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December 5, 2022

Dusty Baker

San Diego, California, USA

Houston Astros

Press Conference

Q. What's your reaction to Verlander going to the Mets and just overall how that affects you guys?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't think it's official yet. Has it become official?

Q. Not yet.

DUSTY BAKER: So I'll answer that when it becomes official. But you know how much I like the guy and how I feel about him. Once it becomes official then I'll really start thinking about it.

Q. If it does become official, do you think you guys will go after another starting pitcher? Will you be set the six you have coming back?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know if we're set or not. Do you ever have enough pitching? Especially starting pitching, you don't know. You hate to have somebody go down and you're in need of some more pitching.

But everybody who wants to talk to us, they want some of our pitching. We'll just have to see. You never have enough pitching.

Q. (Indiscernible) to sustain the level of play last year and this year?

DUSTY BAKER: I've always yearned for a left-handed pitcher.

Q. Still doing it?

DUSTY BAKER: Still doing it. You always need left-handed bat. We don't know what the situation is with Yuli or the situation with Diaz. You want to shore up your bench strength the best you can. And so we'll see who is left out there and who is available, who wants to come to us and who we want to try to sign.

Q. (Indiscernible) how much have you been involved since the organization parted ways with James, how much have you been involved and who have you been in contact with as the point for that?

DUSTY BAKER: That's a good question. They asked me questions. And they're not doing a whole bunch without at least having me involved. And I spent a lot of time talking to Jim Crane, also talking to Bagwell, talking to Enos. And so also talking to Giles a little bit. I've talked to almost everybody.

Q. If they sign a player, who makes that decision at this point?


Q. Jim?

DUSTY BAKER: You give away that much money. I don't have that money and I don't have that much power. You know what I'm saying? So yeah, when it comes to money and personnel decisions, I mean it starts at the top.

Q. Have you talked to Enos?

DUSTY BAKER: I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. And he's doing pretty good. And he's in a situation where I wish him well because he's in a good situation. And I'm sure that he has some people, some organizations that are suitors that are trying to figure out how we do things. And that makes him valuable.

Q. Were you surprised at all how that went down?

DUSTY BAKER: Kind of, yeah, but I mean there isn't much that surprises me now about this world. Every time I think I'm going to be surprised, something else pops up.

Q. Was it a sense of relief, elation that you finally have the World Series championship as a manager done?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I think it's more relief for everybody to quit asking me. (Laughter). I'm serious.

Q. They're still asking you.

DUSTY BAKER: I know. I just knew in my heart it was going to happen sooner or later. I didn't know when, exactly. And I've always said if I win won, I want to win two. Now I am in a position to win two. Where, had I lost, then I would have had to go two more years to win two, which is tough back to back.

And I don't know, like I said, in the press conference in the World Series, last year, as much as Hank like me, it was the years of the Braves. I just thought, this year, okay, Braves won theirs, it's still be for me.

And my mom and dad -- and my mom died this year -- it was like, you know, sometimes things are already written and you just don't know when and you just don't want to screw it up.

Q. You don't feel any more sense of accomplishment, do you? You've had a great career, great life. This is just sort of like cherry on the cake at this point? Obviously it's nice to have.

DUSTY BAKER: It means a lot to my family to my homeboys, homegirls, people all over the country, I get calls.

The main thing I found is that I don't think people would have had -- they say good people have some good things happen to them sometimes, or also they say that they're telling me that they don't know what they would have done as far as faith and about perseverance that I talk about.

I think that's given people a lot of hope for things they aspired for, especially if they've been aspiring for something for a long, long time.

I mean it's easy when you accomplish your goals, like, right away. But what happens when you gotta take a long time to accomplish a goal? You know, a lot of people lose faith in the meantime, and I think that perhaps that I was given some people some faith.

Q. One move that has become official, of course, is Jacob deGrom. I was wondering, you just saw Boch and Mike Maddux, they signed deGrom. And everybody will be gunning for you in the West. I wondered how you size up Texas as they're making it forward?

DUSTY BAKER: Not only Texas. You look at Anaheim, too. They added Renfroe and they are going to have a healthy Rendon. You look at Seattle. They had Kolten Wong and they had Teoscar and Castillo, the pitcher last year.

