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October 17, 2003

Jack McKeon


THE MODERATOR: We have Jack McKeon here. We'll take questions, please.

Q. Where were you when Aaron Boone hit that home run? Can you just describe the scene from your team's point of view?

JACK McKEON: We were on the bus going from the hotel to the airport when he hit the home run. In fact, I think we were at the gate, waiting to get into the -- get on the run way. I'm glad he hit it. He's a good young man. I've managed him over at Cincinnati. I'm very happy for him.

Q. Let's keep this little running joke going. You promised me you were going to be in Chicago without knowing that you could win that fifth game. You promised me that you'd meet me at the World Series. What's with you?

JACK McKEON: I don't know. I hope the good Lord keeps looking after me. He's done a good job so far. I don't know, we just have been very fortunate. Everything fell in place. I've got a great bunch of players, got a great organization. I'm just thankful for the opportunity to manage these guys.

Q. Talk about the Yankees, how much time have you had to even think about this, with the way it ended? Both of your series. How much advance scouting have you done? What's it like to be here, playing a World Series at Yankee Stadium?

JACK McKEON: First of all, we haven't done much work on the Yankees. We didn't know who was gonna get in until last night. But we have advance scouting reports on them. Some of the guys that we have from the American League know a few things about some of these guys. So we're gonna digest it all today and we'll be prepared tomorrow. The other question of -- what was the other question?

Q. About just the fact of being here to play the Yankees in the World Series.

JACK McKEON: Well, I think it's something special, really. We really didn't care who we were gonna play. We were happy to be here. It's always special to come to New York. I live just across the river from here. Yankee Stadium has always been special to everybody. I know someone coming out to the ballpark today, some of my players said they'd never been to Yankee Stadium before. They're gonna enjoy the great tradition that goes with Yankee Stadium. You know, like I said, it's always special for me. First time in postseason, to be able to manage in the All-Stars -- I mean in the...

Q. World Series.

JACK McKEON: World Series. It's always a special occasion for anybody. We're all excited. But we're gonna be ready. These guys worked hard all season. They've had a lot of fun. They're looking to have a little more fun for the next 10 days.

Q. Can you talk about the poise of Dontrelle Willis and what you expect from him on this grand stage, so to speak?

JACK McKEON: Well, Dontrelle is just one of 25 guys that are all gonna be on a stage here. I think the poise of all these guys, including Dontrelle and some of the other young guys that have never been in the postseason before, is going to be very important. I think they're gonna hold up well. I think we went through a series with the Phillies and the Braves and the Cubs and the Giants that a lot of these guys grew up. They had to survive a lot of pressure, and really, I can see the maturity in two weeks, see the attitude, the difference, the determination in these players. I think because of that experience we had the last 10, 12 days of the season and into the playoffs has really helped these guys mature quickly.

Q. How do you get over, or do you think you'll have to get over, the just-happy-to-be-here syndrome that maybe some people think your team has?

JACK McKEON: Happy-to-be-here, that syndrome? We don't have any syndromes (laughter). We were -- nobody gave us a chance to make it to the wildcard; we did that. No one said we could -- said we couldn't beat the Giants, we did that. We didn't have a chance against the Cubs with Terry Wood and Prior. We accomplished that feat. Here's the next level. You know, was just a club that goes out there, they're nice and loose and relaxed. Hey, nobody expected us to be here. Let the pressure be on somebody else. We're gonna go out there and have fun. That's the way we've been playing. Hopefully, we can keep playing that way and hopefully we can keep winning.

Q. Two things. One is what are you gonna do for DH? Two, can you just talk about how the speed in your line-up really helps this team?

JACK McKEON: How the what?

Q. Speed in the line-up helps the team.

JACK McKEON: Well, we haven't decided yet on our line-up, but I have a pretty good idea what I'm gonna do. But we haven't announced it yet. We will shortly. Speed in our line-up is always the key. I mean, we got guys up in the -- four or five guys can run. Look at the stolen bases. We don't steal bases just to steal bases. We try to pick important times to run, crucial times in the game. These guys all have the green light. If you want to see a guy steal second base, you don't think it's a wise man, don't look at me, go talk to him. He's on his own. I do stop them. It's a case where these guys can run but, you know, not necessarily, you know, you get a lot of analysts on TV, "They shouldn't have run on that pitch." Well, I didn't send him. He picked that pitch. He had a good idea he could get a good jump and he went. Speed is a big part of our ballclub, speed, aggressiveness. We got a lot of guys that can go first to third. We got guys can steal bases. We're hoping if we get those two front guys on, these guys get on, we cause a lot of problems.

