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December 5, 2007

Dusty Baker


Q. Do you know a lot more about the club than you did?
DUSTY BAKER: Oh, yeah, I know a lot more than when I first came here. I'm still learning about the club, still, you know, learning about the organization, learning about the different people in our organization, what their roles are. And, you know, put a face with the name, because I've got a long piece of paper with a lot of names on there.
You know, I'm liking what I'm seeing. Our guys are very conscientious. They lock up in that room up there trying to search everywhere we can to get some better players, and the best talent that we can find.

Q. What is it that you like about what you've seen so far?
DUSTY BAKER: What I like probably is the combination of youth and veterans I think. That's what I like the most. If you can get that combination there, and then get them together; like I've always said, you get the experience of the veterans and you get the energy of the youth, and combine those two, we can do some wonderful things.

Q. Being in the Central all those years, does that help you?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I think it helps. I know most of the managers in the Central. I don't know Coop (Cecil Cooper, Astros) yet. I haven't managed against Lou yet even though I've been knowing Lou forever and ever. But the rest of the guys in the decision, I know them.
But the personnel has changed some. It doesn't take long for the personnel to roll over in baseball. You see the difference in teams already but it won't take that long.

Q. How encouraging was Cordero's signing, do you think you can win right away with Cordero?
DUSTY BAKER: I always think I can win. I always think I can win right away. We're not far away from winning. Even though we haven't won in seven years and haven't had a winning record in six, seven years, that's behind us. Whatever's happened in the past, we're going to leave it in the past and go forward.
Cordero was a huge signing. Everybody knows the importance of a closer in modern baseball, especially the fact that most guys, you don't get many complete games.
And then when you've got Cordero, you can back everybody else up and have quality in the seventh and eighth and try to shorten the ballgame. David Weathers did a great job last year as a closer, but now I've got a closer possibly going in the eighth inning that's been the ninth inning. And a lot of times, that eighth inning, you lose more games in the eighth inning I've found than do you in the ninth. With him and Stanton, and I've yet to see like Burton and Ramirez, some of these guys, I'm excited to see them in Spring Training.

Q. Do you think it's imperative to get another starting pitcher?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, imperative; I'd sure like to have one. Yeah, or maybe even two, or hopefully one of the young kids will develop and mature over the winter. And like we used to say in the Dodgers, we're always looking for a surprise pitcher who falls out of the sky, that gets it together; whether it's some Rule V guy or a guy who was injured last year or a young man that went to winter ball and picked up another pitch; that's how you come up with the surprise guys, and that's what we used to do in L.A. all the time.

Q. You look at it, you look at that roster, right now, do you see five starters for a rotation?
DUSTY BAKER: At the moment?

Q. Yeah.
DUSTY BAKER: Probably not. No. But I see probably three and trying to either get another one or hopefully one of these kids evolves.

Q. Do you get a sense up in the suite that something could happen or you're getting close to getting somebody?
DUSTY BAKER: We're trying. We're trying every day. This is probably the most activity that I've seen at a Winter Meetings in a long time. Usually people are posturing here to make deals. This is the first time that I can remember in a long time that I've seen people posturing, and then completing the deal. So it appears that you'd better pull the trigger around here pretty quickly now versus before a lot of these deals wouldn't get done until right before Christmas. So it's been a lot of activity.

Q. If I could switch to another topic real quick, there are reports, the Mitchell report may come out before Christmas, what are your thoughts about that? Do you worry about what might be coming out? Does it affect you one way or another? What are your thoughts?
DUSTY BAKER: No, I don't worry about it. I've got a lot of stuff to worry about. It is what it is.
You're always curious about it. You're curious about what's there. You're curious about the accuracy. You're curious about how it's going to have an effect on the game, how it possibly might have an effect of your team. I mean, like I said, I'm not real worried about it. They have done some extensive interviews. I've been interviewed. Most everybody in this game has been interviewed. So we'll see.

Q. Do you want to get it out of the way? It's been hanging and hanging and hanging --
DUSTY BAKER: The longer something hangs, the less you think about it. The initial impact of that was a lot more drastic than I think what's here now. But once it's out, then, boom, it's going to be shot to the forefront again and very soon.
Have you heard any reports as to when it might be released?

Q. They said before Christmas is the latest report.
DUSTY BAKER: Well, it ain't Merry Christmas or happy new year for somebody.

Q. A couple years ago I remember asking you about Barry and you made the comment, don't mess, and Barry has always been very confident -- what were your emotions?
DUSTY BAKER: Confidence is different than messing. My whole thing, I can't comment on that because it's in the hands of the -- it's a legal issue right now, you know, so I've just instructed to let it do what it's going to do because what I say or feel or think has no bearing on anything.

