pitched a wonderful game in that Game 3 against the Cubs. Again, he has a variety of stuff, fastball, breaking ball, he can sink the fastball. He throws a splitter and he can get the fastball up there in 90s pretty good.

And I just I thought for a very high pressure situation, especially being at home, that he controlled his emotions really well. And, again, he came out of that game really well. So I expect him to -- he'll be pitching Game 3 and I expect a good outing from him. Again, it's going to depend on how well we pitch. I know one thing we're ready to do it. It's just a matter of being able to do it.

You and Larry Bowa seem to be very different personality wise. What was it about you and your relationship that made you want to bring him from New York?

JOE TORRE: Brian Cashman, my general manager, when we were looking to do something different in our coaching staff, suggested -- he said what do you think of Larry Bowa? I think he does a great job of coaching third. I played against Larry. I saw the passion he played the game with.

And I said sure. And I talked to Larry and Larry said -- and normally when you call somebody and they ask you if they want to coach for you and a lot of times they'll say yes without trying to talk about it. But Larry basically wanted to have a certain amount of -- not necessarily authority, but when coaching third, takes -- there's a lot of responsibility and he certainly wanted to be able to do it the way he wanted to do it.

I have no problem giving that rein to, free rein to my coaches. But he's the younger version of Don Zimmer for me. He's got a great deal of passion. Shoots from the hip. Very emotional. But the one thing about it, he cares very deeply about all the stuff he teaches to these young players and never relents.

He's there on a day in day out basis and when things aren't working it's not a lot of fun to be around him. But he's got a big heart and he's got a great ability to teach and he's very thorough. And he never gets tired. But that was the reason a couple of years over there with him and I felt that both he and Mattingly were important for me to take to LA.

With all the success you had in New York, where does this rate as far as personally, the job you did managing here? Is it a case of do you feel some vindication after having to switch teams, or I'm curious what your opinion is of the job you did this year?

JOE TORRE: To me, vindication. I didn't necessarily feel I needed to vindicate myself. I just felt I just wanted to see if I could do it somewhere else. And it wasn't that I was looking to get out of New York. I have a lot of friends there. I still do. I just felt it was time to leave because it wasn't as comfortable.

And, again, my wife accuses me -- and she's probably right -- that I'm sometimes oversensitive and I may have made more of it than it was. But regardless, when I left there, I certainly didn't have another managing job in mind. I didn't think there was that managing job that would appeal to me at that point in time. After you manage the Yankees for 12 years, it's really tough to envision going somewhere else. But then the Dodgers called.

Once we understood that Grady wasn't coming back, we talked about it. And I was still a little reluctant because my daughter was 11 going on 12 and I wasn't wanting to uproot her and move her West, but my wife pretty much talked me into it saying she'd adjust to it. And she is doing that right now.

But I was curious. I certainly didn't plan on at 67 years old, 68 years old going somewhere else to try this thing to start over again, because I know my wife and I had talked, Ali and I talked about it before my last contract in New York. And she asked me about do you think you'd ever go somewhere else. I said I'm really -- it's just -- I think I'm too old to go over and start from scratch because I know, yeah, I had success with the Yankees, but I just don't feel that automatically makes me a success somewhere else; you still have to go earn your stripes.

So coming out to LA, I didn't know. I didn't know. I was just curious if this thing could be fun again. And it was a lot of work, but you could see it gradually taking hold, especially when we had so many young players and then we started making deals and Ed started making deals.

I think Casey Blake really sort of changed our personality a little bit. And then of course Manny did more of that, and Maddux, even though he didn't pitch a great deal for us, made a big difference. And all of a sudden this ball club sort of blended together. I think the word is satisfaction more so than vindication. I was curious, after you're in one place for so long you're not sure your voice carries the same type of -- if it makes sense to other people.

When Derek Lowe was in here earlier he said we're definitely the underdogs, after you swept the Cubs you probably shouldn't be. But is that kind of a status some players take comfort in they feel good about being in that kind of a situation?

JOE TORRE: I think everything has to be based on our record. We sort of had to defend all year how can we be considered a good team, and legitimately asked, if you're right around 500 and below 500, how can you expect to compete with other clubs that have had much better years.

