JOE TORRE: Well, we have some players. We've had in fact, I've had a number of players during the course of last year after they announced that I was going to be the manager for the U.S. team, I've had a number of players express interest in playing for our team, but I have not made any commitments. By the middle of next month, actually January 16th, we'll be announcing the 28 man roster at that point in time.
Q. Why are you returning to managing at this stage?
JOE TORRE: You know, I've been asked many times since I've retired if I miss it, and I really can't say that I have. I mean, I enjoy watching it. And when we saw all the five game series go five games, I didn't want to be in either dugout for game five, just because of the stress factor. The whole thing about it, it's exciting when you win, it's devastating when you lose, and the devastation got a little bit too much.
But back to your question of why am I doing it, you know, this is basically our first game is March 7th, and hopefully our last game will be, what, the 19th or the 20th of March. So that's like a three week period where it's sort of like at my age I can say this, having your grandchildren, and then at the end of three weeks you turn them back over to your parents. It's nice. You're going to enjoy them, you're going to love them, and hopefully we all have a good time. But this is something that obviously is different than managing over 12 months a year, because it's more than the season when you're a manager.
Q. Do you think that motivating players or just getting into the rhythm of a game will be different for you at this point, or is it sort of like riding a bike?
JOE TORRE: Well, I think it's going to be different because you real don't know the name of your players, you don't know who they are. You know the types of players, you know what you want them to you want them all to want the same thing, and I'm under the assumption, and I have no reason not to believe this, is that anybody who's going to put on the uniform for the USA team is certainly going to be motivated to go out there and play to win.
It's like managing All Star teams; you basically don't have to tell players what to do because they did something to get on that team that certainly qualified them to be All Stars. But this is a little bit different. We're certainly interested in having top name players, but we're also interested in having 28 players, half of which will be pitchers, to make it work as a team, because you just can't have everybody that would start at every position two or three deep because I don't think it's fair, especially in Spring Training when it's important to make sure we send the players back, pitchers especially, because they're going to certainly take a lot more work than players to make sure they're returned and in shape to start the season because they'll probably still have if we do go to the end, which hopefully we will, they're still probably going to have about 10 days before the season starts.
Q. Can you share the level of excitement of participating in this tournament, and how much do you want to win this tournament? And also, it seems like Japanese Major League players are not playing for this tournament for the Japanese team. Do you think it will affect the status of the condition of the Japanese team?
JOE TORRE: Well, you know, it's certainly disappointing that some of the names that are familiar to us are not going to be participating. It doesn't mean that the Japanese certainly aren't going to send a formidable club. Things certainly have changed; back when I was traded to the Mets in 1974 and we went to Japan that winter and played against the Japanese leagues, you know, they were good, well disciplined, they continue to be well disciplined, but as far as being Major League caliber players, there were just a few.
But since that time, the impact that the Japanese player has made on our game has been enormous. I was very fortunate to manage a few not only Japanese players but all Asian players, and it's really a pleasure for a manager to have a player like that because of the discipline factor, and when you play seven months, 160 plus games, it's certainly necessary to have that kind of mindset.
So I'm sure even though some of the familiar names don't seem to be -- I don't want to say want to play, because I'm sure there are reasons why they're saying they can't play, but I have a feeling that the reigning champs will certainly have a very good ballclub out there.
Q. Have you contacted any players yet to gauge their interest in participating? If not, when do you plan to start that process?
JOE TORRE: Well, actually the process is ongoing, because I've worked the one thing I've learned now since I've been in the commissioner's office, there's certain protocols and ways you go about things. As I said, I've had informal exchanges with players during the season. I really went out of my way not to ask players, other than kiddingly, like during the middle of the year, but once you got down to playoff contention time, I certainly didn't want to mess with any players or even talk to them. I have talked to managers and general managers about certain players.
But no, I haven't had any direct contact officially with players. I have talked to Tony Clark on several occasions, and we do speak a couple of times a week, and he basically is gauging the interest. First of all, he gets a list of names from us who we feel would be a good fit for what we're trying to do, and then he goes and not only gets a -- gauges the interest from those players, but he certainly has other players who have contacted him in regards to being a part of the team.
Q. Along those lines, the previous WBCs, the U.S. team seemed to take one starting pitcher a game and then sort of go inning by inning with five, six, seven relievers. Any thought to taking more starting pitchers and maybe using them back to back before the bullpens?
