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October 10, 2021

Dusty Baker

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Guaranteed Rate Field

Houston Astros

Pregame 3 Press Conference

Q. Dusty, did you drop Gurriel down in the order just to get more at-bats for Correa and Tucker?

DUSTY BAKER: No, not really. Just that they're -- you know, they're hotter right now, and so I just kind of went with the hot bats. I talked to Yuli. I don't usually do things without talking to the players -- player first, but we have the kind of players and lineup that we can interchange guys, and that's what we did today just to try to maximize who is swinging the best right now. And also that seventh spot is very, very, very important. Yuli is one of our better two-out RBI men, and this will usually come up in that seventh spot.

Q. A little earlier Tony La Russa was asked about the potential of you going into the Hall of Fame given the fact that you're closing in on 2,000 wins and about the only box you haven't checked is winning a World Series as a manager, and he said you already have the credentials. He said you already belong there. He pointed out you can't discount your playing career either, comparing that to, like, Joe Torre, who went in as a manager as well. He also said he would prefer you don't use this series to advance his case -- or your case, but he doesn't -- you don't have to beat him to make him feel any better about his thoughts.

DUSTY BAKER: I mean, that's -- I mean, that was kind of Tony to say. He actually said those things to me in the past and recently, but that's something that I don't really think about too much other than the task at hand, which is winning and also going as far as we can go in winning the world championship and everything will take care of itself. And so, you know, I don't know if you knew me as a player, as a person, but now is not the time to be thinking about self.

Q. Dusty, Luis García has a unique wind-up. I was just wondering if you have ever seen anything like that before or if he reminds you of anyone in the past?

DUSTY BAKER: No. He doesn't remind me of anybody, plus, I have never seen it. I have seen that rocker step in basketball. Anybody play basketball, you know, you do the rock-a-baby -- rock-a-bye baby and then put them to sleep.

Q. Dusty, I know it was a while back, but do you remember when Michael Brantley was maybe on the verge of signing with Toronto, George Springer to sign with Toronto?

DUSTY BAKER: I remember.

Q. Looking back how maybe pivotal a point that was being able to keep this whole group together and the role that Brantley plays for you on the field and his leadership?

DUSTY BAKER: Michael is one of our real leaders on our team. They don't call him Uncle Mike for nothing. He came here. And to my knowledge from talking to different people, he came here and just fit right in as one of the leaders on this team. And, you know, when I heard that George had signed with Toronto, I was just about to call George and say congratulations because I know he signed a big contract, and then I had heard shortly after that that Michael had signed with Toronto too. I was, like, oh, no. And so I was just about to call Michael, and then I got a call from our organization that that wasn't true, and that we were trying to sign him back again, so that was some of the best news that I had gotten that day.

Q. Dusty, if you wouldn't mind pulling back the curtain for us. A lot of the guys have talked about how you're so valuable because you know when to drop some advice or walk around the clubhouse. You'll have a conversation. When it comes to the postseason, with all the experience you have, but also that they have, how do you kind of manage when to say something, when to get the guys together? Can you share your perspective there?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, it's sort of a feeling that you get, and you kind of read the room. You know? Sometimes you can talk at the wrong time too, you know, because I've been over there on the other side listening, and I'm, like, man, I really don't want to hear that, you know? Or there are other times when you can just sort of tell a guy is down or tell -- from my past, coaches I've had in my life when they could tell with me when there was a personality change or if a guy talks a lot and all of a sudden he is not talking or if a guy doesn't talk and all of a sudden he is doing a bunch of talking. You know, you just kind of try to learn each person without prying. You know, Bill Walsh helped me with that a lot when I first started coaching and Al Attles and some of the great people that I have been around.

Like I said, my basketball coach, my American Legion coach. Spider Jorgensen who played with Jackie Robinson, which I didn't even know he played with Jackie Robinson until I saw his mural on Dodgertown when I was playing. I've had some great people, Preston Gómez, you know, Jim Gilliam, Lasorda. I've had some good ones. They didn't know they were teaching me, but I try to retain whatever I saw.