Q. No thoughts to share about your emotions when it happened?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I got some thoughts but I can't share. Always got some thoughts, you guys know that.

Q. Have you spoke with Barry?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I spoke to him. Spoke to him shortly after, you know, to say hello and spoke to his mom. I mean, you know, our families go way back. I grew up with his dad and his mom. I mean, what are you supposed to do.

Q. You left San Francisco on a high note; when you left Chicago, not so much. How rejuvenated or remotivated are you to get back to the promised land?
DUSTY BAKER: I'm very motivated. It was a wonderful '07. I did a lot of healing, emotional healing. You know, whenever you have scars, scars heal back stronger than the skin that was there the first time so stronger now than ever. I went to Africa, which I wouldn't have had an opportunity to do. I went to Montana fishing. I went to Quebec fishing; turkey hunting with my son. Went to two rounds of the NCAA baseball which was wonderful. I did a lot of things, and then I mixed in a little work with ESPN in between, and so it was a real good summer.
But it's time for me to get back. I talked to a number of people about how long should I stay out before they forget you or go to Cincinnati. I talked to Joe Morgan, I talked to all addles, Al Attles, Al Rosen, a number of people that I really feel and trust their opinion.
My wife and dad, it all came down to, hey, it's a good organization, they have a great history, if I want to make a change, might as well make a major change. I've never been in red. Every uniform I had on had some blue in it all my life, so it's the first time. So might as well, let's take it back to the top.

Q. You know that you put Chicago in the past, but do you feel that your reputation, which has always been good, took an unnecessary hit there, and this is a chance for to you get back on the upswing?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I think it took an unnecessary, hit but I'm not worried about my reputation upswing because I'm confident and I know me. Sometimes there are things in your life that, you know, that knock you down for whatever reason. But the key is, you can get down, just don't stay down. You let the champ get off the mat, the champ is going to be stronger than when he had been down. And I had been down a long time, and sometimes it's good to go down. Sometimes it gets you to the point where you're like, okay, am I going to go back. Like when I talked to Bill Walsh right before he passed, we had lunch and he says sometimes in your life, you have to recreate yourself. So that's what I've done.

Q. I apologize if you've covered this already, how would you characterize making a major move before leaving Nashville?
DUSTY BAKER: I was a lot more confident before that Miami trade yesterday. (Laughter.) I'll say that.
Yeah, I'm still confident we're going to do something -- if not here, you don't necessarily have to do it here. Like I said, this is the first time I can remember in a long time where things actually got done here in these two days, major things got done in these two days.
So with that being said, I'll be more confident that something will be done after people leave from here if they are in that trading mood while they are here, you know. So you might see a trading frenzy, know what I'm saying.

Q. You mentioned that trade yesterday; what was your first reaction?
DUSTY BAKER: Damn. (Shaking head) That was it. My wife grew up with Dontrelle's aunt. I was like, man, we could have rode to Spring Training together.

Q. There's one notion out there that you guys need to do something to improve yourself, you either have to part with Griffey or Dunn based on economics. Do you buy into that notion?
DUSTY BAKER: No. Uh-uh. I don't want to part with either one of them. It's hard to have an offensive part and get more offense. What you have to do is try to fill in other stuff, and mostly pitching. Pitching, speed and defense hopefully. And the defense would help our pitching.
So no, I don't want to part with those guys. I'm not the GM, but I don't think our organization wants to part with them. If they wanted to then they wouldn't have signed Dunn back in the first place and picked up his option. And Junior's here; I didn't come to town for Junior to leave.

Q. Are the Cubs still the favorites in this division since they are the champions?
DUSTY BAKER: Oh, yeah, they were the favorites -- look what they did last winter. Yeah, they are the favorites, definitely. You didn't see me on ESPN?

Q. You were pretty good.
DUSTY BAKER: I didn't ask that, but I picked the Cubs.

Q. You said you need to recreate yourself, do you feel like you're a different guy than you were when you left Chicago?
DUSTY BAKER: No -- am I a different guy?

Q. Yeah.
DUSTY BAKER: You know, when you're 58 years old, there's not a whole bunch of difference. You just sort of reposition things. I weigh the same; the stuff fits differently. I think people understand that once you get to a certain age, and that's what I mean. You know, I'm the same guy, because that's the only guy I know. Like Van Morrison said, he says, one of my favorite songs by Van Morrison, he goes, it takes a lifetime to learn about yourself how are you going to learn about somebody else. So really just learning about myself at this moment basically as much as I can.

