10/08/07 5:43 PM ET
Torre pregame interview
Yankees manager disusses starting Wang, Clemens' injury
By / MLB.com
JOE TORRE: Well, you know, my guess is, everybody's on deck tonight. You know, we just, we could have gotten a little luckier in the eighth inning when he had the first two outs with very few pitches. But the fact of the matter is my guess is he is available for an inning tonight.
Aside from that, everybody else is on deck, too.
This is kind of a tough one: With all the turmoil that happened yesterday, do you think this kind of stuff motivates the players any to play harder?
JOE TORRE: If they do, then there's something wrong, you know. To me this game is all about self motivation. It's not about what somebody is going to force you to do. I'd like to believe that it's important enough what we need to accomplish to be important to each individual, especially guys who have played alongside each other for all these months and days and stuff. Somebody says something to make all of a sudden the game more important to win, that doesn't make any sense to me.
I know you've got other things on your mind than, say, talk radio or what's happening in the media. But when I heard talk radio today, fans are voicing an awful lot of support for the job you've done. What does it mean to you to hear that kind of reaction and know that that's out there?
JOE TORRE: Well, certainly I appreciate it. The fact that the only thing I've ever tried to do here is be loyal to an organization, and put in a day's work. I've been very lucky. I've been blessed working for an organization that spends a lot of money and puts great players on the field. Not only the fact that they're highly skilled, but the fact that there's a lot of quality inside, too. Which means winning once isn't enough. And these guys want to continue doing it, and especially doing it in this big fish bowl that we play in.
You know, you try to be who you are. I know when I first came in here in '96, I started thinking I was trying to be somebody a little bit different, because it didn't seem to work in all the other places. I remember picking up Bill Parcells' book, and I know a lot of you have heard this, and I started thumbing through it. I saw this one little passage where it said "If you believe in something, stay with it." And that sort of locked me back into who I was. Because you try to be somebody else. You try to be a hard ass or you try to do something a little bit different, eventually it's going to be exposed because you're here every day.
So what I try to do is make sense. Try to be as honest as I can possibly be and be able to communicate. I think that's the most important thing. Whether you're managing a baseball team or running a business. I think it's all about people. Moves are one thing. You can say you put on a hit and run that didn't work. Those things anybody can do, and you're lucky when they do work. When you change a pitcher, you hope it works, too. But I think it's all about people, because they have to play the game, and the game belongs to the players. I'm one of those managers that likes to stay out of the way and let the players play. I think it certainly gives the fans a better show, and it gives them a lot more freedom.
What went into the decision on Clemens, and how difficult was that for you, considering what it may mean in terms of his career?
JOE TORRE: Well, Roger he knew going into that third inning we had him taped up pretty strong in that hammy area. And he says, Skip, I'll give you a signal if I can't do it. He says, I promise I won't try to be a hero here if I can't do it. Well, he is a hero, anyway. He's going to find a way, you can put nails in him or tape, whatever it is. If he can possibly do his job, he was going to stay out there. I think he was very frustrated when I took him out.
I asked Jorgie Posada to go out and talk to him. And then Jorgie came back. He went out to talk to him, and evidently he said, let me get this guy, because he struck him out. And Jorgie was coming back, and he gave me the old, "that's it" sign.
And I went out, and Roger was very upset about coming out of the game. Basically, you know, he didn't give us what we needed. He was out there to take us to the next level or take us to the next game, and he wasn't able to deliver. So when we talked after the game, Cash was in the clubhouse along with Dr. Hershon. And then we included Roger in the conversation. The fact that if we take you out of this Division Series, you're not going to be eligible until the World Series, and it made sense. He had some time trying to deal with his hamstring, and he had a couple of different instances last night in the first couple of innings that he felt it.
So the fact that he won't be eligible for the Championship Series probably makes sense. So that's how he made the decision. We went to Villone over Ramirez based on just the fourth and fifth game, and we're dealing with experience here.
You're starting Wang on three days' rest. Some people have criticized Eric Wedge for not starting Sabathia on three days' rest. Obviously, this is each manager's decision, could you discuss the factors that go into those decisions.
