10/02/08 8:51 PM ET
Joe Torre pregame interview
Manager says winning home or away is vital in postseason
By / MLB.com
JOE TORRE: Well, Nomar, he's been active and hasn't been playing, so it's really nothing new for him, since the Arizona series in Arizona. That's what we started doing; we started winning and we didn't mess with it. Jeff had surgery in the meantime, and I had a conversation with Jeff on Saturday, and he told me he felt he could play, and I told him what my plans were, to start DeWitt at second.
He wants to play, and he certainly understands and has understood the fact that whatever I want to do is certainly he respects that, let's put it that way. So I had a conversation with him. As I say, I didn't have one with Nomar because his role really hasn't changed, and Jeff is the only one that because of the surgery had a little different situation.
When you were a player and you were an All Star and a fairly high paid guy for the time. When you have those kind of things, are there burdens or certain pressures that a Manny Ramirez or a Soriano face than maybe some of the lesser paid guys or lesser stars? And do you think it can affect them in that kind of thing because they feel like they have to maybe prove they're worth their money or whatever?
JOE TORRE: I think it depends on the individual. There's a responsibility for shouldering a commitment, a ballclub committing so much money, so many years and stuff like that. But you know, the guys who really get those types of contracts are the ones that are played every day. You know, I don't think it changes.
For instance, I know Sori, I know it hasn't changed him or it wouldn't change him, because he goes out there, he's going to go out and play every day as long as he's healthy and give you your money's worth. Because to me I think that's what it's all about, is going out there and going to the post every day.
I'm sure some other guy -- I mean, I've had players in the past who all of a sudden signed big contracts and felt they all of a sudden had to be Superman, and that took its toll on them. But both those guys that you're talking about, what I know about Manny and what I know about Sori, I don't think that's an issue.
The other day you called it a long season, I think was the phrase you used. You're managing a team that's very different than the Yankees in the sense that you have the least amount of wins, you're coming in here and starting off with the Cubs as the best team. I know it was a long season, but is there a gratifying portion of that that didn't exist in previous years of managing?
JOE TORRE: Sure. Again, a manager's job is to try to find a way to make things work. I certainly didn't envision myself, after being with the Yankees for so long, to go somewhere and do this all over again. I know my wife and I talked about it before my last contract with the Yankees, if they don't want to sign you back, you want to go somewhere else? I said, well, the only down side about going somewhere else is you have to start all over again. Bad time to talk to me about that is at the end of the season (laughter). You're really not thinking about climbing that hill again.
And this winter, even after committing to the Dodgers, I had knee surgery, knee replacement surgery in December, and it was a tough rehab, and I was saying all the way through January, what the hell am I doing? What the hell am I doing? Because I wasn't feeling too good. Then once the knee -- I got my strength back and everything, it was a challenge. I knew one thing, I was going to give everything I could possibly give just to see if the managing aspect of it could be fun again.
And again, it was no different than any other team in regards to trying to figure out how to get your point across. And not knowing a lot of them made it a little more involved.
It's been suggested in some places that Russell Martin may ultimately move positions just to take advantage of his offensive skills. Do you see that happening? And also, what from your background as a player might help you help him make the transition?
JOE TORRE: I had a couple of those guys when I took over the Cardinals club. We moved Todd Zeile, who was not happy. Todd Zeile is a good friend of mine now, but it wasn't always that way because he was reluctant to move from behind the plate.
Your value, when you can hit and are able to catch, and Todd was able to and Russell has all the ability, I mean, it's not like he's back there saying, well, we have a catcher that can hit. He can catch and he can throw guys out, he can do a lot of things. And Russell enjoys -- he enjoyed, we haven't done it lately, but he enjoyed the days that he played third base. It was like a day off to him. I used to do that as a catcher and first baseman.
I don't know how he would take to moving. I mean, he enjoys like I say, when he sees his name in the lineup at third base, he gets excited about it and he takes ground balls at shortstop endlessly, and he started out as an infielder in the minor league system.
But again, I think you have to think hard about actually wanting to move based on the fact that his value as a catcher, I think, would be higher than elsewhere.
Derek said last night that you and he had kind of come to an agreement on whether he might pitch a potential Game 4, but he said, "I'll let you guys ask Joe." So I'm asking Joe. Would he be the...
JOE TORRE: Well, we started this whole thing. First of all, we don't know if there's going to be a Game 4. At least we hope there isn't a Game 4. I'm a still superstitious in that regard to name a Game 4 starter before I knew there was going to be one.
