Joe Torre And R.A. Dickey On Team USA And The WBC
Q. R.A., what’s this mean to you to do this? A lot of pitchers, bigger name pitchers, aren’t here. Why are you here and what does it mean to you?
R.A. DICKEY: I’m here because this is one of the greater privileges of my athletic career. And that’s how I see it.
I was a member of the Olympic team in ’96. We won the bronze medal. So this is a chance to redeem that in a lot of ways.
So I was proactive in wanting to be a part of this team. When I thought it was a possibility, I texted Tony Clark and said, if there’s a spot and Joe wants me, I would love to do it.
Q. For both of you guys, how much do you game plan for each of the teams? How much specifically do you know about Mexico? And, R.A., the knuckleballer, maybe it’s different, but do you watch video, and how much do you get into the details of your opponents in this setting?
JOE TORRE: Well, we get information. We have scouts and we know the lineup they used yesterday. But, to me, my feeling is that if we do what we’re supposed to do, that’s really all that concerns me. That’s the only thing we can control.
We certainly want to know as much information and then we can use it as we see fit basically. So we certainly have people we have covered all the bases as far as trying to think of everything that could help us. But really my I’m more concerned with making sure that we’re ready to do what we do as opposed to other teams.
Q. R.A., what you do know about the Mexican team?
R.A. DICKEY: I know Adrian (Gonzalez) and (Luis) Cruz, I know a couple of the names. But I think Joe spoke to the heart of the matter, and that’s if I’m throwing 65 pitches and can execute 60 good knuckleballs, then we’re probably going to be in a good position.
It’s helpful to know things like who likes to run, who likes to bunt. Things like that, they’re helpful, sure. And especially from my standpoint, they know what they’re getting. I know what I’m throwing. It’s just a matter of who does it better.
Q. Joe, do you have the lineup basically?
JOE TORRE: We’re still playing with it. What we have used the last two games I’m pretty comfortable with. Obviously we have matchups against Gallardo and but I really even if I did have it, I would want to give it to the players first. But I we’re still talking about it. I’m not sure it will change a great deal from what you saw.
Q. R.A., your journey was so well documented in your book, it’s kind of unlikely, the way your path came, that you’re here and winning the National League Cy Young Award and then being traded to Toronto. How has the whole last year or two been for you as you’ve gotten to the peak of your career and now you’re here pitching this game?
R.A. DICKEY: Well, I’m very humbled by it because my life has been much about second chances, and not just second chances but third chances and fourth chances. And anything that I’ve done has been the product of people who have poured into me and loved me well. I’m not a self made man by any stretch of the imagination.
So I think the thing that makes it most rich for me is that I’m able to share it with those people that have really helped contribute to a very redemptive narrative, if you will. And it’s been great at every turn the last year or two. It’s been very satisfying.
Q. Joe, what was your thinking going into the creating the roster the way it is as opposed to previous teams where it seemed they were overloaded at various positions, and yours is more of a regular type team?
JOE TORRE: Well, we’re playing a regular game, so I understand and don’t think the marketing people weren’t concerned about how many high profile names they would love to have. But again, in putting a team together, I felt that if you’re going to play a series you’re going to play, we’re playing three games in a row and then Miami, it could vary. But you still are playing games with days off that I just felt even though it is spring training and knowing that we did start spring training a little sooner and players have a number of at bats under their belt, that I really needed one guy at each position.
And then I was sort of debating four or five outfielders, but I knew I needed three catchers. Aside from R.A., having a specified catcher for him, give you an example, Mauer has been catching every other day, so certainly I’m not going to catch him Saturday night, Sunday afternoon. So I felt three catchers were necessary.
I was just going back and forth whether we were going to have 15 pitchers or and four outfielders or 14 pitchers and five outfielders, so I settled on the pitchers, because, again, I think those are the players that need the most care because they’re the ones that are pretty much on schedule on how they what they need during spring training.
So I just I was fortunate enough to get Bloomquist and Zobrist and have them understand what we were trying to do, and so that’s what my thinking was. I just felt that the guys who were going to play were going to play nine innings and it was going to be tough for me to try to get, say, two shortstops enough playing time to satisfy satisfy me in sending them back to their team hopefully the 20th of this month.
Q. R.A., I feel like I’ve asked you this a thousand times, but with the weather bad tomorrow and the dome likely closed, does that tend to be an advantage for you? I know in the past you’ve liked pitching in dome stadiums, and will that help you tomorrow?
JOE TORRE: Oh, I thought he was talking to me.
R.A. DICKEY: Well, the thing with the weather is if it’s open I want it open all the time. I don’t want it open and then you close it and traps all the humidity in there. That can sometimes be challenging. So if it’s closed, great; if it’s open, great. Just leave it one way or the other all day. That’s helpful for me.
