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December 6, 2005

Dusty Baker


Q. You didn't get Furcal. Are you okay with Perez and Cedeno?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, at this point we are exploring other Avenues, and you know, we did everything we thought possible to get Furcal, we thought we had a great chance at him. These things happen. But like I said we're exploring as many avenues as possible to try to shore up our team.

Q. How disappointing was it not to get him after all of the recruiting that you and the players and Jim had done?
DUSTY BAKER: You realize the chances you're taking when a guy is a free agent. I can't say disappointed was the word, probably more surprise, I guess. Because sometimes it appeared that it was a two-team race at the time, and you know, I heard that he really wanted to come to the Cubs. But the last minute, he changed his mind, I haven't spoken to him since then. But.
I guess he and Manny Mota had some background, just like I've got background with Derrek Lee and guys since they were young. So you know he made his choice.

Q. Do you expect to start the season with a leadoff man other than what you currently have now?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, we hope to, yeah. I mean, you know we have, what, two and a half months before the season starts, or it's more than that, more like three and a half months, so we have time. That's what we're doing. We're exploring -- you read about the different possible trades that we're trying to make, but you don't have a trade until it's done, so we have every reason to believe it's going to be done.

Q. Do you feel more under the gun this year, or is it no different than any other year?
DUSTY BAKER: It's no different than any other year for me. I've been in this situation a whole bunch of times but you know, we want to win. I always want to win. This is a big year for all of us. It's a big year for the organization, big year for the city, big year for the staff, me, different guys on the team.
No, there's no more pressure than usual. It's not going to help by putting more pressure on yourself, it's not going to create more victories. Just have to do better and stay healthy for next year.

Q. You met with Bradley. Can you tell us about that?
DUSTY BAKER: It was a very good meeting. First time I've been in his company, first time I've ever said more than two years other than hello or good-bye or how are you doing across the field. And you know we got permission, told Jim that I think I need to talk to him in person, just to see some things and hear their voice.
Like I said, it was a very good meeting. I can't tell you exactly what was said but we covered many areas. We covered some good areas, we covered some problematic areas, and we realize the possible risk and I explained that to him as well.

Q. Do you think you can make a difference for him?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know if I can make a difference. Like I said, it's a risk. But I talked to Manny Mota talked to some people on the Dodgers and he said, hey, man, there's a good chance he can relate to you and perform. There's a bunch of talent that's left there, he's only 27, 28 years old.
We have a support staff here I think that can make a difference, not only me, but also make sure that he has help available when you start feeling different pressures and different things.
So like I said, it's a bit of a risk. I certainly don't condone the things that have happened and transpired in the past but everybody deserves a fresh start.

Q. So you see it as risk/reward?
DUSTY BAKER: Oh, yeah, definitely reward, but it's also a risk. You realize that. But, you know everybody deserves a fresh start. Everybody talks about a fresh start, but it seems like whatever reputation you have follows you to the next job, the next place, which really isn't a fresh start. So we'll just have to see what happens.

Q. People talked about the Cubs being fundamentally bad and really bad. How do you change that?
DUSTY BAKER: I mean, we weren't fundamentally good for my teams. My teams never had that reputation, but the Cubs I remember in the past were fundamentally bad for a long time. It reared its ugly head last year; we had a lot of players that came from different places.
We stress fundamentals, we stress it and we stress is it. You know, you've got to continue to stress it and what you do about it. We stress it even more going into Spring Training and continue to do it during the season.

Q. These are Major League players at this point.
DUSTY BAKER: You know, a lot of these things you should know in high school. If you go back and check a lot of guys sometimes make the same mistakes were making them then, in college or Minor Leagues or whatever. A lot of things I saw, I couldn't believe; that's basic baseball. A lot of times a person doesn't know until he screws up, anyway. You can't assume a guy knows anything.
Like I said the things that we have to do is go back to the beginning. We stress fundamentals all the time in Spring Training, talk about it, but these things I guess you have to continue to stress until they become natural. A lot of these things you don't have time to think about. A lot of these things are reactionary things, that's all we've got to do.

Q. Have you talked to Patterson?
DUSTY BAKER: I talked to Corey about a month ago. Yeah, I talked to him. I talked to him a couple of weeks before that, and I think Gene Clines has talked to him, a couples guys talked to him.

Q. Did you talk to Von Joshua? What was his opinion, if you could share that?
DUSTY BAKER: I talked to Von because he was working with his brother actually down in the fall league.

Q. He showed up, too, right?
DUSTY BAKER: But you know drills are one thing and practice is one thing and the game is something else. So in practice, you know, a lot of people look great in practice, it's just a matter of transferring that from practice to the game.

