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October 28, 2021

Dusty Baker

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Truist Park

Houston Astros

Workout Day Press Conference

Q. Dusty, with not having the DH, what are the challenges you'll have to work with? And specifically with the bench, if some of these starters don't go long, are you going to have some other opportunities as well?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, it's a different league. Different responsibilities for different people. My outfield is going to be the best that I can come up with that day. It's a bit of a disadvantage that our guys can't really -- we're working on it now, trying to get on the field for a few minutes because a lot of these guys have never played here.

Someone informed me last night the last time he played here was 2017, I guess it was, and that's a long time ago to not be familiar with the field, with the dimensions and the caroms and the corners.

So we're going to try to get out there and learn the best we can. That's why we wanted to carry Marwin to give us an additional -- the second part of your question, an additional guys off the bench or a potential double switches, even though there's not a bunch of guys that you want to double switch with to get out of your lineup.

So it does present some challenges, but we think we have some guys that are ready for it.

Q. Dusty, I want to take you back to the trade deadline. When Straw got traded for Maton, that was a move that surprised a lot of us. I guess now looking back and given how well Maton has pitched in the playoffs for you, how do you evaluate that deal, and how do you evaluate the job James did addressing your bullpen at the time?

DUSTY BAKER: I'll take the second part. James did a great job addressing and trying to shore up our bullpen. Everybody was trying to get me to say that my bullpen was bad, and I couldn't say that with the guys on the team. You don't talk down on your guys, but our bullpen did need some addressing.

The Straw for Maton wasn't a popular move. It wasn't popular in the city or popular on the team, but sometimes moves work out. It still takes time -- I think you still need to give things time before you see if the move was right in the long run. It's supposed to be a trade that's good for both, and so far it's been good for Cleveland to have Straw, and it's been good for us the way Maton has responded.

I was traded from the Braves to the Dodgers in a big blockbuster trade, and it was like the most unpopular trade of all time in L.A. for a year, and then the next year, like I said, wait until the next year, and I hit 30 home runs on the Dodger team. And I went from the all hated team to the all Dodger team. Sometimes you have to wait.

Q. Dusty, I'd like to go back to 1967, '68. This is absolute full circle for you. You started --

DUSTY BAKER: I don't remember that.

Q. You started your career here obviously in a different part of Atlanta. What is it -- and I'm sure you could answer this for an hour. What is it like to be back in this city, in this region, and have a shot -- be managing a World Series team in the city of Atlanta?

DUSTY BAKER: You've heard me say sometimes it's already written, and this is a prime example. What are the chances of me being back here on the Houston Astros where I got my first hit, back in Atlanta. Back when I was a kid.

Like you said, when I came by -- I guess it's Georgia State Field now, every time I used to come by there going to the hotel I would think -- you always think about -- you know, it's like going back by your high school or your college. If you pass it all the time, you think about different memories that you had, different people that I know in town, different people. Real good friends of mine. I had a road buddy named Michael that I played ball with the Braves, and I thought about him. He died this summer of COVID. Usually when I come here, I'd see him.

Gary Matthews is here. A lot of my partners are here. Actually, I thought about Hank. I talked to Hank Jr. He called me today. Mike Cameron called me. He saw our bus come by. He wanted to know is that our bus? He saw a police escort.

So you just think about all the things that transpired in your life here. This is kind of where I grew up in my professional career.

Q. Having lived with the DH for most of the last two years in games, if you lose double switches, would you miss it in the future?


Q. Why?

DUSTY BAKER: Why? Well, because it's -- that's kind of how I was raised in my managerial career and raised in National League style baseball. There's a lot of strategy on both sides, but there's more, I think, with the no DH, with the pitcher hitting.

Some of the guys don't miss it, some pitchers, and there's some pitchers that absolutely miss it. Like Greinke, he's dying to hit. Like the young man who pitched last night. I'm sure he would miss it. So I just hope that -- I mean, once it ever changes to no DH, then it will probably never change back, and that's something that would sadden me.

