10/09/08 8:16 PM ET
Joe Torre pregame interview
Manager takes lessons from past club experience to now
By / MLB.com
JOE TORRE: I don't think there's any question that, again, the Cub lineup was very scary. We were lucky in the middle, we got the guys out. But I think the fact that we had the right-handed pitching to do it was certainly a benefit.
With the balance they have, I mean, they're basically proud of their Utley/Howard combo, as the Ramirez/Lee duo and of course they always have the other guys around them. But we'll see.
We're certainly going to go out there with our best and we'll see if our best is good enough.
You've been at this obviously for many years, tons of experience. How much can you get a feel for how a series is going to go and how much of it is just like the rest of the fans, wondering how is this all going to turn out anyway?
JOE TORRE: Yeah, it's a great question. Based on the fact that when they come into our place we were going to measure ourselves against them and then we beat them four games, and then we came over here, understanding this is certainly a different ballpark and they beat us four games. Now try to figure it out.
But there are a lot of things this time of year, you're hoping that the stuff that your team is capable of doing you're able to do.
And, again, it may not be good enough. But that's all you want. You want somebody to beat you as opposed to beating yourself. And that's what we're looking at. We played really well. We win three games in four days and it was great. Now all of a sudden we haven't played since Saturday. Is that going to make a difference? I don't think so. I just sense the personality of our club from just being around them, they seem to, again, they're excited but yet they seem very similar to the way they were in Chicago.
What do you see in Blake that convinced you to stick with him in the playoffs over a more experienced player like Kent?
JOE TORRE: Don't forget Jeff Kent had surgery. And, again, he can play. Blake DeWitt started opening day for us, and this was for a kid that was slated to go to AA ball and played opening day. Got a base hit, made some big plays in the field.
I didn't see a lot of Blake in Spring Training because we went to China and he didn't make that trip with us, and when I came back my coaches who stayed back were talking about Blake DeWitt, that he's a ball player, he's a ball player, he's a ball player. And that to me is a high form of praise when your coaches have been around a while.
And I got a chance to witness it. And the kid, the game seems to stay at a good speed for him. He's inexperienced. He still has flaws that over the years and experience is going to help him through. But he doesn't seem to rattle in this situation. I think you have to be around him to understand that and just watch him. Is he a second baseman? Probably does a better job at third, but I still think he gives us a little more range at second base. And he'll give you a good at bat against left handers.
Having lost Saito in July, losing your closer there, you had somebody good like Broxton to step into that role, were you lucky that you had that depth, that you had that guy in waiting that could do that? Did you have other guys there that helped you step up? And also how difficult was it to leave him off this round?
JOE TORRE: It was very difficult, but we just sensed he was fighting to be that guy again, Sammy. And he really impressed me the next to the last day of the season, pitched in San Francisco and pitched in a 2-1 game, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning and, okay, we got him and brought him in in Chicago and it looked like he was feeling his way.
So we decided it wasn't an easy decision. Any time you leave somebody like that off, such an important decision, but again knowing that he's not -- he's trying to be that person but he's not there yet, we took him out yesterday after RBP and threw in the bullpen physically. He seems okay.
But he just was having trouble locating. So we're going to take this time if we're fortunate enough to get to the next level and we'll use this time as his rehab stuff. But, again, Broxton certainly, I don't want to say made things easier, but at least you had someone to go to that pitched under pressure.
You're facing a guy in Myers who has had an up and down season, can you talk from your perspective what you've seen of him, what you think of Myers?
JOE TORRE: He's 100 miles an hour. He comes out. I'm not talking necessarily velocity, I'm just talking about his aggressiveness. I watched him on TV as a closer. He was a starter before that.
Going to the Minor Leagues, coming back, he's never backed off. This kid's aggressive and he's going to give you everything he has. We had better luck obviously in LA than we did here. But he's got quality stuff. He's not afraid to throw a breaking ball. That's probably his signature. And yet he can get the fastball up there in pretty good speed. But I admire what he does as far as -- he just doesn't look like the thought of failure is in his mind. Body language wise that's what it looks like to me.
Could you please talk about your first impressions you had working with Ned Colletti as a GM and maybe the things you learned about Ned through the season and trading deadline?
JOE TORRE: He lived a lot of things down. Zimmer told me some bad things about Colletti over the years. But Ned has been great to work with. Again, he's a baseball person. He's been -- he's a lifer. He's been around baseball, been with the Cubs, San Francisco and the opportunity to be the top dog here.
