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October 8, 2002

Dusty Baker


Q. Given the magnitude of this series, would you ask Barry Bonds to expand his hitting zone at all?

DUSTY BAKER: No. I mean, it's hard to ask a man with that much discipline to expand his zone. I mean, the more you expand your zone, the better chance you have of making an out, because most of the pitches they already are throwing him are probably low-percentage pitches in the first place, and the more you expand your zone, then the lower their percentage for getting a hit.

Q. Considering that the final manager you played under was Tony LaRussa, does that bring any special significance to this series?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, Tony and I go way back. 1971, the Braves kept Tony and sent me back to AAA. We go way back. And Tony was my final manager. I've heard him say, one of the few mistakes he's made -- well, he didn't say few -- that's my word -- that he made was not asking me to be one of his coaches, he said, which is flattering to me. But it means a lot to manage against Tony. He's one of the best in our era, and one of the best in a long time. So it means a lot for us to come here, especially a great city like St. Louis to play. This house is going to be rocking tomorrow.

Q. Do you take anything from Tony's managing and apply it to your own? Is there any manager that you have kind of emulated?

DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, there's some things I've taken from Tony, definitely. Yeah, I remember when I first started managing, I asked Tony, there was one bit of advice that he could give me, and he told me that that would be to recognize and realize when the inning of decision was. It's usually seventh, eighth and ninth, but sometimes it could be four, five, six. I have not really emulated anybody, probably, in my managing style, but I've taken a lot from a lot of people. If there's probably anybody that I've sort of emulated to a degree it would probably be my father who is my original manager from Little League that cut me three times for a bad attitude.

Q. What was your father's name?

DUSTY BAKER: Johnny B Baker, Senior. He's also Bobby Bonds' Little League coach and quite a few other guys.

Q. Talk about your Game 1 starter, especially pitching in his hometown against this Cardinal lineup.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, Kirk is probably one of the better competitors that I've been around. He loves to compete. He helps himself in the field. You'll see him catching line drives back through the middle, turn a double play, he's an excellent bunter; he puts the ball in play. He's just an overall great competitor in anything; not only baseball, but he loves to compete. I know he puts a little bit of pressure on himself, which helps him to pitch good here. He's had a very good record, success record here, and part of it was because the Shed boys come to watch him. I don't know if you guys heard of the Shed boys, but that's a wooden shed that looks like a mansion, it's a place where all of the sports stuff is. All of the guys that go over to the shed, the Shed boys, they come to watch him. And if he doesn't pitch good, those Shed boys give him stuff all winter.

Q. Has your contract status the last few weeks been any kind of distraction?

DUSTY BAKER: No, not at all. Because I have to practice what I preach to my own players. I tell them, "Don't worry about your contract, go out and perform and the contract will take care of itself." If you keep it in that order, it's no distraction. I get tired of answering questions about it; that I have no answers to, because I have not been approached and I have not approached anybody else. There's a lot of speculation, people are talking a lot, but regardless, the more we win, the better position it puts me in personally.

Q. Tony says he hoped you break the bank with your new contract.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I don't want to break the bank. I know I'll get probably what's fair, probably what's more than fair to a degree, but that's not what I -- that's not my motivation, to break the bank. I want to be outside the bank somewhere, but I don't believe in breaking the bank. (Laughter.) That's not my objective. Especially the fact that I have not accomplished what Joe Torre has accomplished yet, to me. So I don't see me in the position to get equal or even more than Joe Torre. I want to be somewhere close to Joe. Anywhere close to Joe is good, right? (Laughter.)

Q. Are you planning on making any roster changes?

DUSTY BAKER: Possibly. Quite possibly, actually. We are trying to -- we are going to make that decision tomorrow, but we are going to meet tonight to try to come up with the best roster to combat the Cardinals, because they do have a number of left-handed hitters. We have to go over their pitching staff and determine who they are going to keep and if we need another left-handed bat or do we stand pat where we are.

Q. After the game yesterday, what kind of feelings, emotions, did you have about winning the playoff series and was it different than when you were a player?

DUSTY BAKER: I'll answer your second question. Yeah, it was different than when I was a player. Much different when I was a player, actually. Because I'm in charge now. As a player, I was really in charge of me and I could have a direct effect on the outcome of the game with my bat and my glove and my arm or my legs. Now as a manager, you have a direct impact on the game with your brain. My initial emotions, really, were just to say a prayer and just be thankful for everything that's happened this year, from my cancer to making it this far in the playoffs and I was thinking about the guys that I call my Grand Council, guys that are in heaven right now, guys that helped me get to this position. Namely, Bill Lucas with the Braves, Tommie Aaron, and then I went to the Dodgers and thought about, you know, Jim Gilliam and Joe Black and some of the guys that really helped me, to help mold me to be the person and the manager that I am.