Q. Dusty, when you think of Hank, what memories are you thinking about? How much would he enjoy this, and what kind of conversations would you guys have had here during the World Series?

DUSTY BAKER: He'd definitely enjoy this. He would call me, and then first thing he would do is call me Mr. Dusty Baker, and then he'd start laughing. Going over the conversations we would have had, we probably wouldn't have much about baseball. First thing he asks, he asks me about my mother. That's the first thing he asks me, "How's your mom doing?" Like I said, he promised my mom when I was 18 years old.

And then I'd ask him how Dorinda and Hankie and Lary and Gaile are doing, and then we'd talk about getting some food someplace, and he'd ask me how his Hank Aaron wine is doing. So we'd have a lot to talk about. Just make conversation.

He'd ask about my son always. That's his main man, my son. I've got a picture on my wall that we had in Cincinnati at the Freedom Games when my son might have been 10, 12, at the national anthem. He's looking down at my son. My son is looking up at him. Then I got my hand over my heart. So they're partners.

Q. Dusty, I think Marwin is the only player on the team who's faced the starter you guys are going to face tomorrow. Do you think it gives the pitcher an advantage when they're facing a lineup full of guys who have never seen them before?


Q. Why do you think that's such an advantage for the pitcher?

DUSTY BAKER: Because he's throwing the ball where he wants to. He has a catcher behind him ambushing him, you've got nine guys out in the field, if you do hit it right, I mean seven guys behind him. That's an advantage from the get-go. If you've never seen him, you can watch film all you want to, but until you see his release point, you see him on the mound, I always thought it was just easier for you to be throwing the ball where you want to throw it to who you want to throw to.

If a guy's never seen you. I mean, I've seen that a bunch of times. Hank Aaron used to say, if you've never seen a pitcher, you initiate right away and got to kill his spirit. So hopefully, we can initiate him.

Q. What is it about Michael Brantley that makes him sort of thrive in these big games like this?

DUSTY BAKER: He has tremendous balance, and he has good eyes. He can see. He needs the whole field. There's no one way to pitch him. There's no one way to play him.

Q. Dusty, after you guys lost Game 1, you said it specifically. You said this is a seven-game series. Where do you stand on the reaction that can happen after the result of an individual game in the playoffs and how, quote/unquote, momentum turns?

DUSTY BAKER: I think human nature is to overreact, personally. It's sort of short-sighted and you just see the feeling that you have at the moment. Right now, what is it, best three out of five now? We went from best four out of seven, now it's best three out of five. That's how you've got to look at it, whether you lose three still, you've got to win four.

I'll never forget like last year, we lost three, and damn near could have won four. I remember the Yankees in Boston, and they won four. So you've got to get to one at a time.

Q. How well equipped do you think Garcia is batting and prepared? I guess maybe Greinke in Game 4 and whoever starts in Game 5, could that be a disadvantage for those guys having not done it as much as the Braves starters?

DUSTY BAKER: It could be a disadvantage if the other guy can hit. If the other guy can't hit, there's no advantage at all. Just because they've done it doesn't mean they can do it. And because Luis hasn't done, that don't mean he can't do it. I think you'll be surprised.

Q. Dusty, what non-World Series question. Zack Greinke, Martin Maldonado, Yuli, Carlos, and Kyle are all finalists for Gold Glove awards. Want to get some thoughts about that.

DUSTY BAKER: I think that's great. I think that's the work part of the game, the fielding part. You've got to take pride in -- I mean, the only way to get better and to stay good at it is to work. You have to continue to work.

The proudest team that I had was in '93 we had four gold gloves, and potentially could have four here, but I also had a Will Clark who already had one, Darren Lewis is going to get one, Clayton was about to get one, Willie McGee who had one already. You've got to catch the ball.