But if you throw a good knuckleball, if it’s 10 degrees or if it’s a hundred degrees, if it’s pouring down rain or if it’s beautiful, it’s going to be good. If it’s a good one. It’s the mediocre ones that you can sometimes get away with when you’ve got the right conditions.
Having a closed dome certainly I don’t have to worry about wind gusts and rain and moisture and things like that that can be a challenge sometimes.
Q. For both of you guys, talking to Wright and some other guys last night and R.A. now, it seems like the guys that are here it’s a no brainer for them why they are. It was an easy decision to come play. They’re very committed to playing. What do you think will change the minds of maybe some other guys moving forward? Because a lot of other guys don’t think twice about playing in it. Does the team have to be successful, you guys are having fun? How do you think that can change the mindset with other players?
JOE TORRE: Well, I’m not into social media, but tweeting seems to be the way people talk to each other.
I think word of mouth. I know one thing, when I go in and talk and we had a little chat last night the last thing on my mind is motivating these guys. Because they’re here. And I talked to every single one of them before they got here and I sensed the excitement and the pride in being a part of this thing.
So I think the only way that and, again, the players that aren’t here that were asked, if they were interested, I don’t think it’s as much that they didn’t want to be here but they didn’t feel that they could be at the top of their game for what we needed to have happen here.
Q. R.A., do you agree with Joe?
R.A. DICKEY: I’m looking through the lens of having a lot of international experience, and so I say that to preface this point. It’s not about talent as much as it’s about spirit, heart, desire. In international tournament competition, talent doesn’t always win. Over the course of 162 games, it’s a little bit better barometer. If you got really good talent, you’re probably going to be one of the playoff teams. But if you stay healthy;
But in tournament play it’s a little bit different. So you want guys around you who are all in. And it’s nothing like Joe said, it’s not a comment on anybody that chose not to come here, but if there’s 1 percent of you that doesn’t want to be here, you shouldn’t come. Because that’s what it demands in order to win.
I think we have got a clubhouse full of those guys, which is nice.
Q. Joe, this is I think maybe one of the first times you’ve been able to see Giancarlo Stanton up close in person. Maybe you’ve seen him from a distance. I want to get your impression on that. And, R.A., probably no pitcher has faced him more often than you have. You faced him both as Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Stanton. Wanted to get your take on it as well.
JOE TORRE: Well, he’s quite a physical specimen and he’s got a head on his shoulders to match. This kid is wow. Just taking batting practice, which can you tell a lot when a player takes batting practice. I go back to days of course when I played and then guys are having contests who can hit the ball the farthest, and he’s up there working his batting practice.
When I say “working his batting practice,” he’ll hit more balls to the right side of second base than he will to the left side. Because he knows what makes him successful. And doesn’t say a whole lot, very respectful. He was out there the other day shagging just until it was over.
He’s very special. He’s a very special young man, the few days that I’ve had to be around him.
R.A. DICKEY: I feel like Jack around him, Jack and the beanstalk. He’s like he takes up the whole box visually when you’re facing him. And I faced him a number of times. And he reminds me a lot I remember having the same feeling when Frank Thomas was in the box. He just takes up the whole box and you don’t feel like there’s much place to go with him.
Thankfully I throw a pitch that moves a lot of different directions, so I’ve been able to have a little bit of success against him. But he is very intimidating player to play against.
Q. R.A., in some ways in this country WBC has not gained any type of respect. It’s almost looked upon as a joke by a lot of people. What will it take and do you feel the pressure of having to get to the finals what will it take to make this really a tournament that Americans are interested in?
R.A. DICKEY: Some of it may have to do with you and the way you write it.
Q. Well, I’ve been very positive about it. Most of the other people haven’t.
R.A. DICKEY: “You” collectively. Not “you” in particular. (Laughter.) “You” collectively.
I think that winning it certainly has to do something with it. If we are successful and win it, then I think you’re going to have more support. I’m not sure, I feel like it’s kind of a World Cup event. And I think that took a little while to get some legs too.
So I’m not sure. I make the analogy in the hopes that it will gain momentum much like the World Cup has gained momentum. But we have got to continually produce good teams that show well in it.
Q. R.A., couple more questions for you. I know you worked with Aaron a little bit over the winter. How has that come out and where are you with your feeling about him catching the knuckleball?
R.A. DICKEY: I’m completely confident in it. In him. We got to work together in Nashville early on in the offseason. I’ve worked with him in the spring and he’s progressively gotten better. Now, he’s also progressively seen a better knuckleball as my arm’s gotten stronger and I’ve gotten to the place where I feel like I’m where I need to be.
But it’s a challenge you throw a good knuckleball, it’s hard for the best catcher in the world to catch it. It’s just tough. But he’s done a marvelous job of adapting. And the thing that you’ve got to do catching the knuckleball is take your ego completely out of it. He’s done that. And he’s so hungry to learn and do it well that he’s done a fabulous job.
