10/15/08 7:56 PM ET
Joe Torre pregame interview
Manager speaks about the precious road to the postseason
By / MLB.com
Joe, with this being the 20th anniversary of Kirk Gibson's home run, I'm wondering if you did watch the game at that time what was your reaction? And do you ever point to moments like that to your team when it's down kind of as inspiration?
JOE TORRE: I think you try to add perspective. But that -- I think we're reminded on the board all the time of that particular incident. I watched it. There's no question -- I was watching it develop and I watched when (Mike) Davis stole second base.
And now all they need is a single, and I remember talking to Kirk about this. Once he got to second base, he said, Yeah, I was just looking at a single left. That's when the back door slider sort of stood there for him.
Sure, I did watch it. It was quite a memory, for sure.
I know you just talked to the team. What can you share with us about what you said to them heading into tonight's game?
JOE TORRE: Not a whole lot. I mean, I could share with you just the fact that you go this far and you go through the first round and you're playing -- we've played against Philadelphia a number of times.
And it's been a weird thing. We beat them all four here; they beat us all four there. We split this series after we had a lead. I mean, to me, I think we certainly belong on the same field with them.
And it's just basically -- and the reason I cancelled the workout yesterday was just basically to just take the vacuum cleaner in there and erase those memories and come back out here with the kind of aggressiveness you need to have. In a nutshell that's about it.
Probably a good segue for this. Managing, in your view, is it more important, the strategic part of it, or all the other things that you do?
JOE TORRE: I think it's a combination. Strategic part, a lot of that stuff, the strategy usually just comes to you quickly when certain situations present themselves.
I think a big part of the manager's job is to just get a sense of where his club is and if he thinks something needs to be nudged or said or changed. I think that's more a manager's job anymore.
Because the players, I'm a firm believer that the players, the game belongs to the players and they go out there and play it. When you fight as hard as we did to get to this point and win the division, especially floundering back and forth all year, they got it. They got it and they've had it for a while.
It's just the only thing that you want to try is to make sure that we play nine innings, and we've preached that all year. Not only with this club but every club I've ever been with. And that's basically how we lost the other night. Phillies played nine innings. It's nice to get that close to the finish line. Sure, we felt confident. But it's still nine innings; you've got to get 27 outs.
So I think the managing, a big part of it is to have a sense of where your club is.
Is there something about the Phillies lineup that makes them particularly dangerous when they're trailing in the eighth or ninth inning? They came back the other day, and of course they came back against you over in Philly in August. And is there anything about their composition that makes them that dangerous?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, they live and die by the home run. So they can jump back into a game or win a game. They did it against us in Game 1, two homers in a short period of time. The other night, the same thing.
So that, sure, we've had some success with some of their big guns. But, again, if you make a mistake, it's not a line drive in the hole. It's a home run. So that's the thing, the thing you're certainly aware of, and that's always the danger when you have a ball club that has the power that they do.
You had been through a stretch where you had been to the World Series so many times. I wonder, as you move a little further away from that, do you gain a greater appreciation what it means to get there? Do you get hungrier for it? I'm curious for before or after how you feel personally about it.
JOE TORRE: I think it was 4,007 games to get there. I sure never took it for granted. It's something when I got there and my wife said, All right, that's it, that's been your lifelong vision to get to the World Series, and we happened to win it that first year in '96. Let's just see if we can do it again.
And the game's been very good to me, no question. But I certainly, I miss it, there's no question I miss it. But, again, it's something that I'm happy to say I still hunger for. But I think the fact that I haven't been in a World Series since, what, '03, it's been a long time. But trust me, it's very fresh in my mind.
As a follow up to that, is it impossible to impart to your players what that means, to go to the World Series?
JOE TORRE: I started that in Spring Training. We had enough players that have been there in the World Series, players that beat me in the World Series and to get to the World Series. And certainly is something that you talk about and especially in my case where it took me so long to get there and to just try to put into words what it feels like to be there.