Q. Your decision to go with Penny in Game 1, why?

JACK McKEON: I told you last night I was gonna get all the local writers together and ask them their opinion who I should start before they started, you know what I mean? Unfortunately, I couldn't round them all up. But, you know, this way I don't have to get second-guessed, you know what I mean? You guys pick it out for me. If it's not right, then... Anyway, Penny and Willis are the best rested pitchers we have. Penny's done a good job all year long, tough out against Chicago. But that's to be expected once in a while. I think he did a marvelous job the other day in relief. I really think he's up for the task. It's a decision to go really with Willis or Penny, and that was it. So we went with Penny.

Q. How tired are your starting pitchers right now? What would you describe the state of the rotation as?

JACK McKEON: How tired are they? I don't think any time you get a chance to be in the World Series, play in October, I don't think anybody's tired on either club. If you're tired, you might as well go home. This is what you all work for, pray for, hope you get an opportunity. Anybody comes up and says they're tired -- you know, most of the time we don't say we're tired; you guys tell us we're tired. You know what I mean? Guy gives up a two-run homer, he's overworked. Strikes him out, oh, good job. Come on. This is a game where everybody goes out, does their best. Some decisions are made, some work out, some don't work out. We have one guess; you get two (laughter). Works out, it's great. If it doesn't work out, "Should have done this, you know" I read in the paper today, "Grady Little should have taken the pitcher out." Why don't some of you guys call down? Tell us ahead of time when we should get this guy out!

Q. Tried that in San Diego?

JACK McKEON: I did that one time in Atlanta with a writer. Played the Game 1 time. The guy I pinch hit in the ninth inning, had a power hitter versus a single hitter. Put the single hitter in. He grounded out. Next day, the guy said, "I should have used a power hitter." Power hitter is one of those guys that struck out about 14 out of 15 times, but anyway, the next day, the same situation came up so I just called the press box. I said, "Okay, tell me now, who should I use?" Okay. Next question.

Q. What happened?

JACK McKEON: He didn't -- I didn't hear any more out of him (laughter). You got to have a little fun with you guys. You know, we're not picking on you, just having some fun.

Q. Matsui has been on a hot streak, hitting two doubles off Pedro last night. Could you tell a little bit about your impression about Matsui?

JACK McKEON: From what I see, watching a little bit on television, I think he's a pretty good little ball player. You know, as far as seeing him on a daily basis or giving you what you want to know, I can't give you an honest opinion of the guy because I haven't seen that much of him. Seen a little bit on TV, watched him very closely last couple days. Our scouts have been here watching the Yankees for a number of times. We're pretty confident we'll be able to figure something out for him.

Q. Has Cabrera even surprised you with what he's been able to do? What makes him be able to excel at such a young age on this stage?

JACK McKEON: I tell you, you know, it's very unusual to run across two youngsters that come out of Double A like Willis and Cabrera that can come into the Big Leagues, not be intimidated by being in the Big Leagues, have great mental toughness. No, he doesn't surprise me one bit. I mean, you can see this kid from day one step up and his first Major League game, win the game with a two-run homer in the 11th inning, I think it was, his first Major League game. But you could see that mental toughness in the kid. And he's got better and better as he's played. He's played a number of positions. He's very versatile. He's an athlete. Got a great make-up. Guy's got a tremendous future. But there's something about this kid that you go through baseball for many, many years and never see the inner confidence this young man has. I mean, he faced some pretty good -- Randy Johnson, Woods, all the good pitchers. He's held up extremely well against all of them. You know the thing I like about him, and the same thing with Willis, they're big-game players. All through this playoff, this fight for the wildcard, Cabrera has always stepped up and come up with the big game, the big-game hit to win the ball game, the big-game hit to tie the game. He's quite a player.

Q. You talk about your players not feeling the pressure, but knowing how managers are scrutinized at this time of the year, how much pressure do you personally feel?

JACK McKEON: I tell you, and I know 90 percent of this room are not gonna believe me, I don't feel any pressure at all. I think it's another ball game. I come out to Yankee Stadium, here you are in the World Series. You're sitting in the car with Pudge Rodriguez, a couple guys, it's another game. We're going out, play another game. I mean, I operate now with the theory that, "Hey, I'm gonna go out and do the best job I can possibly do. I'm gonna make the decisions that in my mind, my mind, are correct. They don't work out, too bad." But in my mind, you can second-guess me all you want, but in my mind, this move is the best move to win this ball game. I don't have any pressure. Maybe tomorrow night when the game starts, maybe I'll feel a little differently. Right now, I don't feel any different than I do on July the 3rd. Maybe it's because I've been in this game so long, I don't know.

Q. Since you started with the Marlins, what have you asked of Pudge Rodriguez, and have you increased his responsibilities as the year's gone on?