Q. Do you repetitively continue to throw your knuckleball in the offseason or in between starts the way you used to when you were training to improve it?
R.A. DICKEY: Yeah, absolutely. I think that for me that’s important. The knuckleball’s such a feel pitch you always want a good feel of it coming out of your hand.
I remember when I first started I would throw it and I would be like, God, this is awesome; I think I could really do some great things with this. And the next day you come to the park and it’s like, Where did it go? Oh, no. And now I can just pick up the ball and throw a good knuckleball. And that’s taken a lot of time.
But I love the feel of it in my hand. I ride around at home in the car with one in the cup holder and I’m always fiddling with it. Just to have a ball in my hand feels right. So I’m always throwing knuckleballs in between in an effort to continue to get a feel.
Q. Finally, back to your book, the one sequence in the book when you tried to swim the Mississippi and you
R.A. DICKEY: Missouri.
Q. Okay. Missouri. Right. And then I imagine that being through that there’s not a lot of pressure in doing a lot of these other things that in life are kind of more just acts in life than the type of belief system you had to go through once you went through that?
R.A. DICKEY: Well, that certainly helped put things in perspective. It doesn’t diminish how climactic an event like this is for me though. I wouldn’t say I don’t feel necessarily pressure, because I feel like that’s something that you put on yourself. I think it’s an incredible privilege. And I take great joy in having a gift that allows me to be here. I want to do the best I can with that gift.
Q. For both of you, kind of along the same lines, but what are the advantages in the competition like this to be able to throw somebody like you with such a different approach than most everybody else at a team that probably isn’t used to seeing this sort of thing?
JOE TORRE: Well, I can just give you this from my experience, from we used to face a knuckleball like (Tim) Wakefield when I was with the Yankees. George Steinbrenner would insist on having a knuckleball throw us batting practice. And I talked him out of that. Because I don’t think that was going to help us hit a good knuckleball. That’s the thing.
And R.A. put it perfectly, if he’s doing what he wants to do with it, it’s going to be a tough challenge, it really is. There’s really no specific way that like, say, a guy throws 95, where you can start a little sooner and get to him, but when movement is the most important thing for a pitcher, whether you’re a knuckleball pitcher or a fastball pitcher, it’s more about movement than velocity.
So it’s just hearing him talk, and of course I’ve talked to him on the phone. Trust is a great thing in our life, and when I send him out there, give him the ball tomorrow, it’s just a matter of here it is, I’m turning it over to you.
Q. R.A., what are some of your specific memories from ’96? Can you share some of the things that stand out from that time?
R.A. DICKEY: Well, regretfully I think the thing that stands out the most is coming up short. That was one of my motivations for wanting to be a part of this experience. But when it was an incredible honor and standing on the podium when I bent my neck down and had them place an Olympic medal around my head is an experience I’ll never forget.
So in my eyes that’s what I’m playing for, is a gold medal. For me. I don’t know what kind of trophy we get or a pendant or ring or whatever it is, but it’s a gold medal for me. And those are the kind of some of the memories I have.
It was really bittersweet in the sense that I was hoping to play Cuba and beat Cuba for a gold medal, and we never even got to the game. So it was tough. And this is a chance to redeem that in some way.
Q. Joe, on Saturday you play against Italy and Mike Piazza is the batting coach, and then we have a prospect interesting, Alex Liddi. What do you feel about this country, your family?
JOE TORRE: No kidding. I spent some time in Italy this past summer and went to where my mom was born in Patina, and, you know, it will it will certainly be strange. I mean, just as tomorrow will be.
This is the first time I’ve been in international competition like this. But that being homeland as I said for my mom, certainly there’s a certain connection that you’ll always have.
But, again, you know, you hug a coach and you hug a manager, but then you’re going to beat his brains out, you hope. So it’s a competition once once we exchange caps, then it’s game on. And that’s what we’re looking for.
But I look forward to this whole experience because it’s exciting for me.
Q. You’ve got the reigning Cy Young winner, you’ve got a couple recent MVP’s, you’ve got All Stars
JOE TORRE: Don’t put pressure on me. Leave me alone here.
Q. What was your reaction when the team was named and people are like, oh, there’s no real big marquee names here?
JOE TORRE: Well, it didn’t really concern me. As I said, I knew early on that it’s like having five shooters in basketball. You need more than one ball. I mean, if they all want to shoot at the same time.
Playing the game, and I’ve been around the game a long time, and just knowing what you’re trying to accomplish, and I know it was going to be a lot less complicated for me to have a guy at each position, and then when I talked to Victorino and I told him, I know you’re interested in playing, but I want to tell you, I have three other outfielders, and he said, That’s okay.
So I just didn’t want players coming on board thinking that they were going to play and get this many at bats and mislead them in any way. So everybody who’s on this club pretty much has an idea of when they got here what was going to happen.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, guys.
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