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October 5, 2010

Dusty Baker


Q. So how does it feel being back?
DUSTY BAKER: It feels great to be back. This is what you yearn for. Sometimes when you've been in this situation, many times you sort of take it for granted until it's not there anymore. So it's good to be back because I feel like this is where we belong and what we work for.

Q. You've been to the playoffs an awful lot. How important is experience going to the playoffs? Your team has not been there, and the Phillies have been there like four times now. You've been there an awful lot in the past too.
DUSTY BAKER: Well, the main thing is I think that everybody had a first time. Phillies had a first time. You don't know how you're going to react until you get there. You've got to start somewhere.
It's sort of like a kid coming out of college. Everybody wants to know what is his job experience? And sooner or later you've got to work to get that experience, and that's where we are right now.
But we do have some guys that have been there. Told my guys to have fun with it, be determined, try to relax the best you can. It's okay to be nervous because nerves are natural. Just go out and play good, hard baseball like you've played the whole year, and just pretend it's another game. The key word is "pretend" (smiling).

Q. A lot has been made of the Phillies' starting pitching in this series. But do you feel like your bullpen is set up with the left-handers to try to counter them late in the game and maybe give you guys some success?
DUSTY BAKER: We hope so. Maybe not only late in the game, but perhaps in the middle part of the game to get some runs. You have a situation where you're in trouble a whole bunch of times, so you're going to have to capitalize on the situations that you get. And the team that gets the most two-out RBI hits is generally the team that wins.
So I think that's very, very important that we get some clutch hits, and it's also very important that we try to keep the top of their lineup off the bases and try to keep the big boys in the ballpark; and if they do leave the ballpark, hopefully it's a solo home run and not a multi home run.

Q. It's been a few years, but you've played here regular season, postseason. Do you remember it being different in October here?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, yeah. I remember usually when we're here in October it's weather like this. This is what I remember in 1978, I think, we played an entire game in the rain like this. But they had Astro Turf so they could handle the rain. I think we won 2-1. Tommy John was pitching that game here.
You're going to have to put the elements out of your mind, I think as much as anything. Hopefully you can have the lead and try to take the crowd as much as you can out of the game because the crowd is a big factor here. These people are really into the game. There's going to be a lot of noise. It's going to affect, probably, balls in the outfield or outfielders are calling the ball, they're not going to be able to hear each other. So communication, whether it's hand signs or whatever it is is going to be big here.
It's going to be exciting. That is the main thing here. Sooner or later, I don't care who you started out playing, you're going to have to go through Philadelphia. I mean, these guys have been the best in the league for a couple of years.

Q. What is it about your style that's allowed you to have so much success in all of your last three stops?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know, man. That's a difficult question. I just try to be me and I try to allow our players to be themselves within certain parameters of certain rules. Not have too many rules, because the more rules you have, the more you have to monitor them and the more you have to remember what they are.
So I just try to have a few set rules. And, again, try to make the clubhouse and our team to have an atmosphere to succeed. I think that's big. So if you can create that and keep guys together, urge our guys to get together as soon as possible and stay together especially through adverse times.

Q. Do you tell your club anything when they're at bat against Halladay about their approach to hitting against him? And two, one through eight in the lineups, both teams appear to be almost a mirror image of each other. Do you agree with that?
DUSTY BAKER: I agree with that second question. I mean, we both can hit. We both have relative speed. We both play good defense.
And as far as what I tell my players, we haven't told them anything yet. We're about to have our hitters meetings, and, you know, I like to keep that a secret if you can, because Halladay might be listening on how we're going to try to approach it.
This guy's a quality pitcher. Has been for a long, long time, a big acquisition. He knows it's not going to be easy, but anybody can have an off day, and anybody can be hit.

Q. The Phillies won five of the seven games you guys played this season. A lot of the games were really closer, four extra inning games. Do you feel that a lot of people are underestimating you going into the series? Do you enjoy the underdog role?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't really enjoy the underdog role, but that's the role that you're cast upon, and that is the role that you serve. These guys are the incumbents, so, naturally, we should be the underdog. Plus, we haven't been here in a long time.
You know, it really doesn't bother me to be the underdog. I have a picture of Underdog on my wall by Joe Harris, the artist of Underdog. He drew me a picture two years ago of Underdog flying into our stadium with the pennant, National League pennant in one hand, and the World Series pennant in the other hand. So maybe it's appropriate that we are the underdog.
It doesn't matter what people think. At this point we're one of the elite eight that are still standing. As long as you go to the dance, as they say, you've got a chance.
Next step, you're going to be one of the Final Four, and next step you go to one of the final two.