JOE TORRE: I really wasn't sure all the way in what we were going to do. I knew one thing, in a way I was going to have to be forced to make a decision in Game 4. Knowing since they've added this off day between Games 4 and 5, which I think is a good thing, allowed us to have two guys ready for Game 5.
I think probably the thing that tipped the scales on having Wang pitch with short rest was the fact that he's pitched so well at home. I think that sort of tipped the scales. Plus the fact before we even tried to go there the other day on the off day, he had a bullpen, he felt fine. You know, we didn't have him throw a long bullpen and gave him the news at that point in time that he could be the starter in Game 4, and he seemed very comfortable with it.
But I think mainly -- well, the fact that he's a sinker ball pitcher, and sometimes being a little tired isn't all that bad. Probably better than being too strong. But I think, mainly the fact that we're pitching here at The Stadium.
It's been kind of an up and down series for Joba so far. Has he handled the playoff atmosphere the way you expected him to?
JOE TORRE: I don't think we knew what to expect. But I think at times even though he has seemed so grown up, and so established, you know, the game speeds up for you a little bit. I was very impressed with the way Phil Hughes handled it last night. You know, coming in in that situation, sort of being surprised out of the bullpen. "Here it is, keep us in the game." He winds up being the winner.
But I think Joba, he's not going to back off. There are times, I noticed though that he'll go out there and just try to overthrow the ball. And I think that that part of it is inexperience. But I think overall after the experience he had in Cleveland, the unusual experience he had in Cleveland, I thought he was fine last night. You know, the second inning, he got two quick outs and then he lost his slot. Whether he was a little tired or whatever it was, it was something that we wish, obviously, didn't happen, because his pitch count was really good at that point.
Kevin Long said that A-Rod's at-bats and swings were a little bit different in Games 1 and 2, talking about that. Can you talk about A-Rod's approach last night, and what you saw in his at bats?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, I thought he was a lot freer. His hands and the bat was coming through the zone a lot smoother. Looked like he was forcing it a little bit, like the rest of us. You know in Cleveland, especially facing those two guys, who just seemed to dictate the tempo of the game. But last night I thought Alex was a lot smoother, a lot freer. It just seemed like it was a lot easier for him to do it.
Again, everybody sort of picked up off that, because we made some adjustments, and had a couple of big innings, which was important. But I thought he was better.
Just a couple follow ups, Joe, in terms of Wang, would he be pitching if you were leading two games to one?
JOE TORRE: I think so, yeah.
And on Clemens, given that you said it's already been several weeks with this injury, he would only go two to three innings last night. Is there any reason to believe he would be ready if you advance to the World Series or do you think he's done for the season?
JOE TORRE: I don't want to think that way. Obviously, we'll take whatever it is when we get there. And Roger will certainly be honest with us. He's always been that. But we know one thing, he wasn't going to be ready for the next round. But hopefully he'll be able to do a little patch work and be ready.
As I say, he doesn't have to be a hundred percent, but as long as he doesn't have something that limits him like the leg stuff. The leg stuff seemed to be a bigger problem. I know he had an elbow issue a month or so ago, but that was caused by foot problems at the time. So overall, the main part of his body, the arm and, you know, what's going to send him to the Hall of Fame is healthy, it's just a matter of being able to deliver. And that's going to be all about being able to get that bottom half in condition.
But we don't know if he'll be all right for the World Series. We hope we have an opportunity to find out. At least it keeps him from having to make a decision for this next round.
After four runs and eight hits in the two games combined, your offense came alive yesterday. Do you think you've broken out? And can you explain what happened at all?
JOE TORRE: Well, it's all about pitching. Lot of times you'll score 10 or 12 runs, and then you'll get shut out the next day, then I'll pull up in the parking lot and, you know, somebody will be walking by and say, you've got to get your players motivated. They don't understand that the guy that throws the ball from 60 feet has something to do with this thing.
