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December 8, 2008

Dusty Baker


Q. Your thoughts on Greg Maddux?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, he's had a great, great career. You know, he's one of the finer guys that I've been around, and definitely one of the brighter guys and most dedicated guys.
I wish him well. He had a long career. He came out basically unscathed health-wise. Most guys come out, his healthy condition, guys that didn't pitch much. Got to knock-on-wood. Shows how he took care of himself and really what it shows, you know, is about his throwing arm. He threw a lot on the side. I wish him well.

Q. At the beginning of the winter meetings, are you confident that you can make some moves, whether it be free agent market or trade market?
DUSTY BAKER: I hope so. My experience in the winter meetings, usually there are not many trades that go down. Usually it's setting up the trades. That's what usually happens. Everybody is posturing for the best deal they can make for their team, and then you get home and then it's work.
It's basically a time for the general managers and the scouts. This is when they really get to work. Some of the rest of us are still in vacation mode before we have to go back.

Q. Having only a few positions set going into next year, is this exciting for you knowing that you're still a work in progress?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, really haven't set, you know what I mean? It's a situation where it's a tough market out there. It's a tough market economically, a tough market player-wise. There are a lot of players available, but this could go down to right before spring training before you know what kind of team that you have.

Q. Is it fair to say that you guys will be in the market for a corner outfielder?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, I'm in the market -- basically, we are in the market for a right-handed bat, because we are left-handed strong. Most of our young guys and our power guys are left-handed. We were left-handed strong last year.
You know, yeah, we are in the market for a corner outfielder, and we are in the market for a center fielder, too.

Q. What did you think of the Jermaine Dye rumors that are coming out? Would you like to see somebody like him?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, yeah, but they were rumors. You guys were late on that one. That was a couple weeks ago there was talk.
So, you know, I thought that those talks were kind of off because of the economics and because everybody wants young players, which we are trying to groom to keep.
Were we interested in Jermaine Dye? Most definitely. It's just a matter of how much it's going to cost the team. The economics -- whether you want to face it or not, economics is a big issue, and not only in baseball, but in the world. Right now we are in an economic crisis. I stopped watching every day. (Laughing.)

Q. Glad you didn't stick with that stockbroker stuff.
DUSTY BAKER: I would have got blamed, just like '87, my only year. (Laughter.)

Q. There's always been this perception that you don't like young players. But when you look back on --
DUSTY BAKER: No, no, no. There has not always been that perception. I got that perception when I got to Chicago.
So, see, I managed for ten years before I got to Chicago, and there were a lot of misperceptions when I got to, and left, Chicago.
So we can stop that right now. You go ask young players anywhere who I plays them in spring training.

Q. That's what I'm getting to.
DUSTY BAKER: No, no. I'm just saying, you go back from last year, to the Cubs and Giants, and see how I treated young players and how young players respond and still come up to me right now. You know what I mean?
When you've got a nine-year-old son and a 29-year-old daughter, how do you not like young people? That makes no sense. Like, have you ever seen kids around me? You understand what I'm saying?
So why wouldn't that -- I'm the oldest of five in my family. I've got 18 nieces and nephews. They all love Uncle Dusty, and they think Uncle Dusty is rich, especially the next couple of weeks. I've got 22 godchildren, so how you don't like young people? That just floors me. I don't even want to defend that anymore.

Q. What do you think of the young kids, like Cueto, Volquez, your core young guys that have come along.
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, that's one of the reasons I came here and one of the reasons I came to Chicago. You go back, and that's one of the reasons I came. I analyzed their young pitching staff, and that's one of the reasons I came here is because I liked what I saw.
So, you know, who starts it? You'll never get to the bottom of it. I mean, I like young kids that come to play. I like young kids who have ability. Where that might have started is where I disagreed with somebody who thought they could play but couldn't.
I learned from Lasorda that to be a good manager you have to be an excellent scout, because Tommy had the carte blanche to more or less choose his team, which is not the way of the world the past actually couple decades, actually.

Q. When you talk about some of these young kids, maybe Jay Bruce, what are the next steps?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, work, improve, in that order. I mean, it's hard to bake a cake in ten minutes. You've got to let the cake cook, bake.
You know, he just has to play and improve. There are some areas for improvement, and he's still young and inexperienced. So we just -- if we just don't rush that and have too high of expectations, just let him play.

Q. How important is it, the guys you bring in this round? You're going to probably fill out some of these holes with veteran guys, and you've done that before.
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, what you want, you want guys that can teach you and show them how to play and conduct themselves as professionals and how to be responsible young men. That makes my job easier.

Q. You mentioned earlier about wanting a centerfielder. Does that mean you are not totally sold yet on Dickerson?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's not the issue here. The issue here is, you know, I like what I see in Dickerson, but you look at his track record and injuries, that's what kind of, you know, makes you a little apprehensive.
I mean, I'm hoping that he's well now. He's had like four knee operations, one on one knee, one on the ankle. That's a lot in a short period of time. I like what I saw. You've just got to stay healthy, number one. Plus, maybe the world has changed where 27 and 28 is a kid now, where that wasn't a kid before.
I think through modern medicine you can still call them kids at 27, 28, but before you couldn't.

Q. Do you feel like you know a little bit more about the team than you did last year at this time?
DUSTY BAKER: (Chuckles) I think you just want me to say that. Yeah, without a doubt. Last year at this time I knew very little about the team, other than what I had read. I trust more what I see than what I read, as far as judgment is concerned. You know, Griffey and Dunn. I didn't know much about the other guys.
Yeah, I know a whole lot more. I know a whole lot more about the organization. I know a whole lot more about the mind-set and the philosophy of the organization.

