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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, January 13, 2001

Torre enjoying off-
season trip to Valley Isle

KAPALUA, Maui -- Joe Torre looked relaxed. "This place can do it for you," said the world champion New York Yankees' manager, enjoying the spectacular views from the Plantation Course.

Yankee Stadium is his work place. But when it's vacation time, there's no place like Maui, according to Torre, who played in Wednesday's Mercedes Championships pro-am with defending Sony Open champion Paul Azinger and Gov. Ben Cayetano.

"This is my vacation," Torre said. I'm staying until the end of the month."

Then it's back to work. Spring training starts next month for his Yankees, the Tiger Woods of baseball. They've won the World Series four of the last five years. That's the equivalent of a grand slam in golf.

Everybody's wondering, like in Tiger's case, what can the Yankees do for an encore?

Torre smiled at the question. It was a knowing, Mona Lisa smile, perhaps since he realizes his owner George Steinbrenner not only likes to win but feels money's no object.

It's the American way. Rather, the Yankee way. With the addition of free-agent pitcher Mike Mussina, the Yankees are considered a lock for yet another American League title and World Series ring.

"Mike Mussina gives us a No. 1 starter on a team with a lot of No. 1 starters," Torre said.

Torre describes his four world championship teams like a parent would their kids--no favoring one over another. All are unique with individual qualities and idiosyncrasies.

"Nothing's going to match the first one, the first World Series you win, in '96, especially when you wait 30-plus years to do it," Torre said. "Then the special year in '98 when we won all those games. And '99 when I found out I had cancer and then we come back and win the World Series again.

"And then this year was so weird. A lot of things happened and the club didn't have a good feel to it. One thing I can say they never stopped working at it even though it was a lot tougher for them this year."

TORRE credited two key acquisitions who came through -- Jose Vizcaino and David Justice. "Those two guys just seemed to make our club complete," he said.

The Yankees won the AL East over rival Boston a lot easier than it looked on paper.

"We go into the last three weeks of the season, playing very well. We just about knock Boston out of it. And then we let them back in by how badly we played. It was something I had experienced before, but never with the Yankees," Torre said.

"A lot of people said we were coasting because we had a big lead. But it was so opposite of that. Everybody was trying to do too much to get it over with so that we could start resting people. They started pressing."

Then beating the New York Mets in the World Series made the 2000 Yankee team special.

"It would have been tough to brag about winning the last three out of five World Series if we had lost to the Mets," Torre said.

After Roger Clemens beat the Mets in Game 2, Torre admitted he was sitting with his head in his hands.

"I knew what the story was going to be: about Roger throwing the bat at (Mike) Piazza. It kept me from enjoying the 2-0 lead," Torre said.

He defends Clemens. "It made no sense for him to throw the bat at Piazza. If Mike knew where the ball was, he wouldn't have run. It was an unfortunate incident. But he's on some other planet when he pitches."

As for Clemens' $50,000 fine, "I guess they felt they had to have some kind of punishment. Maybe to satisfy the Mets," Torre said. "To me, to accept that fine means you're acknowledging you did something wrong."

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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