Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Joe Torre on love, life, and how to pick a winner

Well, I landed the big one. After playing imaginary phone tag for the past few months, I was finally able to reach Yankee’s manager Joe Torre, and convince him to sit down for the most exclusive of exclusive interviews. How did I do it? Let’s just say that my in-laws, like Torre, are from Brooklyn, and once that connection was made, any kind of refusal on Joe’s part would have been the equivalent of him wearing Red Sox underwear. People from Brooklyn stick together, whether they like it or not. Plus, I told him this was to benefit charity, which was a lie on my part. But whatever works. Anyway, here it is.

Me: Hi, Mr. Torre! It’s a pleasure to sit down with the most renowned Yankee manager since Stump Merrill. Can I call you ‘Papa Joe?’ That’s what my wife likes to call you whenever she sees you on TV.

Torre: Ummm, sure, I guess so. Why not.

Me: Great! Papa Joe, let me get this out of the way now, so there’s no confusion. This isn’t going to be like one of those “Center Stage” interviews, where I’m lobbing you softballs, and then patting you on the butt after you hit it out of the park, laughing hysterically all the while at whatever you say. I have more credibility than that. Are you cool with this?

Torre: Sure, I think I can handle the hardball questions. But just as a curiosity, where did you get your journalism degree?

Me: HEY! I’ll be asking the questions here! Okay Papa Joe, I’m going to be honest here. You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. You seem perpetually upset, or even agitated. You’ve been snapping at reporters. You’re not the Joe Torre I knew back in college – you’ve changed, man. You’ve always come across as one of the most approachable men in the game of baseball, but when you walked in here today, I was scared to approach you. Be honest with me here – is it A-Rod? C’mon, you can tell me.

Torre: Ya’ know, I don’t feel any different than I’ve felt in years past. But I think that things are getting to me a little more than they used to. Believe me – you can only hear so many questions about the Red Sox, and about your starting pitching, and about George Steinbrenner, before you start to snap. I probably do need to cool off a bit. And no – my change in demeanor has nothing to do with A-Rod.

Me: So, how many more game-ending double-plays will A-Rod have to ground into before he DOES start to affect your mood?

Torre: One more. Then you might actually see me run out of the dugout throwing haymakers.

Me: Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! Seriously though, we all know you looooooove to defend your players. You’d rather use words like “pressing” and “struggling,” instead of the more appropriate, “blowing chunks,” and “sent down to Columbus.” Other managers in the league have taken their players to task through the media. Why have you always refused to do this?

Torre: Because, what good would it do? With this team, and with pretty much any team I’ve had here in New York, it’s never been a question of effort with the guys. But players go in slumps. If Alex is struggling at the end of “big games,” then what good does it do for me to tell some reporter that he should be doing better in those situations? Alex knows that. It would only add more pressure, and that pressure is exactly why Alex is pressing.

Me: Do you know that you used the words “struggling” AND “pressing” in that response? Why don’t you try – just try – to say those last couple of sentences over again, using my advice. I think it might make you feel better.

Torre: All right. I’ll give a try. Ahem…If Alex is blowing chunks at the end of “big games,” then what good does it do for me to tell some reporter that he should be doing better in those situations? Alex knows that. It would only add more pressure, and that pressure is exactly why Alex is sent down to Columbus.

Me: SEE! See what I mean! How good did that feel?

Torre: Actually, I can’t lie - that felt pretty good.

Me: Okay, since you’re on the subject of “not lying,” tell me how much you hate Randy Johnson.

Torre: All right, let’s not go too far here. I certainly don’t hate Randy Johnson. He’s just strug…er,…trying to locate his pitches better.

Me: Wait, you mean his pitches aren’t supposed to go over the center field wall?

Torre: No, not exactly.

Me: He stinks. Papa Joe, here’s an interesting rhetorical question: If Carl Pavano and Kevin Brown pitched against each other, who would get injured first?

Torre: Wow…that’s a tough one. I don’t think I can answer that.

Me: Do you give up? Ha! It’s a trick question. They can’t pitch against each other, cause they’re both on the DL.

Torre: Wait, you said that was a rhetorical question, not a trick one.

Me: Whatever. Same thing. Speaking of injuries, the Yankees have had a lot of them this year. Please rank, in order, the reasons for this: a) age, b) steroids, c) most of these guys are million-dollar pansies.

Torre: Listen, I can’t rank the reasons behind these injuries. They’re part of the game, and they happen to every team. It just so happens that, this year, it seems like every other day somebody’s going down. But we still have to go out there and win. And the young guys, like Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Andy Phillips have helped us immensely. That said, a, c, and b.

Me: Interesting. Because of those injuries, your team has suddenly gone from "overpaid bunch of underachieving jerks who everyone hates" to "rag-tag group of overachievers who have taken the country by storm, and who have restored a national love affair with the game of baseball." Would you say that the current Yankees are similar to the movie "Rudy?"

Torre: Well, not really. I mean, the young guys have helped us out. A lot. But we still have a bunch of all-stars playing everyday, like Jeter, A-Rod, and Giambi. Plus, "Rudy" kind of sucked.

Me: Wow...didn't expect that. Okay, Papa Joe – you are famous for being completely stoic in the face of adversity. Yankee Stadium could be burning down around you, and there you’d be, calm as all heck, telling stupid Kelly Stinnett where the nearest exit is. But you’re also a notorious dugout nose-picker. Please explain.

Torre: I don’t know what it is, but it seems like every time the camera pans to me in the dugout, I’m digging for gold. Especially during the playoffs. All I can say is, baseball is a long, sometimes monotonous game, and oftentimes you mistake the dugout for your living room. Maybe I’m too calm out there.

Me: Yeah, that’s nasty. But also funny. Here’s one for ya’. Can you pinpoint the exact moment when your love affair with Tanyon Sturtze ended? Personally, I thought that was a love that would never die.

Torre: Very funny. And yes, I can. It was the ninth inning of a 14-3 loss at Boston on May 9th. That’s when I’d had enough.

Me: Was it a tough breakup?

Torre: Not really. I think we both knew it wouldn’t last.

Me: Is it awkward now when Tanyon walks by your office and sees you with Scott Proctor?

Torre: Okay, that’s enough.

Me: I have to ask you this Papa Joe, because it’s something I’ve always wondered. Does John Sterling turn into a giggling schoolgirl whenever he sees you? Do you roll your eyes when you see him prancing around the field during batting practice while he’s wearing glasses and an ascot? Do you hate having conversations with him, because you know that whatever you say will turn into one of those on-air, “So I was talking to Joe the other day…” stories? Be honest.

Torre: Ummm, no comment.

Me: Hey - I thought we were playing hardball here.

Torre: Well then, I guess you just struck me out.

Me: Sweet. Listen, I had so much more to ask you about, but we’re running out of time. Please give “Jorgie,” “Jete,” “Mo,” and the rest of the guys my best. Tell them I said they have to come over for pancakes. They’ll know what I’m talking about.

Torre: Sure thing.

Me: I’d shake your hand, but I don’t know where that finger’s been.

Torre: Understandable. But thanks for having me anyway. By the way, what charity does this benefit again?

Me: Oh, ummm…the children’s one. Ya’ know, the one for all the kids, who have like, problems or something. I’ll send you the pamphlet, if I can find it.

Torre: Sounds good. Do you know my address though?

Me: You’re from Brooklyn, right? One of my in-laws will find you.


Note: This was not a real interview. If you thought it was, consider yourself “Punk’d.” Or something similar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's "Uncle Joe"...and don't pick on him for being a nose picker...he probably does it so the cameras will get off him.