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October 12, 2003

Dusty Baker


Q. Thinking back to last year when you guys had a chance to clinch the NL pennant, are you saying the same things this year that you did then?

DUSTY BAKER: Quite frankly, I didn't say anything, really. I won't say anything today, just let them play. When you're playing well and you're playing hard and playing effectively, there's nothing to say. Just keep doing the same thing you've been doing. Sometimes when you start talking, you put thoughts in their heads or you add pressure when thoughts and pressure isn't needed at that time. So when things are going good, you just let it roll.

Q. Coming to a team that lost 95 games last year, what were your hopes this season, that would be accomplished your first season?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, number one was having a winning season. How much winning I didn't know and nobody knew, because I really didn't know, other than a few guys here, the personnel that we had here. So my main thing was to come here and win, number one, and not put any realistic numbers or goals on it. Sometimes you play and keep playing and you see where you are and play and then you add and then you delete and you just keep playing. And like I said, if you play hard every day and play good, hard baseball every day, you have a chance to win more games than most teams, because most teams I've found won't play hard every day. I tell my guys we've got to play hard 7 days a week. I came here to win. And I wanted to win two years in a row. I guess it's called back-to-back winning seasons.

Q. Realistically let me ask you this, human nature, with all your successes, there has to be some kind of personal pressure to reach the pinnacle of what you have been doing so long, especially as close as you came last year, not putting pressure on yourself, but human nature to succeed at this height?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, it's not pressure, it's personal motivation and drive. Last year gave me more motivation and drive than ever to get there and to win. And then after we lost last year, Tommy Lasorda came to me and reminded me that his first two Dodger teams lost to the Yankees in the World Series, so don't feel so bad about it. That's what he told me and that relieved it a little bit. It didn't ease the pain. But the main thing is we've got to win here -- not here, we have to win the NLCS before we can get to the World Series. So right now we've got to win this. We've got one more game to win.

Q. Sammy Sosa's dealt with some tough seasons in Chicago, been there for a really long time. Do you have an understanding of what this season meant to Sammy and what one more victory would mean to him?

DUSTY BAKER: Everybody wants to go to postseason. Everybody wants to go and win the World Series. And I think it's appropriate that we have an opportunity and chance this year, especially this year which has probably been his toughest year in many years, for a number of reasons. So I think it's only appropriate that it's in the works this year.

Q. You say teams play hard about four or five days a week, and you try to get your guys to play hard seven days a week. How do you accomplish that?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. It's just what I require. They know what I want and my coaches know what we want. A lot of that falls upon the coaches by getting in a routine and regimen of stretching, doing your work, running after the game, doing your weights, eating right, make sure they maintain the proper nutrition. Certain guys you've got to remind to get your rest tonight. There's certain things that you've got to do on a daily basis, and once you get into that routine then it becomes second nature to do it.

Q. What do you tell the Chicago fans that might prefer you clinch a pennant at Wrigley Field as opposed to on the road? How different is the attitude of a team up two games in a series as opposed to facing elimination?

DUSTY BAKER: I think after 85 years, they shouldn't care where we clinch it. You clinch it where you can clinch it. And I've been in both dugouts. It's not over until it's over, like Yogi says. And a team that's up, you've got to go for the jugular. You've got to go for the throat. And a team that's down, which I've been over there, too, you know that you've got to leave it all on the field that day, because if you don't, that day could be your last day. So to me taking the last breath out of anything, because I'm a bird hunter, and even that duck or pheasant when he's about to die, he's still trying to peck me, he's going to do whatever he can to get that last lick in before they die. It's the truth. I mean that's how it is. You have a little brother, and get the last lick in, and I'm beating him up, and he still comes by and kicks me, that's what you do when you're down.

Q. How will you approach Carlos Zambrano? Would you not hesitate to go to the bullpen if he gets in trouble?

DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. I'm going to do pretty much with him what I've done all year. By the way people sound, it sounds like we're down 3-to-1 sometimes, and you've got to panic and get him right away, and you've got to do this, you've got to do that. The thing about it is Zambrano is pitching some very good games for us. And so I just deal with that when I get there. Plus you don't want guys feeling the pressure of looking over their shoulder if they walk somebody or give up a run that you're going to come jerk them out. Nobody can operate on a short leash and be comfortable with it. What if you make a spelling mistake, then you're off the story, you can't operate like that. So I don't know, I'll let you know when the game starts, I guess.

Q. You mentioned the coaching staff, most of those guys have been with you for a long time. Having them with you, did that make the transition and a lot of things a little bit easier this year, as well?

DUSTY BAKER: It made it a lot easier. All the guys have been with me, except Gary Matthews, and Larry Rothschild who made it easier on me here being the pitching coach, because he knows the pitchers. It would take me months to know these guys. Larry knows the makeup, he knows who to kick in the butt, he knows who to Pat on the back, and who to leave alone. And Dick Pole helped me with the Cubs, because he'd been here before. He knows me, he knows my temperament. Wendell, Sonny, Gene, something comes up and I'll say I have to go talk to so and so, and they can tell by the tone of my voice to "let me handle it." And other times they say you can talk to this dude. It helps a lot. You're only as good as your coaching staff and supporting staff. They do most of the work.

Q. You mentioned that you were getting a call last year after you lost from Tommy Lasorda.

DUSTY BAKER: I didn't get a call, I saw him at a banquet.

Q. Who are some of the managers that have inspired you over the years whose technique or modus operandi you would say you're most grateful for?

DUSTY BAKER: Probably number one, my dad. My dad was my Little League coach, and my dad was big on attitude. My dad, he cut me off his own team when I was 8, 9 and 10 for having a bad attitude. And that left an impression. And I had good coaches along the way. My high school basketball coach. I had a couple of very good coaches, Mickey Vernon, Tom Lasorda, Jim Gilliam, Danny Ozark, these guys used to talk to me all the time. And I was fortunate to have Roy Campanella on the Dodgers and Don Newcombe and Tommy Davis, they talked to me all the time. So it's a matter of a lot of people helping me in my life.

Q. Has the thought crossed your mind how funny it would be if you won the pennant again with Kenny Lofton again getting the decisive hit?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, it's crossed my mind. It wouldn't be as funny as I would be very grateful and thankful. It would be a lot of gratification and joy, I guess.

End of FastScripts...

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