Q. Do you think in your mind that he's better suited and your club is better suited for him to play elsewhere?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, right now, you know, I can't say that because he's still a member of our club. So, you know, I can't answer that question right now until if the possibility arises where he's not on our club. But right now, he's on our club. So I don't want to send him away before he's sent away.

Q. How would you sum up Nomar's experience in Chicago?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, it's not that hard to analyze. Just a matter of when Nomar, other than the first month last year when Nomar was struggling - no, Nomar, he can hit. It's just a matter if, you know, how many games Nomar can play. And if he's going to stay healthy. That's been the issue, probably, what, a couple years now, two or three years now I think.
And so basically when he's healthy, Nomar is a heck of a player, and sometimes you go through those periods, those streaks in your career. You might not get hurt again for the next five, six years, but it's hard to really evaluate what has happened quite a bit in a short period of time.
Good thing about Nomar is that whatever you heard about him as a teammate and all this was totally the opposite. He's one of the best guys in our clubhouse. He's quiet, he didn't say a whole bunch, but he certainly wasn't any distraction, very positive. I liked having Nomar on our team.

Q. Do you think there will be situations where maybe last year late in the 7th, 8th, your starter might have been your best pitchers but now you can lessen the load on your starters?
DUSTY BAKER: Hopefully our starters can go a little deeper because some of the problems, our starters had so many pitches they could only go five or six innings. What that does, it puts guys like Novoa, Ohman, some of the lesser experienced guys into the game earlier and guys that have been in that situation, you lose a bunch of games in the 7th and 8th inning before you even get to your closer.
So these guys, Eyre and Howry, one thing we wanted to do right away was shore up our bullpen, because you lose more games in the bullpen than you do any other place in the game. And those games that you lose late have a lingering effect. They were saying somewhere I read that "blown save" or "game lost late" in the game is more of a downer to a team than almost any other thing that happens in the game. So I think these guys are going to make up for a lot of games and it gives me options.

Q. You've been on record here as saying the Cubs accomplished in your first year what you thought they might accomplish in your third or fourth; how do you convince people that this is still a team and organization on the upswing?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, to me, on the upswing, you can't convince them except playing. You can talk about it all you want to but you have to go out there, you have to play and you've got to win.
I mean, theoretically, you know, who would have thought we would get that deep in the first year and the year before we lost 90-some games and the next year we won one more game and a lot of it depends on how the division goes and how many games it requires to win or wild-card or whatever.
So last year was a year that I have not experienced in ten years. I'll take them once every ten years, you know what I mean, the bad year, the losing year -- I don't want any of them, tell you the truth, but it's something that you've got to learn from and get something out of it for all of us.

Q. How much do you need a lefty, and then to be able to have an offense this year?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, you need balance. Everybody talks about left-handers, there are not that many left-handers in the world more or less, quality hitters. What you need are ballplayers, guys that can play.
I was on a team in L.A., we had one left-handed hitter and we went to the World Series like three-out-of-five years. I'll take a very good right-handed hitter that can hit, that's used to seeing righties more than I will just a left-handed hitter just to be left-handed.

Q. A few challenging teams will go into a season with two rookies in their lineup. Do you feel confident that you have Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno, you're okay with two rookies starting?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, if I don't I'll be accused of not liking them, you know what I'm saying, I've had young players, my whole bullpen last year was the youngest bullpen in baseball. You've got to give young players a chance to play sometime. I mean, who puts a No. 1, 2 or 3? Certainly you have to live with some mistakes that young players make and hopefully some of our veterans will help these guys. Hopefully some of these players will help these guys to accomplish what they need to accomplish and learn.

Q. But can you afford to do that?
DUSTY BAKER: "Afford," meaning?

Q. Rookies in your lineup and going through growing pains when you expect to be a challenging team.
DUSTY BAKER: What are you going to do?

Q. You've had a lot of success as a manager without ever managing in the Minor Leagues, as you look back, do you think that maybe there were some things that "had I been in the Minor Leagues, I could have learned or learned quicker"?
DUSTY BAKER: No. No, not really. Because I was sort of managing the whole time I was playing. I was asking Tommy Lasorda questions and everything and he said, well, I mean, if you're a good player, you're sort of managing along with your manager and the other managers. You're not just out there playing. There have been a number -- that's kind of a late question to ask after 13 years.

Q. You've had a lot of success starting in '93.
DUSTY BAKER: Well, it depends on the person. I think it depends on the person. Depends on what the person has learned along the way. I mean, if that person has aspired to learn. Some people just plain don't want to learn nothing. Other people, I was always accused since I first came up of asking question after question after question. It was like, you know, quit asking all these questions. I was just trying to learn. Just depends on the person.

