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December 7, 2009

Dusty Baker


Q. So you're expecting a pretty quiet couple of days here?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't really know, I mean, because my experience here, you expect quiet days and something's happening, and other times you anticipate a lot of action and there's no action.
Just depends if people are in the mood to barter and trade, or if they are preparing things for when they get home to make deals.

Q. Are you anticipating you guys in that mood?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, we are listening to people that might have something to improve our ballclub without just taking our top guys. Everybody is looking for young players. Everybody is looking for young players that have the ability who don't cost a lot of money.
We have got quite a few of those right now, but we are not going to give up our core players.

Q. Who do you consider your core?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, you look around, you have Cueto, Vatto, you have Bruce, you have Rolen. We have Brandon Phillips. We have got Homer Bailey. You look at Stubbs, all of these guys are our young players. The rest of them are young players that aren't even arbitration eligible.

Q. Can you live with Janish at shortstop?
DUSTY BAKER: I mean, everybody wants -- everybody wants that quality offensive shortstop. And the thing is, I keep talking about, you know, his ability to improve, because I mean, when I look back, there are people asking, Would you live with Ozzie Smith? Could you live with Dave Concepcion, who was not a very good hitter at that time?
There were a number of shortstops that came up that, you know, that really weren't dynamic, offensive shortstops that learned how to hit. Larry Bowa hit .190. There are a couple guys that are near Hall of Famers.
Everybody is looking for the star player coming in starring right away. Sometimes you have to cultivate and teach and live with the players you have. Certainly he is one of the best defensive shortstops already to me.
So this, before we ask those really, really hard, pertinent questions, let's give the guy a chance first.

Q. (Indiscernible.)
DUSTY BAKER: Everybody asks that. You move Brandon to short, who is going to play second? Why would you have two guys out of position and possibly affect Brandon's offense if you move to shortstop?
Brandon has put in a lot of work at second base. So what you do is you leave that position alone and then you try to fill in that other position, which is moving Brandon.
It's a lot of work.

Q. Isn't it tougher to find a shortstop than it is a second baseman?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. You look around, I mean, since Cal Ripken, that shortstop position, that's turned into one of the best positions around, offensive positions.
A-Rod, Jeter. Now A-Rod is playing third base, but you look around, and that shortstop has turned from a defensive position into a defensive and offensive position.
After Cal, there are a bunch of guys that are not your old-school, prototypical shortstops.

Q. There are reports about Lopez's recovery. How important is he to the rotation?
DUSTY BAKER: He's really important. Right now we probably cannot have him any sooner than the All-Star Break, and you don't want to rush him. I talked to him the other day, and he said he's going to start throwing pretty soon. I don't know if that was him talking or the doctor talking.
But, you know, he's in great shape, and he's working out big time. So it will be nice to get him back, because if we get him back halfway through the year and even later, he will be a great player.

Q. He gave you a lot of confidence coming into the team; can you talk a little about that, your relationship and how he blossomed as a pitcher would you?
DUSTY BAKER: Number one, I let him be himself, you know, with some regimentation. You know, I would tell him -- and I've got to give Dick Pole a lot of credit who is here as my pitching coach. He's got arms and legs and could get out of whack sometimes.
One of the things that he still has not done that we are trying to stress to him is keep his pitch count down without throwing too many unnecessary pitches. He would get a guy 0-2, and next thing you know he's 3-2, and he fouls off three pitches, and it's a ten-pitch at-bat, or a four or five pitches. You do that times six or seven, eight guys, and now you are out of there in the sixth instead of going into the eighth.
He's a young guy that enjoys pitching and enjoys life. More than anything, I just try to let him be himself. You know, he has wild hair, I say, Hey, man, you can have wild hair. Just cut it a little bit. You can do this or that. Just tone it down a little bit. I can't take credit for him. I have to give him full credit to him for listening and having ability to adapt, adjust, and apply whatever he's got.

Q. Do you feel like you pretty much have your team that you're going to go to spring training with?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah. Most of it.