Q. Have you heard from Pete Rose? You had a relationship with him as a young player.
DUSTY BAKER: Not yet. I'm hoping to hear from Pete. I'm sure I will when I get there. Like I said, I love Pete Rose and I'm sure I'm going to see Pete. I mean, I'd like to prove Pete wrong when he says it's impossible to win there in that ballpark. I'd like to hopefully win and have Pete there when we do win. Pete, Joe Morgan, all the dudes that used to kick in my tail when I was on the other side.

Q. Is it going to be hard to attract free agent pitchers in that ballpark?
DUSTY BAKER: I mean, they said Wrigley was hard to attract free agents in that ballpark, too. A lot of times, depends if guys think they can win, and a lot of it depends on, you know, how much money you've got to pay, too.

Q. Because of the trading activity that's going on, do you give pause to putting anything in ink and really setting any kind of lineup or rotations or anything like that now, or do you have to wait till Spring Training until you really think what you're going to do?
DUSTY BAKER: That's a good question -- you answered that. Until you learn the personnel, you have to wait till you get Spring Training and then you still make changes in April, May, June, July. Depends what you see and who is doing their job and depends which guys are better than you thought they were and some guys might be worse than you thought they were. From the other side, things always look different than they do once you get on the same side.
Again, like I said, we've got some young kids that we're not sure if they are going to be on the team or where they are or where I'm going to put them.

Q. Is there anybody you're looking forward to seeing in spring just to get a closer look?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I'm looking toward to seeing Homer Bailey. I'm looking forward to seeing the guys like Votto. You know, some of the young players; Encarnacion, I'm looking forward to seeing some of these young guys, as well as the veterans. I'm looking for that surprise from the sky.

Q. Do you think you can help Dunn defensively?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I think I can help. Everybody wants to put -- throw somebody in left field. That's the hardest field there is out there. That was the hardest field for me. I played center and I played right and I played left. Left, you don't have much reaction and everybody can hit the ball hard to left field, I don't care left-hander, right-hander, the ball is never coming at you straight. It just takes a lot of work and a lot of being on your toes.
Like I said, I won Gold Glove in left, and that was tough to do back then because most guys are centerfielders with Gold Gloves, right fielders. I think I can help him, and I've heard he's a guy who is open to suggestion and help.

Q. Have you heard from any of your old players like D-Lee and have they had to say about you getting back into the gig here?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I've heard from a bunch of them. They are all saying "good luck," yeah. (Laughter.) They are saying good luck and we're looking forward to seeing you, and, you know -- I've heard from, yeah, a whole bunch of them actually.

Q. Have you gotten in touch with most of the new guys on your team already?
DUSTY BAKER: I've got in touch with probably 70 percent of them maybe. The others I'm going to get in touch with as time goes on. I mean, I've been on the phone a lot.
And then, you know, I'm checking on some guys through other guys and see who is working out, who is in shape and find out, why are you waiting until December to start working out. We've got to change the mind-set here of how a winner thinks.

Q. How much tougher it is get the guys getting to know your style, you've probably spent a lot of time --
DUSTY BAKER: I've spent time with them on the phone. I'm looking forward to this weekend, seeing some in person, Redsfest and talking to them and seeing who has been dedicated, see who has been working out, see who is getting their mind and body ready for the season.
I had a couple players in the past every time I call them, they are breathing hard. They were on the stair stepper and stationary bike and so I start calling at ten o'clock at night and they are (huffing and puffing); call ten in the morning (huffing and puffing). And I say, man, this guy is really working out, and then when I saw him, he's still like 260. (Laughter.) So it's a good idea to kind of see them in person.

Q. If a player is mentioned in the Mitchell report, a specific player by name, should that be noted in his career statistics?
DUSTY BAKER: Noted in his career, it's going to be noted, but I mean, if somebody is mentioned, somebody has to determine how much accuracy is in that note. And who is the one that's mentioned in the note, you know what I mean.
So it's going to be an interesting situation.

Q. Do you think baseball's reputation will suffer or are fans more concerned about the teams?
DUSTY BAKER: It hasn't suffered so far. I haven't seen a backlash yet. I don't know what's coming.

Q. Cordero, you said you made some calls to the Dominican, have you called other free agents since then trying to do some more wooing?
DUSTY BAKER: I feel like a recruiter sometimes. (Smiling).

Q. Positive calls?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, positive. I mean, they know what I want when I'm calling. Haven't ever called the guy before; "hey, how you doing." So, you know, mostly introductory calls. I don't try to put pressure on them to give me an answer. Just let them know that we're interested and to keep us in mind before you make a move, confer with your agent to give us a chance before you make a decision.

