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October 2, 2003

Dusty Baker


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dusty?

Q. Despite a tough loss last night, you have chance to clinch in your home field. Is there any way to look at this other than the glass being half full?

DUSTY BAKER: It's better than half full. We're back home. We had a tough loss, but they had a tough loss the night before. We come back home and we're 1-1. It's a very good ball club. The ball club has the best record in the league. We feel confident, we feel comfortable. We know it's going to be a dog fight. Our guys feel the same way. They know how to win and fight. It's going to be a very, very exciting rest of the series.

Q. During the first two games, the hitters had a lot of problems coming through with runners on base. Is there anything different you can do?

DUSTY BAKER: First thing is you have to take what they give you. Secondly, you have to be patient. In a lot of situations, we haven't been patient. You know, patience is something that just doesn't come overnight. It's something that at the same time you have to make a conscious effort to being patient without losing your aggressiveness. In my mind, you know, it doesn't matter. Sure we make mistakes. The other team makes mistakes, but we come out on top. It really doesn't matter so long as we win, and we've got some guys that have come through, and if they hadn't, we wouldn't be here at this point right now. There were times when we scored a lot of runs, but people really put a main focus on our pitching because that was our strength when we came into the season. So, Gary is doing an outstanding job helping the guys make adjustments. Just like last night the Braves made adjustments. That's what it's about.

Q. As a manager, you obviously know your team better than anyone. Is this something the team can continue to build on and help their confidence?

DUSTY BAKER: I think the way we came down the stretch, guys were confident the way we were going to be able to get it done. That's our goal. We were playing -- we played very good baseball down the stretch in September. I still feel as a manager and as a perfectionist we can play better. There is a time down the stretch that you want your team to be operating on full cylinders. We're not quite there yet, but I know in my heart that better things are still yet to come.

Q. You've gone against Greg Maddux for a long time. What are your thoughts going against him, especially when he's on his game?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, Maddux, this guy knows how to pitch, and the main thing is you have to try to get him early. You've got to try to figure out as soon as possible what his game plan is. There is a chance he has a great idea what he wants to do, so we've got to be patient but at the same time, I can't stress this enough, we have to remain aggressive at the same time. Hopefully he won't be on his game. Hopefully he won't be as sharp. It all depends on who the umpire is. It's very, very important. There is one person in the equation a lot of times we neglect. That guy is very, very important.

Q. When Maddux was in his prime, whenever he took the mound, the Braves had confidence they would win. Do you feel the same thing with Prior now?

DUSTY BAKER: Mark is 15 years behind Maddux. We feel very confident and comfortable when he does take the mound. He's still a young pitcher. A very prosperous young pitcher. He's way ahead of anybody else in baseball his age. So we feel very, very comfortable.

Q. A lot has made of his mechanics and his strength. How much do you think his mental makeup is a part of his success?

DUSTY BAKER: It's a big part of his success, just like every quality athlete. If you don't have a strong mind, a strong arm and a lot of guts in your stomach, then you're just another good pitcher with good stuff. That's big in this equation. It's big on anybody at this level. And he's got that going for him already. In my mind he can only get better and better.

Q. If you could just speak as a baseball fan, what's so intriguing about tomorrow night's matchup?

DUSTY BAKER: I guess the fact that you have the new young lion on our side and you have the veteran of many wars lion on that side. It's going to be a tremendous ballgame. You have power versus finesse and baseball intellect in Maddux, and you've got power and rising baseball intellect in Mark Prior.

Q. Before yesterday's game, there was some concern Zambrano's emotions might boil over a little bit. The opposite is true with Prior. Any concerns?

DUSTY BAKER: No, and Zambrano did a great job yesterday. He put to rest a lot of people's worries. Mark holds his emotions inside. He has emotions and he doesn't like to get hit either. He doesn't like not making quality pitches. He expects good things, expects excellence. Like I said, all guys have emotions. Some guys demonstrate it externally; some guys keep it in.

Q. They made the adjustment of shortening up and going the other way. Is it now time to make a pitching adjustment to them?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, quite frankly, I'd rather have them shortening up and going the other way than making homeruns. The series is trying to figure out what the opposition's game is against you. These guys over there are veteran hitters. They have been around a long time. You don't get to that overnight. Chipper Jones and Sheffield, he's been around forever doing the same thing. They have been around for a long time. Lopez, they've got a veteran team. Giles and DeRosa and Andruw Jones have been around a long time. They have a batting coach over there which I think has been really unnoticed in this whole equation how they hit over there. They have been together for a while. They trust what he has to say. They adjust accordingly.

THE MODERATOR: Any last one for Dusty?

Q. Mark Prior just said you came in and changed the philosophy of the entire organization. Second place wasn't good enough anymore. How did you do that?

DUSTY BAKER: It's a lot easier for people to believe you when you just came off the World Series. That helps. I mean, you do it with positive thoughts and positive speech. You try to do it through helping the mind-set of the organization and the fans and Cub fans everywhere. You know, a lot of people have been Cubs fans or former Cubs, it's been sort of in their heads that second place isn't okay. When you look at Bill Parcells and some of the coaches that have been around a while that have gone to different teams and they have definite philosophies and things and how they go about doing things, number one factor is that you have the trust of your players in order to say it.

THE MODERATOR: Last one for Dusty.

Q. When Mark Prior is around, does that put less pressure on your offense?

DUSTY BAKER: First of all, let's quit separating the offense and the defense. We're all on the same team. The objective is to get it all done. What we try not to do around here is to put the blame on offense, defense, pitching, whatever it is and try to separate one from the other. One thing I require is that we refuse to place any blame on any particular facet of the game. We give the whole team credit when we do well.

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