I find him very easy to work with, because, again, we talk a lot and we seem to have an understanding, and we can disagree with each other and yet it's comfortable even to do that. But I'm very comfortable working with Ned. And he did some remarkable things retooling our club while we were trying to find ourselves, and made some deals that really sort of filled in the blanks.
Charlie was commenting in his interview about your balanced power throughout the lineup. Could you talk about the power especially after Manny, at the bottom part of your lineup?
JOE TORRE: Again, we have a lot of interchangeable parts, I think. Manny is in the middle whether he's hitting third or fourth. Furcal, those are the only two positions, I think, that we'll do this and we'll do this and then work the other guys around. Like today we're flip flopping Russell Martin and Ethier.
But James Loney, and these guys have had some success. The left-handed hitters have had some success against left-handed pitchers, because I think a big part of it is the fact that we use the whole field. We don't have any predominant pull hitter type guy.
Casey Blake, he has been a great benefit for us on both sides of the ball and the fact that he can do a lot of things from sacrificing a run to second to hitting and running to hitting for power.
Kemp, we try to protect Matt as best we can, because of all of them he's probably had the least experience baseball wise. But he's got a ton of talent and he's, again, one of those kids that's not afraid to fail.
So we try to really choreograph our lineup to use different people and protect different people and we're pretty comfortable that we're able to sort of be flexible that way.
Joe, you guys have some free agents, guys who are going to be free agents after this season, including your starting pitcher tonight. Do you think like judging from your experience over the years that that kind of factors in at all in their postseason performances?
JOE TORRE: You know, I really don't. Because where I came from, and I think every manager can speak to this, there's always somebody on your ball club that's going to possibly move on.
'96 John Wetteland, our MVP in the World Series, wasn't there the next year. What you try to profess is really talk about let's get the most out of what we have together. It's easy now when you talk about is that going to affect postseason, no.
Is it going to affect when you're under .500 and struggling to find yourself, then I think it takes a little more work to be able to speak to that and just have them keep their focus. But when you get to this time of year, I don't really think next year comes into play for any of these guys.
I'm just talking about how like they do on the field and everything.
JOE TORRE: As I'm saying, I think they're going to be that competitive person. I don't think anything is going to get in their way. Motivation, the winning part is the motivation. I don't think that I'm going to pitch for this contract or show everybody who is interested in having me next year, stuff like that. I think it's all about winning a game and if I'm an owner of a club I'm going to look at that as I want that competitive guy, basically.
Joe, we talked with Charlie Manuel about how Walter Alston made a big impression on the type of a manager that he is today. Who in your career impressed you the most in helping you become the manager that you are?
JOE TORRE: I'm going to have to blame Red Schoendienst. And it was based on the fact when I went to St. Louis in 1969 I don't think I was mature at that point in time, even though I'm a little shy to say it or embarrassed to say it, because I was 28- or 29-years-old.
But I was around a ball club that had been in two straight World Series, and I watched a manager who actually was a teammate of my brother Frank's on the '58 championship club manage a club and treat everybody like adults and knew what it was to be a player.
And I think I've taken on or tried to take on some of those characteristics, because I think in this game you have to trust. You may be wrong. But I'd rather be wrong than never feel that way. But I think Red Schoendienst, the way he went around his business for 12, 13 years over there probably made an impact on me.
With the successful September your club had followed by the sweep of the Cubs, is it fair to say your team is playing its best baseball at precisely the right time?
JOE TORRE: Yes. Yes. And as I say I hope it carries over. But the thing that impressed me after we clinched, we had a few games where we didn't have to win. Obviously, I think there were four games or something left, and the three games in San Francisco, whether the rivalry or something had to do with it, I can't be sure.
But after our up and down season, I watched these guys compete, and even though they were giving them -- some players days off, whoever was in the lineup, they were competing on an inning by inning basis and I sort of felt I liked that and I had a good feeling going into the first series.
And I feel the same way. We're pretty proud of what we've done so far. But we certainly don't want to stop. So I hope that both clubs play up to their potential and we'll just see who's better, that's all.
It was a little jolting to see Greg Maddux come into a game and pitch one inning in what essentially was a game that was already decided. And the question was ...
JOE TORRE: It's not already decided at Wrigley Field.