JOE TORRE: I had a meeting with my coaching staff a couple of weeks ago. It's the first time we all got together. And needless to say, the pitching took up the majority of the time. And Greg Maddux, I felt that I was happy that Greg accepted being the pitching coach because he is probably closest to what's going on now with pitchers, and he certainly has certainly known over the years how to get in shape, what he needed to do to get in shape for the season.
And we've talked about sort of ponying and getting guys back to back as far as starters, like we do in Spring Training on certain clubs, where you'll have starters pitch in the same game.
I am reluctant to do anything that's going to be an issue for teams, individual teams. I think when we get our teams together, I'll probably -- I know Greg will contact pitching coaches and I'll contact general managers and managers on the use of their players, because we certainly don't want to do anything different than they would do in their Spring Training.
Is there a chance that we'd because by the time we get them, I think they'll probably have played a couple of games. They'll probably have pitched a couple of times. So this may be the third go around, which means their pitch count would probably be around 60, 65 pitches. You know, with that in mind, we will certainly contact the clubs in making sure that we're not going to do anything that's going to knock them off their plan for the season.
Q. Have you wondered at all whether this is the best time of year to have this Classic? Would the end of the season be a possibility sometime?
JOE TORRE: Well, now that I have this hat on, I'd say, you know, probably we've been maybe at a disadvantage because some of the other countries like Japan and of course the Latin American countries have played all winter long, and they're probably in better shape. And that's probably our biggest challenge is to get our team physically; and of course following the physical part, the mental part where you usually dig in.
The interesting part about our Spring Training in the U.S. is the fact that it's more a physical grind than it is a mental grind. So we are going to ask the players in early March, and that's why come the middle of next month we'll have names, so mentally they can start getting themselves ready to take on the competition the first week of March, which is a little different.
As far as any other time of year, you know, I guess the only logical -- other logical time of year would be at the end of the season, and you've got so many, especially pitchers, who have gone out there on 30 different starts that I'm not sure would be the best time for them. Ideally I'm not sure what would be the best time, but I think this time of year that we're having it is as I say, it's a challenge for us physically because we're certainly not into the best shape, and hopefully this year starting Spring Training a little earlier and having these guys know a little earlier will certainly change it a little bit for us.
Q. I'm curious how important you think it is for the U.S. to win this tournament, the way the U.S. Olympic team is supposed to win in basketball, or is this in your mind just a goodwill exercise to promote the game internationally?
JOE TORRE: Well, I think we certainly want to promote the game internationally. I think the interest -- and we have the best players in the world. I'm a little prejudiced in that regard. But you want to win. I mean, that's my mindset. And when I do finally when we nail down the players, that's going to be my conversation with every one of them. It's not the fact that we're just going to go out there, it's something more than an All Star team. Again, it may not be an All Star team, and as I say, being three deep at every position, because that would be an exhibition type thing. But it's going to be a team that hopefully is put together with winning in mind, in other words, having your role type players, your catchers and I'm thinking in terms of possibly three catchers because I'm not sure how many catchers the 7th of March are going to be catching nine innings. So that's the one area that a 28 man roster probably gives you a little bit of flexibility as far as taking maybe an extra catcher.
But it's going to be winning; there's no question. You put on a uniform and you're out there in front of the world to see, and you certainly want to put your best foot forward.
Q. The Dominican Republic has a presence in the Major Leagues. They had a couple hiccups the first two Classics. Do you think it's just a matter of time before they start to rise up in this tournament?
JOE TORRE: Well, I think we don't like losing. We don't like losing. But as I mentioned a minute ago, ideally it hasn't been the best time of year just in your baseball mind. It's like the end of the year you're ready to shut it down, and you start salivating a little bit in January, and then February get yourself ready to get yourself physically in shape, and then all of a sudden, boom, you've got to play for competition. It's been a little different for us emotionally, I think. So hopefully after the two previous Classics that this time around we have a little better feel of what we need to do mentally, I think, going into Spring Training.
You know, I think it's a matter of time. But remember, baseball is played over this period of time. It's like postseason. You know, you really you're allowed to have a bad game, but not in postseason. And this is basically what it's about. It's a championship format. So you have again, if you have a pitcher out there that doesn't have his best stuff and all of a sudden the game gets out of hand a little bit.
But I think it's certainly -- when you're thinking about your competiti
on, I mean, the Latin American countries certainly have been very prominent, because I mean, look at our rosters. It's obvious that they're such a big part of what we do at the Major League level.
