Interview with Joe Torre
Yankees manager discusses strategy entering Game 1
Joe, obviously the Angels were able to set up their rotation the way they wanted to Games 1-4. Psychologically, what effect does that have for a club since you've been able to do it in the past?
Joe Torre: Well, after, you know, what we've needed to do to get here, I don't think we have a problem dealing with whatever we have to deal with. You know, the most important thing was getting here. Secondary, obviously, is setting up your rotation.
We've been pretty proud of the pitchers, the way they have pitched for us. Obviously, Randy Johnson got it done for us Saturday, and he obviously cannot start tomorrow.
But our rotation -- might as well tell you now -- it's going to Mussina tomorrow, Chien-Ming Wang on Wednesday, Randy will pitch on Friday and Shawn Chacon, if there's a Saturday, he will be the starter.
What went into that decision, and what does the rest of the roster look like?
Torre: I can't give you the rest of the roster because we have not set it yet, and the players that are involved haven't been informed yet. Same with the lineup. I don't have a lineup for you yet.
What went into that is, [I] have to line them up some way. Mussina, we held him out Sunday so we could start him on Tuesday. And Randy was Friday. So it was just a matter of who was going to start [Game] 2 -- was it going to be Chacon or Wang -- and we just decided to go Wang.
Just going back to Friday night when you arrived in Boston, if you could describe what it's been like for you, the totality of events, finding out surprisingly you were going to win, and then you're here instead of maybe at home, which a lot of people never thought was going to happen. [Describe] the whole swirl of events, and what has it been like for you?
Torre: You never look forward to going to Boston -- I don't care if it's April -- and I don't say that disrespectfully because you know it's a handful as far as what you have to deal with, not the least of which is the ballclub that you have to play. And knowing how important those games were, and not looking ahead to Boston, you know, the last two games we won in Baltimore were so immensely important, and especially after getting our rear-ends kicked on Tuesday and to come back and win a tough 2-1 game on Wednesday. Then, coming in there and playing not particularly well on Friday, you know, against the Red Sox, and then going out against Tim Wakefield, who, you know, has really ... he's had, I don't want to say an easy time with us, but he certainly has been very successful against us.
But the thing that you always hope happens is what did happen, is that we came out ready to play and we were very aggressive. Players were in a lot better shape than I was emotionally because a manager is so helpless when you decide on who is pitching and who is playing. Everything else is the players. They came out and did a great job and really sort of put the Red Sox on their heels a little bit. And with Randy pitching, getting a lead and losing most of the lead and coming back and getting those two runs back, I thought was big.
Probably the key for me on Saturday was the strikeout of Renteria with the bases loaded. There's no question in my mind, 3-1 count and working his way back and knowing how well Renteria hits pitchers, I thought that was really the thing that got Randy over the hump that day.
And you're right, I think Saturday morning, I have to come back here twice more to clinch anything; and Joe Girardi, I like to call him Don Zimmer with stats. He started his career under Zim, so he learned his tenacity from him and graduated from Northwestern so that gives him a leg up on a lot of us. He just informed me on the scenario; and to have it work out that way, it was a great relief and very emotional as most of you probably saw because I was so proud of the way my ballclub has really dedicated themselves over these last few weeks.
Now that you're here, rather than home --
Torre: You know, we wanted, we felt we needed to start our regular lineup yesterday for two reasons. One, sure, we want to go home. We haven't been home in a week, and we knew when we packed we were packing for a week and possibly 10 or 11 days. And we put our lineup out there to win.
You know, we obviously moved Moose out of the starting rotation into tomorrow's starter and wanted to find out some things about Jaret Wright, but we started all of our starters except Giambi. And when it looked that Cleveland didn't look like they were go to win and we were getting our rear-ends kicked, you know, after five innings, it really wasn't a letdown for us.
