Psyched Online

INTERVIEW: Jeff Torborg

With Paul Schienberg, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Torborg was born in Plainfield, New Jersey on November 26, 1941. He played as a catcher for 10 seasons in the major leagues for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the California Angels. Jeff caught several no-hitters, most notably Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on September 9, 1965 vs. the Chicago Cubs. He currently manages the Florida Marlins. In the past, he has managed for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, and Montreal Expos. He met with Psyched at Fort Lauderdale Stadium during Spring Training, 2003.

Schienberg: How do you assess if a player is going to make the team?

Torborg:Don’t make an evaluation until you have to make a decision. You keep watching and watching.

Schienberg: Is there a team leader?

Torborg: There’s a bunch of guys.

Schienberg: Which guy stands out?

Torborg: The whole team … Mike Redmand, Lowell, the centerfielder, our new catcher. Leadership can come in all kinds of forms. You don’t have to be a talker to be a leader. You play with example and heart.

Schienberg: There’s a special relationship between a catcher and a pitcher. Are you looking for some chemistry between Pudge Gonzalez and the pitching staff?

Torborg: Chemistry is interactive on the whole club. Our catchers get very close. We meet every day. We have an offensive meeting with Bill Robinson. Right after that we have a meeting with the starting pitcher and the three catchers. Our three catchers are very close. We want their input constantly. It becomes an interaction between catchers’ too. Then the pitchers understand what we are trying to do. The catcher is an extension of what we are thinking in the dugout. Pudge brings a presence. The pitch selection can be over rated. But, if the pitcher believes it is the right pitch that’s the biggest part of the deal … whether it is the right call or not … if he believes it is right, he will deliver it … without being hesitant.

Schienberg: Are you still in touch with Sandy Koufax?

Torborg: Yeah, I had dinner with him the other night.

Schienberg: I will never forget that perfect game.

Torborg: Did you read the book about him?

Schienberg: Yeah, it’s a great book. What makes for a good day at spring training?

Torborg: Taking a solid crap.

Schienberg: Ah, the golden years.

Torborg: You got that straight.

Schienberg: What are you looking for when you brake camp? How do you know whether you got something really good going on with your team? Like this team … will you know whether you’re going to get off to a good start?

Torborg: We are really close to our lineup. Everyone seems like they are ready to roll. The only thing now is whether the pitching is where you want it to be. The bullpen looks good and starters are showing good stuff … AJ, Pav.

Schienberg: Do you like this team better than last year’s team?

Torborg: You know I liked that team last year … a lot. And I like this team even better than last year. We are going to miss guys that we really cared about. I like the end product and the way we play. The abilities with Pierre for example. He plays like Maury Wills. He brings speed. He makes things happen. We have as good a defensive team as there is in the league. I watched the Cardinals last year. You could see why they won. Their defense was superb even with all the tragedies they faced. They had four gold glovers and team speed. We led the league in stolen bases last year because we had to run. We don’t have to run as much as last year. We don’t strike out as much. We get productive outs. Last year we didn’t move runners up. Now guys are moving runners up. Little things like that make a difference. We take team speed and defense every day when we come to the park. The offense can be shut down that just happens … how healthy out pitching staff is (coincidentally, BJ Burnett , the best of the pitching staff, came up lame in the second inning of the game played immediately after the interview).

Schienberg: Should that rule be changed … where if the pitcher is attacked, he should be able to defend himself without fear of punishment?

Torborg: That’s a tough one. We had that happen once with the White Sox, when Jack McDowell stood on the top of the mound and met Whitten and hit him on the top of the head, and still got suspended. He took the shot. It’s a tough call. Got to go play a game now.

Schienberg: Thanks Jeff.