Q. The centerfield job, is that Stubbs?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, Stubbs, right now, Stubbs can outplay Willy, even though Willy was not Willy that we had seen on the other side. Legs were bothering him last year. Willy did not hit the way he's always hit. It's just a matter of we'll see how Stubbs is going to make the adjustment, because very rarely do guys play better at the Big League level than the Minor League level.
That doesn't happen very often. We have to see if they are going to come up with some Kryptonite to really offset what Stubbs has done so far. He is a good student and still has a lot to learn. His upside potential is big time, not only defensively but offensively, as well. You know, we've still got time.

Q. What is the plan with Taveras?
DUSTY BAKER: As of right now, we really don't know right now yet. So as I say, we have a couple more months to decide exactly what we are going to do or what we need to do.

Q. Is there any decision on Gomes yet?
DUSTY BAKER: Not yet. I mean, they are just now starting to talk some, because I think his agent was busy with Polanco, and there's another player that he had just signed, maybe -- he had Polanco and also Figgins, I believe. I'm not sure.

Q. How do you see left field?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I see it as depends what happens with Gomes. Depends how much it's going to cost us, because our -- I mean, we are on a budget. Let's face it.
So I mean, it would be Gomes and it could be Dickerson might get another shot. Could be Heisey or even another name from the outside.
Right now, we are trying to fill that position. We are trying to fill that position with the best player that we think, or players, that we think can help us win not only offensively, but defensively, speed-wise, quality-wise and athletically.

Q. Is that the one position you look around and say that you don't exactly know?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, that's one of them. There's still a couple of positions. Shortstop if you can come up with a better one, but you might not be able to.
You know, fifth starter, depends on whether we go inside the organization or make a deal to go outside the organization.
You're always trying to make yourself better. Trying to get a better bench, as you saw last year with our injuries, you have to have bench players. The teams that have bench players are the teams that injuries don't affect you as much.
If you don't have them and you go through that period of injuries and your bench is playing and your bench is watered down from what it was before; and we are in the process of trying to sign Nix back, and we are trying to revamp his career just like we did Gomes last year.
Here are guys that were Big Leaguers and didn't have Big League job and on their way back. And that's been our MO or my MO for a while to take guys -- my mom worked for the Bureau of Reclamation for the Feds, so I have an idea how to do that.

Q. You have been coming to these meetings for a long time. Do you have to come here without expectations because there are so many moving parts?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, you have to come here without expectations because usually there's not a whole bunch that goes on here, per se. Most of the time, when you leave from here there are either minor deals or really big deals.
The deals in between are deals that are set up while you're here, and you go back home and then everybody sort of postures themselves between three or four organizations or people that you know or are interested in your people.
This is the first time you can really see people -- I mean, it's easy to talk over the phone and not do anything. But you see people face-to-face in person, you get a real idea of what their true interest is or if that person is just sort of posturing at the time.
Then you go home and hopefully make some real deals. You have deadlines when you get home. We leave from here, there's a deadline December 12 to sign Gomes or whatever it is, deadline to sign your own guys or offer them arbitration. So when you get home from here there are serious deadlines to do something.

Q. There has been so much speculation. Can you shed any clarity?
DUSTY BAKER: Not really. I can't tell you more than that. I know everybody is looking for some news, but at the same time, I can't answer these questions because I'm not privileged to that. Contrary to most people's beliefs, they think the manager knows all this stuff, which isn't true.
But at the same time, there are certain things you don't really know is going to happen or things happen rather quickly and things fall in your lap sometimes. I remember in Chicago, we got Derrek Lee and that happened, bam, like this, out of the blue.
At the meetings, "Hey, are you interested in Derrek Lee?" Next thing you know, we left there not meaning to get D-Lee.
These things happen. In this economy, everybody is looking, you know, to not shed payroll but they are looking to have some sort of budgetary restraints. Even the Yankees and Boston and teams that historically, people don't think that way, payroll restraints. Everybody in this economy, you know, I've got brothers and sisters, and probably in your business and industry, everybody is either laid off somebody or instead of working eight hours a day, they are working six hours a day.
We are all tightening our belts to find ways to keep people employed and have a quality situation and win at the same time.