I think we're just so into what we're doing right now that we pretty much accept whatever happens to us as far as where we have to play. Because I think once if you get caught up too much, and in that little bit, too, was trying to knock the Red Sox out of the postseason. There's no question. I mean, that's, you know, you do one thing and it accomplishes a lot of things, at least on your end. You don't control everything because obviously Cleveland had to win that game in order for the Red Sox to be eliminated anyway.
We went out there and we got our rear-ends kicked, but nobody really had an, 'Oh, my God' type of, 'Woe is me' thing. You have to come out here sooner or later, you either come out here to start or come out of here in the middle. Only difference is if there's a Game 5, we have to come back here again.
Would you update us on Derek Jeter's knee and his status?
Torre: You know what, I don't know. And I'm saying that, and it's probably OK. But we've been in meetings from 1:00, and I had to call in and tell our sort of staff people to get the guys down on the field. But I'm guessing if it was something real bad, I'd have heard about it. In light of that, I'd say we're fine, but I have not seen the players yet.
Are you still going over 10 or 11 pitchers or have you decided?
Torre: That's what we have to finish talking about. Right now, I'm sort of favoring 11 pitchers. I think it's probably the safest way to go. You know, this ballclub, they do a lot of things, and it's probably more important if you do get a situation where you're going to change a pitcher early that matchups may be what you look for against this team, because they are very well balanced and they are very talented and they do a lot of little things. So we want to give ourselves some options. So that's why we're favoring 11 pitchers.
I'm pretty sure the Angels have never faced Wang. Is that a factor in wanting to go with him out in Game 2?
Torre: Yeah, and I think Chacon, he faced them, and he did well against them I think.
We knew that there wasn't a lot of information. There's no history, really, to speak of. Looking back, I guess if you have to try and analyze it, Wang was the starter before Chacon was, and you know, I know I was asked the question, why is Leiter out of the rotation; for Wang. Well, the reason Leiter was in the rotation was because Wang wasn't there, and we just felt that he has pitched well enough, long enough, to deserve the shot.
They are both in the rotation. Whether they both pitch is a question right now because you don't know if there are going to be three games, four games or five games. So it was based on pretty much that; that he's pitched well, Chacon has pitched well, and we knew it yesterday and had Chacon, you know, get a little dust off yesterday with just the inning that he pitched.
The idea that you've had five years without a world championship, I guess in the Bronx is considered a drought, and how that weighs on you as you move forward now?
Torre: Well, I said before, and you know, some writers who choose it take it the wrong way, I said I'd rather be sitting in the losing dugout in the World Series than watching it on television, and to me, that's a positive thing. Because you get to the World Series, and it's certainly to say the least, a great place to be. You're talking to a guy who for 10 years now, we've gone to six World Series and I had never been to one, other than buying a ticket. And it's special.
Again when you get in these short series, it's a crapshoot. Sure you play for the Yankees and work for the Yankees, there's no question that getting to the World Series is one necessary item that needs to take place. And winning the World Series is, you know, above that.
I remember, I know most of you have probably heard me rattle on about this, 2001, when we were involved in that great World Series against the Diamondbacks. You know, we had a one-run lead in Game 7, the ninth inning, Arizona, they score two runs and we lose the game.
And the following spring, I'm at Legends Field in Tampa and I'm signing an autograph for a fan, and I realize at this point how spoiled the fans were, too. This gentleman came down and said, 'You'll do better this year.' You know, when you realize that Game 7, leading in the ninth inning wasn't good enough to have a good year, then you know what's expected of us.
It's pressure, sure. But it's a good pressure, because George Steinbrenner certainly puts his money where his mouth is. He certainly spends money to put players in the clubhouse. If I have to deal with that pressure, it's much easier than dealing with the pressure of the same result with not as good a talent.
How is the culture of this team different from the culture of late 90's teams?
