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October 8, 1999

Buck Showalter


Q. How does the fact that it looks like Piazza is not going to play how does that affect the Mets lineup?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Well, certainly I am sure it would go without saying they'd like to have Mike in the lineup. Usually situations like this lend for unlikely heroes like Todd. I have known Todd Pratt for a long time, with the Red Sox. He has always been a guy that has been able to rise to the occasion. We have to look at a pretty good weapon off the bench in Mike Piazza. You don't like to see him lurking over there late in the ballgame. I think that is -- we don't really know the severity of it. Certainly Bobby is not going to tell us. We go into it with the idea that sometime we probably will see Mike tonight, but I don't think you can discount -- we certainly aren't taking Todd Pratt lightly. I know they don't feel like they have a disadvantage. I am sure they would like to have Mike in there, but it doesn't preclude them from winning a game and from Todd Pratt having a big game for them.

Q. Can you describe in your eyes what you have seen as far as the improvement of Edgardo Alfonzo over the past year and specifically this year?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I don't know about improvement. He was a pretty good product last year and I think a lot like our club where if Jay and Tony Womack hadn't kind of checked their egos and made the move for us to second base and right field and had fought that we would have had a problem. Certainly when they acquired Robin and moved Alfonzo over to second base it kind of brought everything together for them. I think that tells you a lot about him. Any time you can take a defensive position primarily like second, short and centerfield and have the type of run production that they have gotten from him like we have from Jay, that kind of puts you in a little group above somewhat so to speak when you match up against other clubs because most people aren't able to provide that type of offense from a middle infielder without sacrificing defense which they haven't done, either one of them. Unfortunately, I have got to see a lot of his success firsthand. We certainly made our contributions to the Alfonzo -- like Sammy and McGwire last year we certainly made our share of contributions. Never feel like he is picking on you because he is doing that to everybody, you know, what he has done all year long, he certainly spread the wealth.

Q. What does it mean to you personally to be back in New York with a playoff team, did any Yankee memories come to mind?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Well, I think last -- I know obviously we came back here last year and had been here before. My initial memory was the Mayor's Cup here playing the games. I don't think they do that anymore. I don't believe they play those anymore. But the time my son was real sick in a hospital, year by year and that first came to mind, but I am very proud of my memories here and hopefully we can make some more. But it is nothing -- it is something you think about in the off-season. I remember watching the Yankees World Series game in 1996 and being out, you know, how proud you felt what they were accomplishing and pulling for them. But at the same time I understand that the Mets versus the Yankees and all -- I remember the double-header sweep used to be defined as a Yankee win and Met loss. It was -- it is one of those things you try to tell your players and the wives for instance last night we were talking about what is ahead of them tonight. It is one of those things you have to experience. It is one of those things you have to go through before you really get a feel for it. As far as the memories, anything like that those are some private things that I have certainly enjoyed and have grown up with. It is something I am very proud of. It is not something I am trying to forget, believe me.

Q. What did you tell them about what is ahead for them tonight?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Well, it is kind of a circular your wagon thing. Certainly they had some challenge playing in our ballpark, and our fans were real supportive, very loud and any time you are -- the fans are very passionate about their home teams whether it be in Arizona or here in New York. My goodness it would be horrible if it wasn't like that. That is any time you are doing something that is important to people, there is going to be a lot of emotion involved and a lot of critiquing, but it sure beats the alternative of not being in that situation. You feel for the people sometimes that aren't passionate about anything, that go through life just que sera sera and whatever is meant to be. I think it is if you know have atmosphere to be in as far as when people care that much about something. 50 something thousand people are going to get out here tonight and I think it is important enough to come out and show how much it means to them. Same way it was in Phoenix.

Q. The way the Mets started playing in the summer and then when you started to take control of your division, you must have had a sensation when they flopped over -- for a long time that you were going to play -- that you could end up here, you must have had a feeling for long time that you might be playing the Mets here in October?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I think after playing the Mets, all three series we played them this year, I knew they were going to be in the Playoffs. I felt like I knew they were going to be there barring any injury to an overextended period of time; whether or not we were going to be there was certainly up in the air and still if you dwell on it, you wonder how. But I had no doubt somebody was going to be coming back here to play a playoff game. Whether it was going to be us was more of a question. I knew it was going to be Mets. I felt like they were going to play some meaningful games in October after the regular season. It is just -- that is what is great about postseason play -- you see their lineup and you see Atlanta's lineup; Houston's lineup, you say to yourself, how did they ever lose a game. Then they may say that about the club they are playing. That is what is so intriguing is these two teams are going to play each other. It is not like it is going to end up in a tie either.