Q. Is there any way you can count as Kerry Wood as part of your rotation, not knowing how long it's going to take him to come back from the surgery?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't think at this point we realistically can but idealistically, I am. The guy is making great progress. I'm in contact with our fitness therapy people all the time, and they are saying that he is in great shape and working hard, has good range of motion. Are there going to be any setbacks along the way? I don't know. I hope not. But I would like to depends.

Q. On Felix (Pie), have you gotten any reports from him this winter, and can he be in your thinking, how far away is he?
DUSTY BAKER: I've never seen him play except a couple of times in Spring Training. He would probably have been more to the forefront of our thinking had he played the last two months I think he was out which I think hurt his progress some and it hurt our evaluation as an organization. There was a good chance that had he been healthy, he probably would have been there, so these things happen.
I haven't had any reports on how he's doing this winter, no, no, I haven't. Again, it cautions us not to -- rush this young man and sends him backwards. Let him play and have some success.

Q. Where do you envision them in your order?
DUSTY BAKER: Depends who we pick up. I mean, I don't have an order right now. Depends who we get as a lead-off man, if we get another bat, depends if we get another left hander, right-hander. We've got three months to determine that but you have to get your team together. We have a lot of holes to fill first before we start, you know, I mean, certainly you make out your order but right now I can't answer that question.

Q. Would you like to sign a contract extension if one is offered?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, it has to be offered first, you know, No. 1. First thing I think Jim (Hendry) needs to be signed first. I mean, Jim is my boss. The boss gets signed first and then it goes down from there usually. That's something I really haven't thought about. I guess Jim needs to be signed first and then he can get to me.

Q. Would you need to think about it if you were offered an extension?
DUSTY BAKER: I'll think about it when it comes. Like I said I've been in this situation, what, six times in 13 years, this will be my sixth time. So this is the first time I ever had a contract over two years, so I'm kind of used to going into this year in the situation. My thing is if I can keep it simple, don't distract my team, really not even talk about it, and if the team wins then everything else takes care of itself.

Q. But if you and Jim don't have extensions, obviously you know the media game.
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I can't control that. I can't help that. This won't be the first time I've done this, you know what I mean. I'm pretty good on handling this situation. Like I said, this is my first time over two years, so every other year I was in this same situation and usually fared pretty good during those times, for whatever reason, I don't know. But I don't worry about those things.

Q. How would you define your first three years in Chicago as far as likeability of the job, likeability of the city, the fans, the whole ball of wax?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I'd like to not comment on any of that really until some day when it's over. It's hard to -- I was always taught let history be your judge. At the end of my regime here, I'll look back and I can make an assessment. At this time I'm still in the middle.

Q. There's a perception out there that you're not all that thrilled with being in Chicago; is that a false perception?
DUSTY BAKER: Hey, man, I've been perceived in more false ways since I've been in Chicago than I have my whole year almost just different things. So, no, perception, that don't bother me. I've got a job to do. Supposedly last year at this time, last year I was going to five teams, remember? I'm still here like I told you I would be. I'm here to win, that's why I came here.

Q. There's a lot of talk that people this year are going to take a closer look at a Andre Dawson and Jim Rice, their numbers don't compare statistically to guys that compared in the 90s, in your view --
DUSTY BAKER: But some of the numbers I think more goes into it than just numbers.

Q. Do you think either of those guys?
DUSTY BAKER: I think both should be. I mean, are their numbers only down because of the position that they played? What if they played one position over there. What if Hawk, I saw Hawk more than I saw Jim Rice, but you know who played on sheer guts and bad knees longer or more than Hawk? How did that affect his output and his numbers this guy never complained. This guy was a player. He was a big-time player. I think he most definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Q. The World (Baseball Classic) games that are coming up - you've got two catchers that could be gone almost a month, does that bother you?
DUSTY BAKER: Doesn't bother me. It's going to be different. It's something that I've never experienced before. It's something none of us have ever experienced before. And it's something that, you know, Major League Baseball, you know, recruited and we have to find a way to go along with them and also be prosperous. You're a little apprehensive as far as possibility if a guy gets hurt how will that affect your season but a lot of teams are in the same boat. This is an experiment that you can't really foresee at this point so you look at it in a very positive manner, if you could.

Q. Is it a concern more for pitchers than position players?
DUSTY BAKER: Not really. You know, you still have potential pulled muscles for a position players or different things or arms or whatever. Depends on what kind of shape I would like to think the guys -- these guys are not going to want to be there and embarrass themselves, not in front of the world.
So I think these guys are going to come probably in better shape before this than they would just to use that time in Spring Training to get in shape.

Q. Would you be content to start the season with your present middle infield?
DUSTY BAKER: If we couldn't find anybody better, yeah. You're always looking for improvement. So I'll let you know in a couple of months.

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