Q. A lot of people say this series looks pretty even. Do you see the same similarities?

DUSTY BAKER: You know, there's only four left. That's about as even as you can get. There's two in their league and two in our league. When the season starts, there's only four lefthanders standing. I'd say it's pretty even. It's going to be an outstanding and exciting series.

Q. Are the Cardinals the type of team that you have to be real careful with, because they have so much of the scrappy-type players, and is it hard for you to assess how you match up against the Cardinals when you played them three times without Barry?

DUSTY BAKER: Not only are they scrappy, but they have -- they are very well-balanced team. They have some speed, they have some scrappers, they have some guys that can hit you out of the park, they have some guys that can make contact. They have a well-balanced attack. It's predominately left-handed but that's not bad in modern baseball because there are not that many left-handed pitchers to combat them. So to me they have a well-balanced attack, up and down the lineup. To assess them, really at that time, I don't know if we had Barry -- I think our whole outfield was out at that time. We met them at a period when we were the most banged up for the year. It's not hard to assess that they have a very good team. It would be a little more difficult to assess them because we have not played them since they added Scott Rolen, and I don't know if he's going to be available or not. Is he even available?

Q. Not the first two games for sure.

DUSTY BAKER: So did Tony say he's going to be on the roster?

Q. He didn't say.

DUSTY BAKER: I didn't think he would. (Laughter.)

Q. Was that one week a low in the point season for you, when Barry got hurt, Reggie, all those guys, and you lost that series?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, that was a low point, but it was also a point that brought us together as a team, I think. Not only did we lose to the Cardinals, we lost to the Dodgers during that period of time and we lost like seven games in eight or nine days. We were losing and the Diamondbacks were winning. We went from one out to seven or eight out in less than ten days. That's when you hope somebody throws you a life preserver. That was a time period that also brought us together. We had Ramon playing the outfield. Whatever I asked some guys to do that they had never done before, they volunteered -- hey, Bake, I can do this, I can do that, and even suffering the possibility of embarrassment. And I think that's when our team really came together, I think.

Q. Is there any question in your mind that Barry Bonds is the NL MVP and where does Albert Pujols fit into that equation?

DUSTY BAKER: That's a hard equation for me to say because I've only seen Albert six games this year other than TV. Naturally I would be prejudiced toward Barry because I see Barry every day. Now, if indeed Barry is MVP this year, Albert will not be too far behind him. I think there's probably a handful of guys in this league that have action on the MVP. But had you hit .370 and you have .582 on-base percentage and all of those other records that he's broken and set and rebroken and reset, it's a little hard not to say Barry is the MVP.

Q. When you are coming up with roster considerations, is it more important in a seven-game series to have guys in your bullpen who can go longer stints?

DUSTY BAKER: Possibly. But the thing about this one, this is when the off-days come in. You have two days, and then our off-day -- now where that could possibly come into play is where we play those three consecutive games at home, which also helps us because we have the last at-bat. And so, we are going to take the best team that we think is possible to beat the Cardinals and give us the most flexibility.

Q. Was there a point during the off-season where your trademark optimism deserted you and you really questioned whether you would be able to be back this year?

DUSTY BAKER: Probably not. That one day that I found out that I had -- you want to know the truth?

Q. Of course.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, one day after I found out, I went hunting, I went duck hunting. And I was in Marysville and I drove up the back side to Grass Valley. So they had this -- there's this hippy dude in this bar, and I had my hunting clothes on, it was snowing up there, and I was kind of down that day. This dude took me in this bar and he had this hat on and his hat said that he's a member -- excuse my English -- he said he's a member of the "I Don't Give a Shit Club." And I said, I'd like to join that club. And I thought he was lying and he took me in the bar and I signed up for it and I got my card. For those of you who don't believe me -- in the clubhouse, and there's a slogan on the back of the card. It costs three bucks to join it, and I joined the "I Don't Give a Shit Club." Right after I joined it, I came back down the mountain, and I was wondering I didn't join that club because I really did give a shit. And then they sent me a card anyway, and then I went to Hawaii -- everybody knows the story. I went and prayed on the mountain in the healing center, looked at my son and my wife and I said, "Yeah, I'm going to make it, big time," and that's when I knew without a doubt, just that one day, that I didn't give a shit. Anybody want to see my card? (Laughter.)

Q. Is that all you get for the three dollars is a card?

DUSTY BAKER: No, but you ought to hear the slogan on the back of the card.

Q. Could you talk about the importance of J.T. Snow in the playoffs; how important is it to have him at defense for you?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, his defense is unparalleled by anybody. He saves us runs. You don't win on defense but you can lose on defense. As far as his hitting, he's been concentrating better. He's come up big in the playoffs for us before. As everybody notices, there was times when he was in and out of the lineup, trying to decide who was going to be the first baseman, but whatever it was, the last month to six weeks, I decided that I was going to go with J.T. no matter what. Hopefully those consecutive at-bats contribute to him doing well now.

End of FastScripts...

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