Q. Dusty, going back to García's wind-up for a second, have you seen him improve in being able to hold runners this season, and how valuable is Maldonado back there?


Q. How valuable is Maldonado back there?

DUSTY BAKER: He is real valuable, but if we don't give him a chance to throw him out, so we've tried to make some improvements in speeding up his wind-up without taking away the quality of his pitches, because you just can't have him running like crazy either. Yeah, that's challenging tonight.

Q. You not only think you have quality in your lineup, but you have balance, great balance.


Q. When it gets later in the game, it seems like the other manager because of the new rules with having to pitch to three guys, it really disrupts it. Have you noticed that, and do you design your lineup with that in mind?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah. Number one, I do design that because other managers do too. And to me, that's -- that's, you know, one of the rules that -- because it's really kind of made it unfair with right-handers that can't get left-handers out or left-handers more -- left-handers that can't get right-handers out. You know, they have the left-hander specialist that just comes in and get the left-hander out.

That's kind of null and void and makes it more challenging as a manager. You try to bring a left-hander in when he only has to get maybe one out, but what happens if he walks a guy or if a guy gets a hit and now he has to face the next guy or the next guy and the next guy, and that's what's -- that's -- you know, that's made it very challenging. I think that is the most challenging rule that there is for a manager.

Q. I know you've talked about him before many times, but what specifically makes Yordan Alvarez so well? I know he is a big man, but why is he such a good hitter?

DUSTY BAKER: A lot of big guys can't hit. He has good vision. He has good balance, especially now with his legs that they are good. You know, balance is the key. And he can run. Big Joker can run, and he -- like, he thinks he can hit. That's most of it. He probably has been hitting all his life, so I think the belief in it, the concentration. He is only going to get better. He is going to get better and better and better the more he plays and the longer he lives.

Q. Dusty, I guess I'm picking up a little bit on that Hall of Fame question just that the more you win, the closer you get, the bigger a story you're going to be whether you want that or not. Did you have kind of a game plan for that?

DUSTY BAKER: That's the story most of my life.

Q. The pursuit of a World Series, maybe the Hall of Fame question, your legacy at large, are you going to be comfortable with this, or are you going to try to swat it away? Do you have a disposition towards it?

DUSTY BAKER: I'm comfortable in my own skin. I mean, you guys can talk about it. It's not in my nature really to talk about it too much. I mean, it wasn't even on my mind until the clubhouse guy in Cincinnati, you know, Mark Stowe would start bringing the lineup cards in and say you passed that guy and passed that guy, and then I started paying attention to it at that time.

I'm spoiled. I just like to win. That is my favorite thing to do is to win. And even my daughter when she was young, she asked me, daddy, why must you win all the time, and I couldn't come up with anything other than I'm supposed to, and she says, Dad, that's no answer. You wouldn't let me win at jacks or tidally winks. I'll let you get close, so I don't spoil your desire to try, but I like to win.

You guys can write it, I mean, whatever. I'll answer questions up to a certain point, but like I said, you know, I don't read stuff about myself. I let my wife read it or relatives or whatever, and then they can be the judge if it's true or false.

Q. Can you describe how the season has gone for Carlos going back to Spring Training? I mean, it can be -- you have coached many players that have been, say, in a contract year, and sometimes guys definitely struggle with that, and he has just thrived all season, and that's carried into the postseason as well dealing with pressure like this.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, Carlos, he is as good a pressure player as I have been around. He is not the best player I've been around. He is one of the best, but he is definitely one of the best pressure guys that I've ever seen, big game guys. And, you know, it's actually made him more focused, it looks like to me.

You know, some guys -- there's nothing you can do about the pressure that's exerted upon you as long as you don't put it on yourself. The main thing is that you have to love to play, and that's what it boils down to.

It's the same game no matter where you play it, and like I tell our guys, I mean, you know, you just play, play well, play effectively, take care of yourself, and you'll get paid. It's just a matter of how much, but pay is not what drives you. What drives you is the thrill and excitement about playing. You know what I mean? So this is all I tell them, just like you tell your kids, get out of the house and go play, except they're kids to me, but they're men.

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