I'm predicting it's going to take less games to win our division than anytime since I've been here, simply because there's more parity. And some team that you were 14-4 against last year, you could end up 7 and -- or whatever because they're going to chip away at -- there's no real door mats that you just think you're going to sweep them. So that's what I'm predicting.

And I'm hoping that while they get there, that we continue to try to get better because they've gotten better. I said that last year.

Q. You said who, Texas?

DUSTY BAKER: All of them.

Q. The division?

DUSTY BAKER: Yes. The Angels got Hurt (phonetic). So we'll see.

Q. Jim has said that catching is an area that they're looking at. How do you balance (indiscernible) more help there with Maldonado (indiscernible) and what you did to guide the pitching staff last year?

DUSTY BAKER: That's a good -- you can say what we needed -- it's harder to make trades than ever. It's harder to sign guys than ever.

And so I think we just have to be prepared if we don't sign. If we do sign somebody, then we've got to be prepared to maybe let one of your young catchers go because it's going to stunt his growth.

But if you don't sign them, then you've got to figure out which young catcher that you're going to groom to possibly take Maldi's spot, which is a pretty good situation, when you've got an older catcher and then a younger couple of catchers that's been groomed to take his job.

You don't know if one of those guys could be the next Johnny Bench or anything. You just don't know. They have the skill, I think, to, in the future, near future, to possibly be an impact player.

Q. In an ideal world how much would you like Yordan to play left field next year?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know, probably 65, 70 percent of the time. Again, the keyword is "ideal". And it depends on how he feels. And he's getting better. And he enjoys playing the outfield.

You have to enjoy playing defense. And he enjoys it a lot, especially when he throws somebody out or makes a great play. You can see him getting better daily.

Q. How do you think (indiscernible) will fit in your clubhouse and what do you think he'll mean for Yordan Alvarez specifically?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't think he'll have trouble fitting into our clubhouse, period. The quality guys that we have -- also I've heard from Chicago that he was going to be a great addition to ours.

I'm hearing that the younger guys really admire and look up to him and that maybe some of the younger players in Chicago should have listened to him some more. It won't be a problem here.

Q. You have your whole coaching staff back next year. What will that do having this consistent staff here now for a few years?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, consistency is the key. I mean, they know what I require. I know what their strengths and what their weaknesses are. You try to put people in areas where they will most likely succeed. And that makes it easier on the players also to know who they can go to with this problem or who they can go to with this other problem or where to go get whatever information that they have.

Our staff is like going to the library, you know. I know you guys ain't been to the library probably in about 40 years. But I used to go to the library and you just gotta know where you look when you go to the library because it's all there. And my staff is like going to the library.

Q. How important was it for you to keep that bullpen together? (Indiscernible) brought back Rafael?

DUSTY BAKER: When you've got one of the best bullpens in the world, it's very important. And they're people that are trying to pluck some of our bullpen from us. I don't blame them.

And you won't be able to hold them forever, but you've got to -- you just don't want wholesale changes if you're going to pluck somebody in or out or whatever it is. You want to do it a little bit at a time. And I'm hoping we don't have to do it at all.

Q. I know you only had him for a season, but what was it like to manage Verlander?

DUSTY BAKER: Awesome. He's a man. And I told him when the season started, I've never managed a Cy Young Award winner. And so at the end of the year, when he got his Cy Young, he said now you've got one.

And he's a pleasure to manage because I knew what I was getting every day. He's probably gotten a little more humility since he got hurt and was out, and you appreciate what you have now.

He has a little girl. That gives you a different outlook on life.

And I love it when I can go full bullpen the day before he pitches, full bullpen the day after he pitches. And then he would stop all losing streaks and prolong winning streaks.

Q. What advice would you have for whoever manages Verlander next if it's not you?

DUSTY BAKER: According to you, it would be Bucky. You have to ask Bucky that. I'm sure I'll talk to Buck.

Q. You would be the one having the advice; he wouldn't?

DUSTY BAKER: I know that.

Q. Verlander speaks highly of you as a person. What does he mean (indiscernible).

DUSTY BAKER: There are a few players that you have come through that I'm probably closer to age than him than anybody on the team.

And I know probably as much about him through Jim Leyland. And Jim Leyland really kind of gave me the roadmap about Justin. And I can tell how he feels about his family. He's told me about you and I met your mom and dad in Baltimore.

And it means a lot. And his mother, your mother, she was very happy that Justin got that win.