JACK McKEON: Well, Pudge is, we all know Pudge, an All-Star player, no question about that. Possibly a future Hall of Famer, flamer, whatever you want to call it (laughter). Pudge has come over here to our ballclub, certainly helped develop our own players. I don't think anybody's had to push Pudge. He's got tremendous work habits, he's got great dedication. Really, is a team leader. I think you've seen that in the playoffs the way he's taken charge. I know last year he had an off year. People say this and that about him, but he was hurt. He's healthy this year and playing with a lot of emotion. He loves playing down in his hometown, or home State of Florida, which is his home state now. He's enjoying himself. I think all our guys are. They're having fun. When you have fun, you can play relaxed.

Q. What can you say about the acquisitions of Conine and Urbina?

JACK McKEON: When a trading deadline came and all these players were out there available, and we were looking at our club,Larry Beinfest, Jeffrey Loria, Mike Hill and I sat down, talked about where we were gonna go, what chances we had to advance. And if we had a chance, how would we go about it. And a lot of players were available. In fairness to the ownership and management, they decided, "Hey, we got a chance to get in the playoffs. Let's shoot the works." I think Larry Beinfest went out as a general manager, did one spectacular job, outstanding job of acquiring Urbina, picked up Chad Fox, Lenny Harris, Jeff Conine and it made a big difference in our ballclub. I think Urbina probably, at that time, was the biggest move anybody in the game could have made. He was probably the premium guy out there. Larry just outhustled everybody else to get him. When we got him, he turned our club pretty much around. It gave us somebody to go with Looper in the bullpen. That was our problem. We had a lot of these, we probably would have won more games if we had somebody to fill the role Urbina did when he joined us. When he joined us, it lifted our players tremendously. Same thing applied with the organization's decision to keep Mike Lowell and not trade him, even though they didn't want to trade him. The rumors were out, everybody was trying to get him. We were not actively putting him on the market to move him. But to ease his mind and the players' minds and give them a psychological edge, we decided to say, "Hey, he's not going anywhere." When he did that, Jeffrey Loria and Larry Beinfest said that to players, that lifted the players up, Urbina picked the players up. Right after the trading deadline when Mike Lowell breaks his hand, Larry gets out, he's able to acquire Jeff Conine, so I'd say that of all the moves that were made at the trading deadline, the moves that Larry Beinfest did were the best moves any club made in the league, in the majors, for that matter, that were most helpful to a club to get them where they wanted to get.

Q. When you took over the club, they were 19 and 29. How much did you know about the Marlins at that time? What did you expect of the team for the season?

JACK McKEON: Well, I knew a little bit about them because I managed against them in 2000 when I was with the Reds, then also did a lot of television watching when I was in between jobs. So I got a pretty good idea what they had. I knew the players talent-wise but I really didn't know them personally. When you live with players, you get to know the ins and outs of all these guys. I knew enough about their talent that I thought this club was a club that had a lot of ability and could win a lot of ball games. Did I know that we'd be here today? No. I didn't know that. I knew that we would win. How many games, I didn't know that. I knew we'd be over 500, the club would be turned around. But I'd be lying if I said I knew we were gonna be sitting here talking about the World Series. I think the players themselves deserve the credit. They worked hard. They improved their work habits. They focused a little bit better. And the main thing is they went out and had fun. I think that's the result of where we are today.

Q. What's the thing about your personality that allowed you to bond with these guys who are so much younger than you? What was the key there?

JACK McKEON: I don't know. You know, if you look back, I've got nine grandkids. I'm kind of used to dealing with kids a lot younger than myself. But I don't know, I've always, throughout my whole career, I've enjoyed managing young guys. I've had great success with young guys. I don't know, I just have a close, personal feeling, that I can reach a lot of the young guys. These guys are no different. Believe me, I've worked on the young guys here more than I do the veterans. You know, guys in this ballclub, I say hello once in a while, shake hands, say how's things going, let them alone. Some guys need the attention, some don't. The young guys, I thought, needed a pat in the back, kick in the tail once in a while. You know, make them realize what was at the end of the rainbow. How to get there. I was trying to show them how to get there by working hard and not taking anything for granted, dig a little deeper, work a little harder. And it worked.

Q. What were you doing a year ago at this time, and as your first postseason experience, has it been everything you'd hoped and expected it to be?

JACK McKEON: What was I doing? Let's see, what is this, October? I was probably sitting at home, watching you guys all ask these questions of the managers and the players and kind of hoping you were there. Now, here, a year later, we happen to be here. I don't have to tell you, it's a tremendous thrill to be sitting here. But it's more of a thrill and an honor to be able to say that, "I am the manager of this great Marlins team. These are the best young guys I've ever had anything to do with." I managed, I don't know, 13, 14 years, whenever I've been in the Big Leagues. I never had a team that I enjoyed more, was more unselfish, more dedicated and had more fun than these guys right here. I think that is the reason we're all in Yankee Stadium today. It's a tribute to the players and their dedication. I'm just proud to be their manager.

End of FastScripts...

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