But Rick Honeycutt really presented it to him a few days ago just to think if that would be a possibility for us. We know he's capable. I mean, with that type of pitcher with a sinker ball probably would -- you'd keep an eye on him as far as how many pitches and stuff like that, but I think he could do it.
We've got Maddux as a possibility. Kershaw I don't think would be a possibility based on the fact that we don't have Kuo in the bullpen. And he gives us another left hander.
But I wouldn't hesitate, but again, we'll see if we have to make that decision or not. But at this point in time we have not made any commitment. And Derek and I have the understanding, I think it was basically through Rick Honeycutt, because he's been having that conversation with him. I talked to Derek today for a while, and it had nothing to do with pitching Game 4.
You've talked all season about how unfazed Cory Wade and Blake DeWitt have been throughout their rookie season. Even having said that, does that provide a little bit of reassurance seeing them handling their playoff debut so well?
JOE TORRE: Really, Cory, that was the first test for him for me. I saw Blake out there on opening day when he didn't know he was going to be on the roster until like noon that day, and then went out there and got a base hit and started a double play and all that stuff. He showed me a great deal early on, and it didn't surprise me. He's got a certain calmness about him.
And Cory, he's able to focus. Last night was big for me to see, because he's all of a sudden gone from that guy who's pitched in the fifth and sixth inning for us to a guy that you're going to pitch in the sixth, seventh or eighth inning for us, and it's been huge, it really has.
The season is usually-- you're going to have a handful of surprises, and you just hope that the good ones outnumber the bad ones, and so far these guys have -- it would have been tough to make it here without them.
I know you don't believe in curses all that much, especially after what happened in 2004, but yesterday when the Cubs brought in a Greek Orthodox priest, had some holy water, said a prayer, trying to reverse the Curse of the Goat from 1945. I know you've got Tommy and he talks about the Big Dodger in the sky, but if you were to win the series, would you assume the Big Dodger in the sky is more powerful?
JOE TORRE: I think if you ask Tommy that you'll get the answer you want. To me I think anytime you caught up in the fact that there are reasons that the other team isn't winning, it better be because the team that they're playing is beating them, as opposed to they're losing it some other way.
You mentioned 2004. I'll let you know how important I thought that series was. I brought in the closer in the eighth inning in Game 4 when we were up three games to none. I don't want to leave anything to chance. We have to go out there and be ready to beat them, and I don't really buy into any of the history.
However, I mean, you're asking me about it, and I'm sure that the Cub players are being asked about it, and I'm sure they're tired of being asked about it, but I just ignore that.
In your experiences in the playoffs, how big is it to get the first game on the road, like you did last night?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, I mentioned it to a couple people upstairs, thanks to my time with the Yankees, I've had a lot of experience to go either way with this thing. We've started at home, we've started on the road. My feeling is that there's more pressure on the home team. Based on the fact that you should win, it's your home, you've done well, and I had gone through that with the Yankees. In 2001 we lost the first two games of the Division Series at home and then went on to win three in a row. I mean, I don't want to have to think about that again. But it wasn't easy, but we were able to do it.
Momentum switches so quickly, but I just think that the home team -- at least this is the way I feel, and like I say, I've had starting series at home and we've started series on the road. When you're home and you're a good team, which obviously the Cubs are a good team, and we had good teams with the Yankees, I felt a lot more pressure than starting on the road.
I heard a veteran pitcher say one time something simply profound, that there are 30 No. 1 starters in baseball and there's only a few aces. Other than victories, what qualities would it take to make an ace as opposed to just a No. 1 starter?
JOE TORRE: I think an ace is that guy that you trust to give the ball to, same as having somebody hit with the bases loaded. It's that guy that the game doesn't speed up on him, that they can keep the game at the right speed.
I remember seeing and hearing Al Kaline talking about the ball being hit to right field, and he said, it just seemed everything was in slow motion. Those are the special players that can keep the game in slow motion, where they don't let any outside influence speed it up and really get them off their rhythm or their thinking.
But to me it's the guy that understands if he's a pitcher, he understands that the play doesn't start until you decide to throw the ball. And I think you have some other guys who are like, hurry up, give me the ball, because they're waiting. The ace is the guy that has that type of makeup.
I don't think it really has a lot to do with the courage part of it. I think it's just a matter of how you channel it. I had Andy Pettitte, who probably in postseason play I trusted more than anybody else other than Mariano Rivera. And you watched Andy get ready for a game, and you thought he was scared to death, until you watched him pitch. And you realized that even though he may have been a little uneasy, he was able to just put that away and channel all of his energies in the right direction.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.