But I learned a lot from Justin. And if indeed he is going somewhere, I'm going to miss him. But this game is such where you probably stay in contact with certain guys along the way.

Q. You talked about catching a while ago. A lot was made of the trade that didn't happen the deadline with Contreras, but now I understand that you guys might be meeting with him. What kind of a fit could he be going forward for you guys?

DUSTY BAKER: At the time, it's not that I didn't want him. It's just at the time I didn't think it was a proper fit with two months to go in the season. You know what I mean? And you have to learn your pitching staff, you have to learn how we go about doing things. And I didn't feel there was enough time to do that.

Now, going forward, I mean, yeah, we're going to talk to him. And we have interest in him. And if the numbers are right and the years are right and the situation is right, then -- right for both of us.

If not, then we still have got some catching depth in that situation. But people take a "no" sometimes as rejection. And it wasn't about that, it was the timing wasn't right. I stressed that then, but it didn't come out right.

Q. You guys see him kind of like the Cubs, maybe (indiscernible) a blueprint for how best to get the most out of him? (Indiscernible) kept him back of lineup, DH spot and rotate him through that he didn't have to get as wore down behind the plate. Is that how you guys would see a fit?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know, man. I've got some pretty good DHs already. You know what I mean? We'll have to see. I try to keep everybody sharp on my team. You know? And when that happens, I'll figure it out. The Cubs is a different situation than us.

Q. A little bit.

DUSTY BAKER: Yes. So it's like I said, I'll figure it out. And I've had some -- I've talked to some guys that were big-time Contreras fans from Chicago because I called Lester about him, Lester (indiscernible). Lester spent as much time with him in the bullpen, catching pitches. And he's a big Contreras fan. He told me he loved the kid.

So that was -- I called him before I even said what I said earlier. Just maybe a postponement, who knows.

Q. What's your thoughts -- I know you have a relationship, great relationship with Barry. What was your thoughts on the Hall of Fame vote yesterday and with Barry moving forward?

DUSTY BAKER: I didn't even see it really because I didn't want to be disappointed.

Q. He didn't make it, that's for sure.

DUSTY BAKER: I know that. I didn't know how close it came or anything.

Q. Not close.

DUSTY BAKER: I was glad for Fred McGriff, big time. I was really happy for Fred. And I mean, maybe some days the other greats will get in. Like I was pulling for Jeff Kent, too. I think he should be in the Hall of Fame. But I was also pulling for the guys at some point in time maybe we can forgive them. But Barry, Sammy, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, I mean what they meant to baseball and the amount of energy and enjoyment that they gave to the world. I mean, you still can't take that away from them because, man, there were people following baseball during that period of time that weren't even baseball fans. So we can't forget how much they did for the game and how much they made in this game and how they paid you guys and paid me, too.

Q. After the season that Jeremy had, especially the postseason, what do you see for him next season?

DUSTY BAKER: Next steps are adjustments he's going to have to make because things are going to adjust to him. This is what happens. And I'm hoping that he doesn't go on the victory trail too heartedly and too heavy where it's natural where all of a sudden the offseason sneaks up on him and here comes January and you're not really ready physically or mentally.

Q. What was your victory trail like? Did you do anything particularly different?

DUSTY BAKER: You mean this year?

Q. Yes.

DUSTY BAKER: This offseason, my victory trail led straight to my house. I am not lying. It was like I couldn't wait to go home. I could have done some things in Houston, but I was gone eight months. Eight months is a long time to be away from home.

So I just planted my garlic the other day, I'm a month late. And I ain't planted my onions yet. My victory trail went right to the garden. And to my winery. I did go to my winery. Checked the wine.

Q. What do you think about the new rules, and is there one you're looking forward to seeing implemented more than another?

DUSTY BAKER: I'm not even thinking about them. I had plenty of time thinking about it. I'm thinking about now if I can get in some duck hunting and some fishing, you know what I mean? I'm serious.

Q. Going to take a trip to Kauai?

DUSTY BAKER: I'm going to Kauai on Friday. I'm really ain't thinking about no rules. (Laughter).

Q. When you mentioned DH, aside from Yordan, who else do you envision having that role right now?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. Still talking to Ule. It could be Ule. Could be Michael Brantley, I'll be talking to Michael. We have some people. But we have some question marks, too.

Q. (Indiscernible) the bench?

DUSTY BAKER: That's a question mark. So we're in the process of trying to solve that now.

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