Because your first thought is get to the World Series. I mean, winning the World Series is great. But it's to the World Series is where you want to be. I mean, that's the final stage. And then, of course, you work hard to try to win it. But, again, it's a crapshoot like all these series are.
But getting there is really the goal that I think we sort of lost sight of in New York because we got to the point that getting there wasn't good enough. But to achieve -- at the time I was in New York. To be a part of what -- it was crazy to be in that many World Series in that period of time, it was like I was star struck, to be honest with you. I'm not just saying that. It's just the way I felt because of how hungry I was to be able to get that as part of my career and then to have it happen so often.
I'm not sure how much you've talked to Billingsley the last couple of days, but aside from extending the series, which is priority number one, I'm assuming, do you get the sense there's any extra pressure on him personally, from him personally considering some of the events that happened in the games here?
JOE TORRE: Chad, I think if you watch him, every day he starts he's that guy who tries to prove himself every day to himself. I don't know how this could be any more important than that, because of how he goes about it.
I think the last time out he maybe overprepared a little bit. And we talked about that after that start. May have tried to do too much at one time. So I have a sense that that will change.
But, again, this kid has never taken anything for granted. He's a very serious minded young man and he's got a big heart and certainly a belly full of guts.
And I just casually talked to him today but it's just acknowledging his presence as I went by, but nothing more than that.
Going back to the AL, I think you ran into Charlie Manuel. Your impression now, do you get him any more now than the first time you saw him?
JOE TORRE: He's a lifer Charlie is a lifer. He knows his baseball. Players love playing for him. And to me you respect what he does and I think the players go out and bust their tails because of that fact.
But, again, we talked about strategy. Strategy is something that I think we all, when something happens in your mind you're going to do this. And you're the only one that knows your club so you know what you want to do.
But the big part of him, he really doesn't come out and talk about it a lot. His knowledge of the game and the quiet confidence he has in his ability to do it. Right now he's dealing with the loss of his mom, and certainly the best time for him is here at the ballpark where he can keep his mind occupied.
But I have a great deal of respect for Charlie, because he's bounced around a little bit and it's always the manager's fault something goes wrong. But he's been able to prevail at this point.
As a veteran of several October battles at Fenway Park, what's your reaction so far as to where that ALCS stands, what Tampa Bay is doing?
JOE TORRE: I'll tell you what, I think we were sitting in San Diego or someplace, I think it was San Diego, we were watching Tampa play up there during the end of the year, the latter part of the year. And it was at a point where if Boston -- I think they beat them a game, and if they win this game they were going to take over first place.
And I think Tampa had a lead and I think Boston tied it late and pretty much said well that's the end of that. And then Boston took a lead into the ninth inning and then you knew it was the end of that, and then they come back and tied it and then won it in about 14 innings.
At that point they made me believers that they're for real and that they could look them right in the eye and not back away. And they're talented. There's no question. Boston's talented, too.
They were beat up a little bit but this group of young players has when I looked up there in that September night and saw what was happening, I think I didn't have to pick Boston anymore, because any time anybody asked me I said it's probably going to be Boston based on the fact that they had the experience. But they just faced that and just went after it. I'm pretty impressed with what Joe Maddon has done down there.
Just wanted to follow up on that. What is it about them that has impressed you so much this season?
JOE TORRE: Pitching. They've always had -- and, believe me, I used to get tortured for losing to Tampa because it's our home base and -- not literally, by the way. (Laughter) but they had Spring Training there and they played there and that's where our Spring Training home was with the Yankees.
And you could see them. They would bring one player after another that could do things. Started with Baldelli and Carl Crawford and Aubrey Huff. I mean, they had a lot of players with talent. Then all of a sudden they started adding these guys a couple of times. Upton I guess was a guy that had some injury for a time.
And it was always they couldn't get enough outs. They basically couldn't get enough outs. They had some pitchers that could shut you down. They've gotten a little bit more mature and then they added some pieces. Garza was a big piece for them, even though they gave up a good player in Young.
But I think no question in my mind the biggest difference is that Joe Maddon can reach into that bullpen and go lefty/righty and get great results.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.