So I guess in that regard you're underdogs. But at this time of year it's a whole new season. I feel that we're playing as well as we've played all year at this point in time. I certainly don't plant the seed that we're underdogs, because I don't want these players to think that I don't expect them to win.

But as I say we'll see. As long as we play our game we'll see if that's good enough to win. But I think we're having a little fun right now. That first series for me has been tough in recent years and to get over that 3 out of 5 and getting to this second round is great for me. It's fun, but, again, we obviously know we're not satisfied with just one round.

After all the years watching Manny from the other side of the field in New York, what has impressed you or surprised you most about him here?

JOE TORRE: Well, the one thing that surprised me and impressed me, and that's been his work ethic. The fact that he shows up at the ballpark, will grab a bat, go down to the cage and work endlessly. Don Mattingly is very impressed with watching that.

And I think a lot of the young players and even the veteran players have been impressed with how serious he is about what he does. I know we've seen a lot of frolic and stuff that he's done in the past. But as far as the baseball part of it, getting ready to play the game and hitting, it's a lot of work. And he does it on a regular basis. And I've been very impressed and a little surprised with that.

I knew personality wise I've been with him in a few All Star games where you sort of have a sense of his personality. He likes to have fun. But I didn't realize how programmed he was.

Sticking on Manny, how would you describe the type of player he's been in the post season, and as you look at the players you've been around throughout the years, some who have had success in the post season, some who haven't, what type of common denominator is there amongst the guys who have had success, if you can point to any one thing or a few things, what is it that they do that enables them to succeed this type of year?

JOE TORRE: I think in every sport it's the same. In my opinion. And that's that they're not afraid to fail. They crave the challenge. And they're not afraid to fail. I think we have a lot of players that have played this game. And I don't think it's a negative. It's just that these other guys just stand out the way they do.

There are other people that may go up to other players that may go up there and I can't do this or I can't do that. I'm afraid to do this, I don't want to fail. It's a mentality that's sort of playing around in there.

But I don't think that negative thought ever enters Manny's mind when he goes up to hit. And it's evidenced by -- and for me, you know, strike one, strike two, foul ball, strike three, he walks back puts his helmet down, you never hear him utter a sound, just pretty much waiting for the next time he has to do this thing.

With a team that has so many players that have never been to this level, how much and in what way can it make a difference that you have?

JOE TORRE: Well, I'd like to believe that they would believe me. Again, I'm a guy who didn't get to this level for a long, long time. And it started -- I managed a club in '82 that was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. But starting in '96, I mean, that was really my first experience deep into the playoffs.

And I told this ball club we lost eight games in a row on that one road trip. And I told them after we got swept -- actually it was right after we got swept right here in Philly -- I told them the next stop was Washington, I told them I felt we were going to win. The big part of it was the fact that, first off, we were losing and we weren't losing any ground, and we were losing but we were still doing a lot of good things. We were getting men on base. We were competing and the result wasn't what we needed for it to be. And we got very lucky.

I just had a sense that we had the ability to win if we just made sure we didn't lose our need to win this thing. Don't get frustrated by the fact that we're losing, just keep fighting it. And I think the fact that I have -- I've shown a lot of confidence in these guys, I'd like to believe they trusted me with that, because I tried to be consistent with it.

You've got a lot of young players that made the transition from being complementary pieces on a veteran team to being central to the team's success. And meanwhile some veterans that have had to settle into bench roles. Can you talk about the challenge of that transition and how that's worked out?

JOE TORRE: It's very difficult. I mean, I'm very loyal, I'd like to believe, to the more veteran players, because I just feel a certain amount of accomplishment to play in this league for a long time, the Major Leagues for a long time.

And for the most part, you know, Nomar played and Jeff played and when we got hurt early, Juan Pierre who is used to playing every day, he was probably the toughest for me right from spring training because with Andruw Jones coming on board and the young players, that he was pretty much not thought of as a starter.

And the fact that even though all these players want to play, they respected the fact that I have to make this decision. And even though I'm loyal to a lot of the veteran players, my first loyalty has to be the first 25. And they've made it very easy on me, even though it wasn't easy for me to tell them what we were doing.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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