Q. The young talent over the last few years, is it just simply maybe just staying the course of the young kids coming in and contributing?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, sometime you don't have any choice. You know, sometimes with the finances that you have, sometimes with the attendance that you have, sometimes whatever your cable contract is or isn't.
I mean, sometimes that's the way to go, and I think that's the way to go in the long run in order to have some kind of sustainability for a long time versus one year and then go in and dismantle and be bad for four or five years and win again.
The way to sustain it for a long period of time is try to raise some guys in the organization, try to make sure you have your scouting department drafts correctly. And then if you have an abundance of this position or that position, then you can package up a couple of these young guys for your needs, whether it's a bullpen guy or a third baseman, or like we did with Scott Rolen, and that's how you sustain quality for a period of time.

Q. Specifically, you have like Frazier or Alonso, how much with those two on the cusp does that impact what you did in the off-season?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, you always want more, more than you need to put you in that situation. But you never have enough. It doesn't make sense.
That impacts it a lot, and it impacts it -- where your impact is how many of these guys you can put on the 40-man roster and protect them from the Rule V draft or protect them from somebody.
Sometimes you're trying to hide some guys and you can't protect everybody. And which ones are the correct ones to protect and what do you project for the ones you protect or didn't protect.
For me it's a good situation and we'll take some more if we can get them.

Q. What are your thoughts on instant replay or replay review in it Major League Baseball? Do you think it needs to be expanded?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't think so. Everybody is talking about speeding the game. You need a certain amount of human element in the game, for me, personally. If not, you wouldn't have anything to talk about or write about, you know what I mean?
When I'm watching a football game, they are more advanced than we are, because I have seen a number of replays take 30 seconds and comeback and it's done, boom, boom, boom. I hope that we get it to a point where they use it for certain things, fair or foul, keep it to a minimum and keep the downtime at a minimum and keep the interest for the fans and everybody in the game.

Q. Is it going to be strange next year not to be seeing Bobby Cox as a manager?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, you know, that's what Bobby says. Bobby might be doing a Brett Farve. (Laughter.) You know what I mean?
Yeah, I've enjoyed watching and managing against Bobby, big time. You know, I've been -- I was against Bobby for a lot of years, especially in the division before they changed divisions when I was in San Francisco and he was in Atlanta. Yeah, he's one of the guys that I probably respect, you know, the most in the game.
There's a handful of guys that I really respect on the other side of the field, and he's certainly near the top of the list.

Q. What do you think about Barry Larkin in the Hall of Fame?
DUSTY BAKER: I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I mean, is he eligible this year?

Q. Yes.
DUSTY BAKER: Wow, it's been five years already. Yeah, this guy is an impact player and a situation where he was on a team that was winning. He has MVP, he has Gold Gloves, he has, to me, all of the criteria for the Hall of Fame. Especially in a pre-steroid era, you know what I mean? To me, it's more than the numbers that qualify you for the Hall of Fame.

Q. In the same vein, how about Edgar Martinez, DH? What do you think about a DH?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, got to be a DH in there sooner or later, and Edgar was one of the best hitters, ever, that ever lived. I mean, this guy could hit.
Not only could he hit, but he was a great hitter and he was a great person and brought honor and integrity to the game and he brought honor and integrity to the position of DH. Yeah, I'm pulling for both of them.

Q. What's your pet peeve? What drives you crazy about players?
DUSTY BAKER: What drives me crazy? What drives me crazy --

Q. Besides dumb questions from reporters.
DUSTY BAKER: What drives me crazy is people can't drive. That drives me crazy. I don't say nothing. I'm pretty cool about it. But that drives me crazy.

Q. Who are the worst drivers of all the towns you've been in?
DUSTY BAKER: I ain't going to say that. We probably got the same towns.
What drives me crazy probably is when you have free agency and nobody listens; your experiences, you're trying to help a player that doesn't want to listen. You just listen, like Hank Aaron tells us, Listen, you may not understand it, but someday it might come to you, what that person was trying to tell you. That's all.

Q. Bad drivers don't listen, either.
DUSTY BAKER: They don't hear you or see you. If I ever get there, you tell me.

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