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October 11, 2002

Dusty Baker


Q. There have not been many 2-0 turnarounds in a best-of-seven series. You were involved in two as a player, I believe in '78 you were up and the Yankees came back and won four straight and then in '81, you were down and the Dodgers came back and won four straight. Do you remember anything in those two series about what turned the series around, and does it just happen during the normal course of a game or is it something unusual that happens to turn things around?

DUSTY BAKER: I'd rather not answer that because the Cardinals might see this and they are going to try to figure out how to use that same formula. It boils down to pitching. It boils down to pitching and defense, and that's the whole key. It boils down to a matter of belief on one side you've got -- if you're stepping on them, you've got to continue to step on them. So tomorrow night is a big game. It's not a must-game by any means, but it's a big game that's a lot different between 3-0 and 2-1. We would like to come out tomorrow and do the same thing we've done the last couple of days.

Q. In this series you've been sacrificing and squeeze bunting. Had you planned before the series to manage that way, and are people seeing an additional side of you as a manager in this series?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's not something that you plan, the scoreboard and the situation, everything dictates that. The situation with the squeeze out there was we had a tough guy in Isringhausen pitching. Then if he gets Ramon out and he's going to walk Kenny Lofton and pitch to Robb Nen, then it's only a two-run ballgame. The situation dictates what you do. You're not seeing anyone different or anything. In a series of high magnitude, most of the time you don't have a lot of scoring, most of the time. And I'm the same person I've always been. I know both sides of the game. I know the slugging side of the game from when the Braves what I was young and I know the sacrifice, hit-and-run, defense pitching game from the Dodgers. That's where I spent most of my career. So I know both sides of the game. But you manage according to the personnel. If you have a hitting, slugging team, you let them hit and slug. And if you have a speed hit-and-run type team, bunting team, manufacture runs team, then that's what you do. So the situation on the scoreboard dictates what you do. Now, during the series here -- like the other day, we wanted to get on the board first. That's the main reason why we sacrifice bunted. You get on the board first, and you've been getting on the board first every day, it's a psychological lift for your team and hopefully a downer for the opposition.

Q. With all of the attention on Barry, do you think the rest of the lineup tends to get overlooked sometimes?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I don't think the rest of our lineup really cares, actually. Everybody now keeps talking about overlooked or overrated, or credit or whatever much credit comes when you win. A real team doesn't really care who gets the credit. It's just a matter of us winning. It's hard not to overlook guys when you have Barry and Jeff in there. They are both MVPs. It's like Ruth -- how many people know who was in the lineup with Ruth and Gehrig? Not that these guys are of the same magnitude, but how many people know other than Ruth and Gehrig and Mantle and Maris or Mays/McCovey? If you've got two big guns like this, they are going to get most of the accolades and the credit.

Q. You guys are 2-0 in the series. And have home-field advantage for the next three games if it goes that far. Do you feel you are in the drivers's seat?

DUSTY BAKER: No, you are not in the driver's seat until you have four. You have a lead in this race, but the race isn't over yet. There's potentially five more games left in this series, potentially. You have to go out and play. Like I said earlier, I've been on both sides. I was on the side that jumped out and then last four straight and I was on the other side that lost two in a row early and won four straight. There's no guarantee one game, one play can turn anything around. I urge this town and everybody here not to think about us being in the driver's seat or thinking about us blowing it. You just think about us playing and rooting for us each game at a time and thinking positive. You know, when everybody thinks positive in one cause and one dimension and one area, then positive things happen. When people start thinking negative, that's when negative things happen.

Q. Two years ago, Russ got to the point where you actually had to send him to the bullpen. How has he grown as a pitcher in the last two years and how much have you enjoyed seeing that evolve?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, as I recall, when he went to the bullpen, it wasn't very long.

Q. One inning.

DUSTY BAKER: That's because I think somebody got hurt and we had to call right back upon him again. That was good fortune for Russ's sake. But as a manager, or a parent, or a guardian or whatever, teacher, whatever you enjoy seeing progress in your loved ones, your pupils, your teammates or whatever. I think that's what gives us the greatest satisfaction of all is to see progress in a young player. Seeing maturity in a young player grow into a man; grow from a colt into a stallion. Russ's potential is still vast. I'm enjoying it a lot, actually.