Q. Is it hard to get pitchers to sign with the Reds because the ballpark is so hitter friendly?
DUSTY BAKER: I haven't seen that yet, since I've been there. You know, depends how you pitch.
If you're a high fly bomb pitcher, I mean, Volquez didn't have much trouble pitching there, and until last year Harang didn't have much trouble pitching. It varies. Certainly you would like to be in Yellowstone, but then you wouldn't hit any home runs either.
Things have changed. I remember when I first got to San Francisco. They said it was hard for guys to sign in San Francisco because it was so cold, but then it seemed to get warm. (Laughter.)

Q. Talk about Cueto a little bit. There was so much hype in spring training and everybody was talking about him. Did you expect that?
DUSTY BAKER: I didn't expect that. Because spring training, to me, is for the young and for the guys that play winter ball. I mean, they are miles ahead of everybody else. They are in April and everybody else is in March.
But he has the stuff, big time. He was there, basically, which is one of the things we wrestled with a lot, and he was there out of AA.
So automatically, to me, he's two years ahead of his graduating class, which I'm big on when it comes to young players. And by the time -- if he can stay healthy and keep his mind together, by the time his class gets there, his class, still guessing, but they will say, "I know I can do it." But they don't know until they get in the fire.
See, he's already been in the fire, so he's way ahead of his class.

Q. How close do you have to watch a guy like that if he starts getting hit around a little bit? How much do you let him fail?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's a good question. Greg Maddux, he started out 7-17, something like that. I remember, Steve Carlton, didn't he lose 20 games? That's a hard thing to say.
I don't see him losing confidence. He's a hungry young man and he needs to feed a lot of people, so it's hard to lose confidence when -- a hungry man will work overtime where a man who is not hungry, he'll leave before he's supposed to leave.

Q. Did you have to watch him last year to make sure?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, we've got to watch him now, I think. He's like, you know, I'm getting reports that he didn't take much time off. You can't really watch a guy at the end of the night. He wants it so badly and he's pitching now, throwing bullpens and sides when you kind of wanted him to chill.
That's a case where, you know, you see Latin American players and Japanese players throw a lot and really have sore arms. We kind of call our guys to not throw so much, and our guys come up sore. So I don't know which one is more correct.

Q. Homer Bailey seemed to keep coming up in rumors. If he doesn't get traded and he's back with you guys, do you think he has a chance to be in the rotation and maybe get back to where he was before last year?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I wasn't here before to see what he was, you know what I mean?
So one thing, he's only 22. Again, he's ahead of his class, too. I mean, his class was just coming out in A ball right now, and he's in college. So he's way ahead. His name comes up because of how highly he was touted, number one. And number two, we don't have to pay him much. Number three, don't have to pay him much for the next three or four years. So this is a guy with a great upside, because you really don't have a whole bunch to lose.
So we are not in the give-away business. People just want to take this from us and take that from us. We are not giving anything away.

Q. Talk about the catching situation. What's your thoughts going into the season as far as how these guys are going to be able to handle your pitchers?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, we are in the process of trying to get a guy that has a track record with left-handed pitchers and can play offense at the same time and can throw the runners out and block balls. These guys are not that easy to find.
I keep saying, Yeah, but he's 28, right? I like what he brings to the table and I like the fact that we can go with the combination on some guys. I know that some guys like throwing to him. He threw better than I thought he threw when I saw him in spring training compared to what I saw in him at the end of the year.
We are trying to build this thing for a long period of time. I didn't come here for a real short one, I'm coming here for hopefully a long time.

Q. Greg Maddux, beyond his stuff, what does he understand that most pitchers don't?
DUSTY BAKER: What did he understand? I think that he understood hitters. I would see him in the video room and he would study hitters more than he would study himself. Most guys, guys in the video room, they are studying and critiquing themselves. You start being hypercritical when you start critiquing yourself versus critiquing the hitters.
He would watch a guy's feet and the position at the plate. To be a great pitcher, you have to think like a hitter; to be a great hitter, you have to think like a pitcher. And the guys that have trouble are those that can't transfer that compass.

Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Aaron Harang in the off-season as far as the season, the disappointment?
DUSTY BAKER: No, I haven't.

Q. What are you going to say going into the season mind-set wise?
DUSTY BAKER: No, nothing. We've all had a bad year. When you have a bad year, words don't really matter. When you have a bad year, only action matters. The best way to have action is to give yourself the best chance by coming into camp in the best shape possible.
Last year, he got out of shape a little bit, which is understandable, when you're going bad, some guys act differently.

Q. So it wasn't a mechanics thing?
DUSTY BAKER: That's part of it. But part of it is the fact that he didn't run. Like I said, sometimes -- I mean, Carlton, he lost 20 games. Everybody wants to find out why.
But in baseball, there's no such thing any more as a bad year. If you're going to play this game long enough, you're going to have bad years. So I'm chalking it up as a bad year.

Q. Is it difficult to compete in this division with one team that has a lot more resources? It seems like the other team, as far as spending --
DUSTY BAKER: It's difficult, yeah, but part of the challenge. You know what I'm saying? I've never been in a situation where I was on a team that had endless resources. Never. Got used to it.
I wouldn't mind being in that situation.

Q. Is that ever going to happen?
DUSTY BAKER: Probably not.

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