But again, when you say it's a matter of time, when you play this thing every, what, four years, that could be a long period of time. It's just a matter of time because you don't play this thing every year.
But they certainly we look at the clubs, Latin American clubs, as certainly tough opponents. But it's going to come down to how well you pitch and how well you catch the ball. That's basically what winning is all about in my opinion in short series.
Q. How important is it to you in your mind that these 28 guys show up this spring basically ready to go, ready to play baseball? They don't have a lot of time to get ready from Spring Training.
JOE TORRE: Well, I think the pitchers are reporting, what, somewhere around the 13th, 14th of February. They're going to have a good deal of time. They're going to be in camp, and then the rest of the players usually show up five or six days later.
By the time they come to us, which I think is going to be around the 2nd of March, we're going to probably play two exhibition games and work out for a few days. They should be -- they would have already played Spring Training games. But the biggest difference, you know, just -- I'm speaking as a player and of course as a manager, you know, Spring Training was about the physical part, getting yourself in shape. And then you sort of gear toward the mental part toward the later part of Spring Training when you get the nine guys you want to play and you put them on the field at the same time.
This is a little bit different. When you do talk to them, when we do set our roster, that's going to be the main topic for me is this is a little bit different than your body is used to. We're just going to have to have a little conversation with ourselves basically to get ourselves ready to go because it's going to be for keeps starting the 7th of March for us.
Q. What do you expect from the groups Canada, Italy and México?
JOE TORRE: Well, we certainly know Canada is no stranger. We have a Major League club, two clubs in Canada for a long period of time, and Ernie Whitt, he's done this stuff before. Italy, I'm a little partial, too; I've got some ancestry going back to Italy. And of course México, we've got plenty of big league players that have come from México.
Any time you get an elimination series that's just going to go on for a few days. They put guys on the field, and they want to win as bad as we do. It's just sort of like managing the Yankees for me because everybody for the USA always want to put on their Sunday best to make sure that they see a team that they're going to be proud of. So that's one thing I guess I'm sort of used to, is that when they see that USA across our chest, they're going to it's going to get them to another level, and we have to be ready for that.
Q. Do you think having managed the Yankees prepares you for this, and looking back on your managerial career, was there always something special about being a manager in New York, specifically the Yankees, different, more challenging?
JOE TORRE: Well, I noticed it before I even went to the Yankees because every time we played the Yankees whether I was a manager or a player, even when they weren't -- they didn't have a good team, they always got your attention. That uniform got your attention, especially you go over there to Fort Lauderdale and you'd see Mantle and Ford and those guys walking around, that got your attention.
So it got me yeah, I think it's the same mindset for me because we'd always seem to bring out the best in teams. I remember going in and George wasn't too happy about this, I think we went into Kansas City, they had just changed managers, Buddy Bell took over, and all of a sudden they sweep us a four game series. Trust me, George wasn't happy about that. We weren't either. But he let us know he wasn't happy.
But that's what happens. Teams get pumped up when they see the Yankees, and we've seen it in the Olympics. They get pumped up when they see that USA.
Q. (No microphone).
JOE TORRE: Well, yeah, I think when you're talking about players that go out there and -- it's important to get it done. You know, it's not necessarily look at my record; it's what I need to do starting today. I mean, that's -- I was very fortunate when I managed over there with the Yankees. It never got blase or nobody ever felt that they could live off last year because you always had to prove yourself on a yearly basis, and that made the managing easy, easier, because of the fact that these guys always felt like they had something to prove, and I think that's important for any manager to have from his own ballclub.
Q. Since there's going to be a lot of unfamiliar players on other teams, how heavily do you plan to do your scouting, and have you ever watched any of the exhibition games like Japan and Cuba played in October?
JOE TORRE: I have people that have. We have scouted. We've had people down watching those games. I don't think anybody is more prepared than my general manager, and that's Joe Garagiola, Jr., on getting information. But again, it's all going to come down to when you're on the field at the same time. Even though you have information, it's still strange being there with playing against teams you really don't know a whole lot about maybe except for a player or two.
That's why I always felt baseball, as opposed to other sports, it's more important how you do what you do as opposed to trying to keep somebody else from doing what they do, and that's really going to be my goal, for us to do what we can do as well as we can do it as opposed to just trying to go to somebody's weaknesses.