Q. How significant, this whole post-season, not just this series, has it been for Snow and Santiago to be so productive behind Barry? As part of that, why do you think J.T. has raised his offensive game in the post-season as opposed to the regular season?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's huge. I mean, it's not only -- I know Barry gets most of the credit and the headlines which he should. Like I said, for the series, everything is going to depend how the guys do in front of Barry and behind Barry. One thing for sure, Barry is going to get on base or they are going to put him on base or he's going to put himself on base. It's very important how they do. It's quite pleasurable to see J.T. play the way he's playing, hitting the way he's hitting and being aggressive and getting some hits. It's been a tough year for J.T.. I urge all of our guys to forget what the year has been. If you have not had a good year then forget about it and you can always have a great series at the end, and nobody will really remember it. If you have a good year and continue to have a good year -- I remember my mom the school teacher told me, you want to get a good-conduct grade, you be good in school the last couple of weeks, the teacher will forget what you did the first couple of months. My mom was a teacher -- I had a little problem with conduct sometimes, and that was great advice. (Laughter.)

Q. How did the psychology of your batting order change when you switched Barry and Jeff in terms of Barry being able to have an impact on both ends in the 4-spot?

DUSTY BAKER: I wrestled with it some, because, you know, in the beginning you say you want Barry up in the first inning, or, you know, Barry, it's going to cost him X amount of at-bats. But it's helped both of them, really. It's helped Jeff and it's helped Barry because Jeff has been on a lot to put the pitcher in the stretch. Psychologically I don't know how it's helped both of them but you can't leave Benito out of the equation. As soon as he went into that fifth spot behind Barry, he has been very productive and our offense seemed to take off at that time, also.

Q. In that same regard, and I mentioned this to Russ, Aurilia had struggled because he basically had the surgery and you dropped him way down in the batting order for a while.

DUSTY BAKER: Not long. Two days.

Q. But was he just not able to swing the bat because of the surgery, and were people here aware of that? I heard on TV last night people saying that he got back too early and got out of sorts in his swing.

DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, that's hard to judge by what's too early when you're an athlete. Especially when your team is struggling. What happens is when you come back too early, you say he got out of sorts; he was never in sorts, really, in the beginning. That's what happens. When you're not quite yourself -- and it's similar to like when you have a limp. Somebody can tell you to stop limping but your body is going to keep limping because your body is not going to let itself hurt so you get into bad habits. It doesn't take long to get into bad habits, but it takes a long time to get out of bad habits and reestablish your good habits, and that's what happened.

Q. Russ is sort of a throwback. He throws a lot of pitches and gets in and out of jams. Is there anything that you look for when he might be able to get out of a jam or not?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, a lot of it depends on who he's facing when he's in that jam. Russ is a competitor. A lot of times in -- it's hard to tell. I mean, it is really hard to tell. I'm getting a better idea -- Russ and I had a discussion because earlier, I was taking him out after 100 pitches in the fifth three or four times and he said, "Bake, I can get out of these jams." I said, "You're about to give me a heart attack waiting for you to get out of these jams." So I said, okay, I'll leave you in there and let you get out of these couple of jams and we'll see. And the more you are able to get out of jams, the more likely you are to get out of jams. The key is not to get jammed in the first place; and that's been the major difference; he has not been getting in that many jams. If you think he's been getting in jams because they have been hitting him and he's been walking people -- his pitch count has been getting better and he's been going a whole lot deeper in the ballgame.

Q. Would you evaluate Robb Nen's performance the last two night's?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, he's been awesome. They have been clean innings. They try to make him walk somebody early by taking, especially the first couple of batters, you can tell what they are trying to do. We have full confidence in Robb Nen. He's been one of the best and shall be one of the best for a long time.

Q. You said it was quite pleasurable to see J.T.'s resurgence, did you expect that because he hit .400 in the 2000 Division Series and the home run that everybody remembers?

DUSTY BAKER: Well, 2000 has nothing to do with 2002. I mean, zero. But, the resurgence that you see, it was on the way, basically in, September. You just don't wake up one morning and start hitting all of a sudden. I mean, it takes a while to get your rhythm and your timing, and you're sort he's starting to hum and he's having good at-bats. It was highly necessary for our team, for him to produce enough good at-bats.

Q. You mentioned how in Game 1, you bunted in the first inning, and then the squeeze yesterday. Do you find yourself in the post-season looking at situations differently and perhaps managing a little bit differently, because it is just a seven-game season? Do you have to change your strategy a little bit?

DUSTY BAKER: Sometimes, yeah, you do manage differently than you do sometimes during the regular season. The major difference is like Matt Morris is a very, very tough pitcher, No. 1. If you get a runner on early, yeah, you bunt him over to give yourself the best opportunity to score. No. 2, you manage differently because during the season, if every time the leadoff runner didn't get on in front of Rich Aurilia, he would have 25 RBIs and no home runs and ready to kill me. You let guys play a lot more during the season, because that's how you play the game.

End of FastScripts�.

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