Torre: We probably have more superstars because of how much money they make, and that could have been part of the slow start, the inconsistency. I have a theory that when you have players that have done well for so long, they have a tendency to be a little more patient and figure it's going to get done. You know, we talked and not only I talked, the players, when we've had meetings, it has not only been the managers speaking; it's been the coaches and players contributing because we are trying to get this thing right. The one thing I sensed, even during the tough times early in the season, is that everybody I had a sense that everybody wanted to have this thing work. It's not like, well, you know, I'm doing what I need to do, that type of thing. I never got that.
So I think it just took a little time for these guys to realize they may have had to urge it a little bit and maybe go beyond what they normally go because they had to do it for more than just their own personal statistics. I think they had to help each other along. It worked for a little bit, you'd win ten in a row and then lose seven out of eight, it was very inconsistent, which clubs with our experience shouldn't suffer those inconsistencies. I could see Cleveland, yes, because they are dealing with something for the first time and I certainly think Eric Wedge did an outstanding job. They lost six out of seven, but I think the city should be proud of them; that's what happens when you have inexperience. You're going to have inconsistency. But we had more inconsistency than our experience dictated we should have.
You know, I think over the last three months, it started coming together and then over the last month, three weeks to a month, it was just like they were not going to be denied. I think Derek he had is it first when they were talking about getting to the playoffs, he said, 'These are our playoffs.' And that seemed to characterize what we needed to do and the kind of mentality. We were not thinking in terms of winning series; we were thinking in terms of winning every single game and do what whatever we needed to do.
The last three weeks, we had no days off for three weeks, and my concern was sending these guys out there day in and day out, we're going to spring a leak somewhere physically, and we were lucky not to. Mariano and Gordon took us the rest of the way, plus Chacon and Small, for sure, without them you could have all the effort that you wanted and you were not going to get the job done.
Are you waiting on Jaret Wright to tell you?
Torre: I have not. We pretty much made up our mind, but I have not had a chance to talk to the players. I mean, I would have given it to you, but our meetings ran much longer than we had anticipated otherwise we would have started them earlier. So I have not seen the players yet.
This past month especially, a lot of teams have been pitching Guerrero the way teams have been pitching Bonds in the past.
Torre: Good reason.
That's what I was going to ask you. Do you approach that the same kind of way? Do you look at it as the same kind of problem?
Torre: You know, the thing when you get, say, against San Francisco and you have a Barry Bonds and you don't want him to beat you, they have a different type of club. I think it's easier to do that against that club, because the falloff may be moreso than when you try to do it against this club. This club does so many little things very well, and that's a credit to [Angels manager] Mike [Scioscia]. They put the ball in play, [and] they run.
So to say this guy is you're not going to pitch to him, it's tough to do, because then you're playing into their hands where you're putting men on base and you certainly don't want to do that.
Now, that being said, if the game is in the balance, yeah, you want to be else to beat you, there's no question. But to not pitch to him, I don't think we're going to that. Obviously, we're going to try to be as organized and as efficient as possible. But this ballclub has too many little things that they can do that can be distracting and very effective against you.
Will you be using Flaherty?
Torre: And he has not been an All-American out. John Flaherty hit a very important sacrifice fly the other day against Wakefield, and his batting average doesn't show it, but he's still able to do some things for us. To me, pitching is such a huge part of any team. You know, it's such an important part of a game, and when you see something as comfortable as that seems to be, I don't want to mess with it. You know, I don't feel bad even saying that because when you watch [Greg] Maddux pitch all of those years, it was always that Javy Lopez didn't necessarily catch. I think the pitching is too important to worry about the offense.
How many catchers will you go with?
Torre: You know, I don't know. I think we have to look at the matchups and try to make a plan. We have a lot of guys now, even though we're down to 25, we have some options. We have Tino in the mix and Bubba Crosby certainly isn't out of the mix as a player. We don't know, as I say, we haven't put our lineup together yet. Ruben Sierra, but the danger of course is when you only have two catchers, once you do that, you're committed to using your DH, which you're willing to do when you're behind, because you pretty much do anything you need to do when you're behind.
But we'll look at it. I'm not saying we're not going to do it. It's just something that I think the matchups will tell you that you should do.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.