True. I'm wondering if you had a conversation with Greg about the role he was going to have and was it a difficult conversation given his credentials?
JOE TORRE: Not difficult at all. And given his credentials, I think that's why it wasn't difficult. I had Rick Honeycutt, because we were talking about it. Obviously we were talking about who are the starters, where can people figure. Greg is the one that volunteered with the fact that he's pitched out of the bullpen. And then talked to him. I didn't specifically tell him what his role was, because I didn't know exactly what his role was, except that he was pitching out of the bullpen. Whether he was going to be ready early. We talk about that before each game, when do you want me ready.
I think just his personality and his lack of ego getting in the way has certainly been a blessing for me, because I feel now without Saito that we can use him. And I think that game I pitched him in in Chicago, I wanted to save my closer. Five run lead going into the 9th inning, I needed someone who, first off, could get ready quickly. I think he's ready in six or seven pitches, which is remarkable.
Someone who could throw strikes and change speeds. And a five run game that's the most important thing that you don't give anything away. But he embraced it. And he's a great teammate for these guys.
If Kuo shows you that he's able to pitch and he's healthy and you're comfortable with him, is there any consideration to using him in the ninth with some of the lefties and things that might come up?
JOE TORRE: I don't think we'd do that the first time. Again, don't hold me to it. But his availability is certainly important for us and the fact that I watched him throw on Sunday. He threw again on Tuesday, which I didn't see. Rick Honeycutt did, he threw to a couple of hitters Tuesday because he hadn't faced hitters, and this kid, he's an athlete. Am I going to say he doesn't feel anything? No, I'm not going to say that.
But we saw more of a freedom than we've seen here for a while. I certainly wouldn't be afraid off of what I've seen this year to put him in any kind of pressure situation. Whether I do it the first time or not I can't really tell you, because I probably want to see him earlier in the game.
But, again, I think the game is going to dictate what I do. And we'll see where we are, especially if you look up there and the ninth inning starts with the two left handers. It certainly would be tempting and, as I say, emotionally I wouldn't worry about it, just the fact that he hadn't pitched for a while.
You talked about Greg Maddux embracing that role and volunteering. You've got some pretty well paid pedigreed guys all through your bench. It seems to just have fallen that way. Can you address what it's been like to look down the bench and see all that pedigree, and has it been a struggle for you to deal with any of them or all of them?
JOE TORRE: I think all of them from time to time. I mean, we lost that Friday night game in Arizona that made it eight games in a row, five games back on the loss side and Nomar had a tough game, but Nomar had a tough game because we probably forced him to do a lot of things that his body wouldn't let him do. Play him out there every single day. We probably should have given him more time off. We just didn't feel we had the personnel to allow that to happen. We're going to try to force it. So we decided just to take him out for -- again, not because he had a bad game, but probably because he's played too much. And we started winning.
And I think the one thing that is a common thread, when you are talking about Juan Pierre and you're talking about Kent and you're talking about Nomar, these guys are big league players and they certainly recognize that when a team's playing well, the chances are that they'll help wherever they can to have this club play well. And I had conversations with Jeff a couple of times. And I thanked all these guys, basically, for allowing me to manage and just go along with it, basically.
It's not easy, but, again, I think the biggest plus for me is these guys certainly are aware of everything around them. I mean, the interesting part, I think Jeff -- he lockers next to DeWitt. He's done nothing but support that kid.
Back in 1960, the Eau Claire club, when you first got there, given the characteristics, given the things that you were taught back then, do you see anything today that you still have carried with you all this time that maybe you're looking for in players, as a manager?
JOE TORRE: Teammates are important. My brother Frank played in the '58 and '59 World Series. '57 and '58 World Series. And once that happened and I saw what that was all about, that's always been my goal. It took me forever to realize it. But I still feel blessed because there are players who played their whole careers. Ernie Banks for one who never got a chance to do that. But that was always something in the back of my mind to work toward.
And there was a long period of time where I never thought I was going to realize it. And all of a sudden I got an opportunity to manage a team I never played with, which was the first time that happened with the Yankees.
But back then I was basically Frank Torre's brother trying to make an impression on people. Even though it said 1960, it feels like it wasn't that long ago for me. As you get older, things go a little quicker. But it was basically how to play the game the right way and try to be a good teammate. I basically look for that in players myself.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.