But I think last night we were able to, and Jake Westbrook, he's very stubborn. He's not going to give in. He's not going to give in. But we were able to make adjustments. What we did differently is the fact that we stayed inside the ball and took what he gave us. You know, early on we were trying to pull the ball, and we had some double plays. But after that we started using the other side of the field. And we know what kind of a pitcher Byrd is, too. He's got great control. He changes speeds. He certainly isn't afraid to throw strikes. And we just have to go out there with a plan and be ready to swing at a strike.
When you hear players like Damon come in and say one of the reasons they want to win is they want to extend your tenure and your job, what runs through your mind?
JOE TORRE: I buy all these guys dinner, that's what this is all about. You have to understand that. You like to believe you have that closeness. I always feel, and again, it doesn't mean because you win all the time, I just feel that it's just important for the manager to get across to the players that he cares a great deal about them and what bothers them, you know, whether it be baseball related or not baseball related. You're here to help them and trying to get them through it. I think managers and coaches, we're here to make these players better. Whatever they need. We go out of our way to try to give them that.
I have a great coaching staff. I have a coaching staff that has a number of former managers on it that have certainly, you know, put themselves in a situation of being very unselfish, and being here for every single one of these players. I think that's the biggest part of it. We like to believe we're close knit, we like to believe we care about each other. You don't only care about somebody when they're doing well. You care about somebody when they're struggling, too, and I'd like to believe that's part of it.
You talked about your personal philosophy of managing. Over the years have you developed any particular qualities to deal with George Steinbrenner?
JOE TORRE: Well, I think the first thing you have to understand is he's the boss. I think that when you come in and understand that, then it's a matter of understanding he's entitled to say what he wants. He owns this team. He can be as critical or as complimentary as he wants to be any time he wants to be that.
You have to understand, we won the World Series in 2000. We beat the Mets. You thought you'd reached nirvana at that time. You talk to him in a day or two, and he's ready. He says all right, what are we going to do next year? It's just what he is.
I think the fact that I've been here 12 years and have, you know, pretty much gotten along with him is the fact that I do respect the fact he is the boss. It's not about how much money he pays me, it's about that he trusted me with his team, and I take that as a very serious and personal responsibility. And, you know, I hope that I do well enough for him to be proud of what we do.
So yeah, there are times you have to swallow hard sometimes and feel that maybe this is an unfair a time or two. But the big picture, you can't pick and choose the parts you want to keep, and the parts you don't want to keep. It's one package, and you have to deal with it.
What's the reasoning behind putting Doug back at first base? And can you talk a little about how much it helps to have somebody that's been down 0-2, and come back from it?
JOE TORRE: Well, the big thing about Doug is just the pitcher we sent out there. We anticipate that Wang will be a groundball pitcher, and if that is the case, you know, he's a better defensive option for us at first base. And that's the reason he's back in there. His numbers are pretty good against Byrd, but it's mainly to try to control the game somewhat, and hopefully we're in a position to do that.
Talking to Derek yesterday asking him about your situation, he would probably much cut everybody off at the pass, and say, it's just about winning a game. Were you concerned that other players wouldn't respond like that, or be distracted by this?
JOE TORRE: That's your first concern. It's tough enough to win when you're all pulling the thing in the same direction. But when you have people saying, well, we have to win this game because the manager's job is in jeopardy. That's nuts. Now you're trying to make something that's important more important, and that shouldn't be the case.
My feeling going into this postseason, I was trying to relieve as much stress as possible from this team. Only because of the pressure it's been under year in and year out. And knowing that the last few years we've gone into this postseason, I think, we have, I don't want to say set impossible goals, but I think we made more of what we needed to do than we should. And so I trust that what we did getting here certainly was motivation enough to these players going into the postseason. We came here for a reason. We didn't come here just to become a wildcard team. We came here because we've worked so damn hard to get here.
But, yeah, the concern is that you get distracted. I think Derek is a good example. I think a lot of these players understand that that's what we need to concentrate on, and they certainly spread that word or feeling, I think, just by their actions. And trying to lighten the mood in the dugout. The young kids are good, but again, we need it to come from the top, the A-Rods, and the Jeters, and the Posadas, and the Giambis and those guys. And they've done a good job as far as staying focused and making sure that baseball is our priority.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.