Q. Talk about Bernard Gilkey's role and does him being an ex-Met help the team at all?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I think Bernard -- I think I have been about as proud of Bernard as anybody we have had on the club the way that he has handled everything. The last thing you ever want to do is embarrass a veteran player especially someone that has done the things that Bernard has done and him buying into this, I think he is probably as good a teammate as we have in our clubhouse and I know how much our players respect him and the way he is always ready. You know it just burns deep inside of him wanting to get back and play everyday. But we have created a situation where he knows he is going to play in certain situations. He has been instrumental along with Greg Colbrunn, with our success against lefthanded starters. You look at all the teams playing this time of year they have common denominators, pitching is up towards the top in the League and their ability to handle lefthanded starters is there too. You can't get through the league and not do that and play well on the road, Bernard has played a big part in that. I just think his attitude and willingness to sacrifice some possible selfish games for the team success; there is a lot of our players like that accomplish the things individually and now the last thing they want to complete their careers is to be able to play on a championship club.

Q. Looking ahead to Game 4, what sort of problems does Al Leiter pose?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Well, I am sure that from listening to Bobby and some of things that are going on there, I think tonight's game will dictate who their starters will be tomorrow in Game 5, but Al certainly is the type of guy that's shown that he can rise to the occasion and a guy that miss the sweet part of the bat with a fastball. When you seen guys like that, you know, he is always three pitches from getting out of an inning. A strikeout is always a possibility. He is capable of running off a lot of good innings. I know how much it means to Al to be a part of this. And I managed Al in New York-Penn League years ago. It was very obvious that he had a real passion for competing and wanted to get to the Big Leagues. Whether it be a Met fan or Yankee fan. I think he might have told me he was a big Yankee fan growing up. I am hearing he is a Met fan now. (Laughter.)

Q. Can you talk about B.A. starting tomorrow; what he has?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not in front of him. I can't do it. You want to step outside. Tell you what: This will be all meaningless. I am staying when B.A. gets up here; he will fill it up. You feel good about -- he is a lot like all our starting pitchers, he is the type of guy you feel good about putting your head on the pillow after his start. Brian is not going to be a fear factor. There is going to be a respect anxiety like all of us have. It is kind of here is mine, let's see yours, let's see what happens. I think that Brian is a guy that is going to field his position, hold runners, throw the ball over the plate. At the end of the day you are going to have to beat him; he is not going beat himself. He will be the first to tell you that he is not perfect or infallible. But at the end of the day it is not going to be because he's pitched around five hitters. If you are looking for people to pitch to in this lineup you are going to walk almost every guy. He is a guy you don't have any trouble pulling for. And he is a guy that our team has a lot of respect for and they like the idea that he is pitching in a meaningful game. How was that B.A.?

Q. You guys had a very good road team this year. What do you think makes for a good road team?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Pitching. Pitching. That is the great equalizer. You talk about taking the crowd out of the game which is impossible in a situation like this, but if a guy is on top of his game every year, we look at all those offensive numbers, they get into these series, all of a sudden nobody scores. Look at the Rangers, it is all because the pitcher is on top of his game. If the pitcher on top of his game and can use all the anxiety and pressure or whatever against an offensive team and make them do things they don't normally, you make quality pitches and you are going to get outs. I think pitching makes for quality road teams.

Q. You obviously talked about the noise that is going to happen here. Is it possible for your players to channel the emotion of the crowd into their game or do they just try to block it out?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I hope so. Works both ways. I don't think people realize sometime how much self control it takes to function; whether it is a home crowd pulling for you or pulling against you, to be able to function. To see a guy like Finley take a walk with everybody in the ballpark at our place screaming, he is trying to hit a ball where the grass doesn't grow, but he has enough presence to sit there and make sure that the pitch is hittable. If not, you take the walk. Kenny Rogers doesn't walk a lot of people over the course of his career but he doesn't throw many strikes. Because he makes a living out of making balls look like they are in the strike zone; taking them out of the strike zone. But you can follow that both ways. This won't be the first rodeo for a lot of these guys as far as these pressure situations. Every spring you go down to spring training you work on fly balls, calls and priorities, you got this guy saying, I got it, and this guy saying, you take it. That doesn't work in the Big Leagues. Looks great on the back field in instruction league or winter ball but you get in these situations like this that is why players have to know each other and have to have hand signals and once we go out on the field and that National Anthem is played, verbal communication ain't going to be real easy. You got to prepare for that.

End of FastScripts….

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