Q. Who did you call?
DUSTY BAKER: I can't tell you that.

Q. Sorry.
DUSTY BAKER: Ah, good try.

Q. In recent years it doesn't seem like the Reds have been that aggressive in free agency or spending a lot of money. When they first came to you to talk about the job, was that something you wanted to discuss or to make sure that, you know, they had the resources, the commitment to go at it the way it seems like they are going at it?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, didn't really talk about what resources they had. Everybody has a budge the and they came to me very aggressively which showed me that they wanted me, and then they know, I guess everybody knows how I like to win. And then you have new ownership in Bob Castellini, who was part owner of the St. Louis Cardinals. And so he was used to winning and he wants to win. And he loves the City of Cincinnati and he wants to bring a winner back to Cincinnati.
So they didn't really make any promises, but it did assure me we were going to do everything we could, everything we can, within the realm of our budget to try to put the best team together and also to make the most intelligent decisions that we can with the resources that we have.

Q. How encouraging is it for you to see it get off to this kind of a start, not just Cordero, but the trades you're hearing Cincinnati mentioned with some significant players?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, it's very encouraging. That's why I came here. I don't look that losing, man. That losing was miserable. I don't like that. I don't like that L by my name at all. I don't want my name even associated with anything that starts with an L, you know what I'm saying. I like W's, like my daughter asked me when I was young, how come daddy you must win all the time. Especially that last year in Chicago, that ate me up big time. Oohh, man, I don't want to go through that ever again hopefully the rest of my life.

Q. I know you haven't seen him much but what are your thoughts on Jay Bruce and where he fits in?
DUSTY BAKER: Don't know. Like I said, I've just read reports. I've heard some great things. I know a lot of people mention him and there is going to be trades and hoping we can keep him. A lot of people have told me some great things about him. I'm curious to see him -- one of the guys I forgot to mention, curious to see him with my own eyes. I like that talent. There's no substitute for talent.

Q. Does 17 or 18 games against the Cubs take on any more meaning for you?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. It's meaningful; it's a lot of games.

Q. Did you always want to manage?

Q. What pushed you towards it eventually?
DUSTY BAKER: Al Rosen. Al Rosen. Yeah, because I was going to go home and I was a stockbroker in '87 and then after the crash, then I got divorced and then Al Rosen wooed me and he said, "Would you like to be in baseball?"
And I said, "I don't know."
He says, "What would you like to do?"
I said, "I'd like to be your assistant, to be a general manager some day." And he told me that he thought I would be better situated for the field. "What you talking about?"
He says, "Field manager, that is."
I said, "Really."
So he says, "Take you five years, I think you'll make a fine manager. Take you five years to get the player out of you and you'll be ready." And it was exactly five years.

Q. If the stock market had not crashed in '87 would you still be a stockbroker?
DUSTY BAKER: Probably not because I don't like asking people for money.

Q. You managed Rob Nenn and Rod Beck, both on the Hall of Fame ballot, what made them each special?
DUSTY BAKER: Fearless, No. 1. No. 2, no situation they didn't think they could get out of. I mean, there wasn't a situation that they didn't feel very confident about. And confidence in the club when they came in. Both of them had that demeanor, that look in their eyes and they threw strikes.

Q. When you left Chicago, did you expect to manage again?

Q. Were you pretty sure you were just going to take one year and come back?
DUSTY BAKER: I didn't know how long I was going to take but I was sure I was going to manage. The odds were against me because there was nobody that managed in Chicago that ever gets a job again. Those odds weren't really in my favor but I don't understand, still don't understand it. You take a 100-year situation, you don't win, but then you can't get a job again, that doesn't make sense.
Yeah, I was confident I'd manage again, yeah.

Q. And you wanted to?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, but I wanted to after I had some time off. So this worked out exactly as I would have scripted it, yeah.

Q. Where did you go in Africa?
DUSTY BAKER: I went to Ghana, with Omar Minaya, Dave Winfield, Bob Watson, Reggie Smith.

Q. You've had success with changing the culture of teams already, do you start that by identifying a team's leaders and getting into them, transmitting your philosophies through that?
DUSTY BAKER: That's a very good question. I try to identify the leaders, but sometimes the leaders emerge, guys that you don't really think, because the lead guys that are your leaders are not always your best players all the time.
So I call the bullpen, players in the field that I think might be the leaders, and then hopefully give them a certain amount of responsibility of leadership in a positive direction. Trying to change the mindset of the team. Expecting to win starts in the winter, because by the time you get to Spring Training, it's too late. That's why you start making these calls during the winner. You start thinking about things, you start to see through foresight and you see it in your head first before you get there. Yeah, I mean, you start someplace, it starts in the thought process first.

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