One of the proudest things that happened in my career is to get a Golden Glove. Back in our day, the Golden Glove was given to the top three outfielders, and most of the time they were centerfielders. Now they give the Golden Glove to each position, but to get a gold is to get gold.

Gary Pettis got -- how many does he have, five?

Q. Luis Garcia was bumping like 97 in his game against the Red Sox. Do you think that's sustainable, or do you think that's a result of the outing in his first time out?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. I hope so. More than 97, you hope it's well located 90-something because 97 walking people and not throwing strikes is no good. But he had 97, 96 in the strike zone. So I'm just hoping that he's found his rhythm to stay in the strike zone.

Q. When you look at how well Cristian Javier has been pitching in the postseason, what do you think is the biggest key to his success?

DUSTY BAKER: He works at it. He really works at it. There was about a month there he was out of sync, so he went back to work. I got to give Strommy and Miller and Murph a lot of credit for helping him get back on sync, without overworking him, and really keeping him ready for us to try to win games too.

He could have squawked while he was going from being one of our top relievers, young relievers, to bullpen, but he embraced it and then went to work on it.

Q. Dusty, how would you -- if you were to look back, how would you describe yourself during those early years with the Braves? You mentioned several times that you were kind of -- everyone changes. You were a different person back then. How would you describe yourself?

DUSTY BAKER: I was the same person. I was just wild, you know what I'm saying? How many guys, 19, 20, 21 years old, a little money in your pocket, a pretty car, and single wouldn't have been kind of wild, you know what I mean? I believe in having fun, but I also believe in working towards my goal because I had to help support my family.

So I was never too wild, but I liked to have a good time. I always had Hank Aaron tell me to go to bed and go to church, and my roommate Ralph, he'd make me go to church. Like I said, it was -- I don't know, I was focused, but I knew how to and I believed in having a good time at the same time.

Q. Now that Darren is older, what's it like for you to have him around? Do you talk much about the game either beforehand or afterwards?

DUSTY BAKER: Sometimes. He knows baseball. I've got to give it to my son. He really paid attention. He'll tell me like the key to this game was a defensive play by Albies the other night or just small things with bases loaded. Or the untimely walk or the error.

He tells me that he's more nervous during our games than he is in his own, and I'm more nervous at his game than I am at our own. He loves baseball. See, I couldn't decide at his age which sport I liked the best or what I wanted to do, but at 15 he's playing basketball, football, baseball. He said, I want to play baseball. He'll be in later tonight.

Q. I know his career hasn't started yet, but could you see him being a lifer in baseball like you?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. I don't really like that term lifer. I'm in baseball, but I've got other things that I'm doing as well as baseball.

Man has to do what he's good at and to feed his family and his mom and dad over a long period of time, you know what I mean? My dad taught me that. A man has to do what a man got to do. You guys ever heard that before?

Q. So back to your point about the individual games of a series, it seems like this year more than any each game is a self-contained unit. It's like Game 1 and 2 have really had no semblance to each other. They were mirror images. There's no momentum. There's just the pitching is short in a lot of cases. Guys are down starters. Do you find that there's an all-in approach to winning every game and worry about the next game the next day? What's your take on it?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, it's gotten more and more with that recently. Guys have a shorter leash on everybody. They're pinch-hitting more. I mean, we have more in today's society, I think, you know what I mean? Where you're worried less about tomorrow. I believe in living for today, but I also believe in preparing for tomorrow because, if not, you just go spend up your whole paycheck today and don't worry about paying bills on the next day.

So you've got to kind of live for today, but you also try to prepare for tomorrow. There's some guys that they saved over there that they could have brought in to try to save that game, and we have some guys over here that I could have brought in that didn't really need to, trying to hedge on going through your whole bullpen for tomorrow.

I hope that answered your question, man. Your question was so heavy with using them big words, I had to think about it, man.

Q. Is Greinke your Game 4 starter, or are you guys still finalizing that?

DUSTY BAKER: We're still finalizing that.

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