Q. Another two-parter. You mentioned experience, what does Scott Rolen bring to that clubhouse and that lineup? And is it human nature to have a little more incentive against a team that you once played for?
DUSTY BAKER: Probably so. I mean, I had the incentive whatever team I played on, a lot more incentive. But you try to take that out of the equation here. If you've got to serve that deep to get some incentive, you shouldn't be here in the first place. Incentive enough is trying to win and get to the next step and the next step.
Scott means a lot to our team. He means a lot to our clubhouse, our lineup, a lot to our defense. He's a quality person and quality player. But we also have a couple of other guys over here that have been in this situation as well. Ramon Hernandez, he was in Oakland. He handled the pitching staff out there. We have Orlando Cabrera who has been in this situation five out of the last seven years. We have Jim Edmonds that almost every year is in the playoffs for St. Louis.
So we have quite a few guys that have been here. Bronson Arroyo was there with Boston, so it's not completely foreign to our team, just foreign to some of the young players.
Like I said before, you have to start at number one before you get to your third, fourth, fifth and sixth chance. So I'm just hoping our guys relish the fact that we're here, have a good time with it and perform well.

Q. You managed in some big market, big revenue cities. When you were looking in Cincinnati, were you at all concerned that they wouldn't have the ability to compete financially with some of the other teams or they wouldn't have the desire to compete?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I don't think desire was ever an issue with any organization or any team. I talked to my owner, Bob Castellini before I made the decision, and desire was not the factor.
Also, at the same time when you're in a small market team, you have to do things a little differently and a different way to accomplish the same goal. We had to do it from then, basically, and go out and add a couple of pieces with Scott Rolen and Orlando Cabrera, and some of these guys. So you just have to go about it a different way.
I enjoy challenges. You've seen the three organizations that I've been with, you know, they were second division teams when I got there, and so I really look forward to challenges. You know it's not going to be easy, but it's very gratifying when you get to the point where we are right now. And you learn from each challenge and hopefully you can get better at what you do and pass your knowledge and wisdom on to the players that we have that haven't been in this situation.

Q. Because the series to end the first half was so long ago. I know at the time there were some guys that were hurt. But how much has each team changed since that series? Is there anything you can draw from that is still applicable now?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, they were banged up too. They didn't have Polanco at the time. I think they had some guys that were struggling. They didn't have Jimmy Rollins at the time, well, Jimmy was banged up.
So each team right now is probably at their maximum strength. At the time we didn't have Volquez. So we have Volquez now, and our guys are three months older, and three or four months more experienced.
The one thing I've learned is it really doesn't mean anything what happened during the season has no bearing on what happens now. Because I've been on teams that just beat the pants off this one team all year, and you get to the playoffs and they beat us.
I remember we played the Phillies a couple of times and they've beaten us when I was a player 9 out of 12 times and we ended up beating them to go to the World Series.
You've got to throw all that out the window now. We have a different season, and it's a different time.

Q. What makes Votto so good in your opinion?
DUSTY BAKER: I think he has tremendous eyesight and vision, number one. He has superior concentration, along with god-given ability and strength. And he studies. He's a very smart young man. He's a very determined young man, and he wants to be great but in a very humble way. Sky's the limit on what he can do. But he's also very confident internally, but very humble externally.

Q. How important has he been to your team? Do you think he's a league MVP? And how proud are you for how he's developed as a person and how far he's come over the last few months?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, yeah, if you ask me, I think he's MVP, big time. I mean, you see like last year when we lost him for six weeks where we were without him. That was a long time, and life wasn't very pleasant without Joey Votto on the field.
Plus he makes your lineup. I mean, you know when Joey Votto's coming up, much like Albert Pujols, some of the greats in the game, A-Rod. You start counting sometimes in the sixth inning, you go okay, 1, 2, 3, and then 1, 2, 3, 4, and you hope you're in the game with this guy in the hole, not even on deck. Because you know when the pitcher sees him on deck. So this is what great players do. You're worried about them even though they're not up at the plate.

Q. When you talk about him developing?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, he's the same guy. He's probably as consistent in his personality as anybody I've been around. He comes to play; he comes to play every day, same demeanor. He gets upset like everybody, every once in a while. But basically he's pretty consistent in his personality, but he's also very focused as a person. He's so focused sometimes he's kind of boring, you know (smiling). But a lot of great guys are boring.

Q. What does Chapman's velocity allow him to do? In other words, we hear that big leaguers can hit the fastball however fast it is. How fast can a -- is there a level, a point at which guys just can't hit it? What has been the key to using that fastball the right way?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, there is a point where they have to commit earlier than normal. So therefore you have a tendency to swing at bad pitches. And if he's throwing strikes and then if you're worried about swinging at bad pitches, it's by you before you know it, and it's a strike, and it's a good pitch.
There are certain guys in this game that get you out throwing over the speed limit like Chapman, like the real good fastball pitchers in the game. And there are other guys that throw under the speed limit like Randy Jones and Tom Glavine. And, well, you guys got the master under the speed limit over here in Jamie Moyer. Guys are not used to swinging and seeing a pitch that slow or guys aren't used to seeing a pitch that fast.

Q. What makes Volquez ideally suited to pitch the opener in your view?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, number one, he's pitching as well as anybody, and of the candidates that were available, other than probably Wood. He gets left-handers out better than anybody that we had. Plus, he's a very calm and cool and good-time-Charlie type guy that should be effective by the pressure. Especially the fact that he had pitched some championship games in winter ball in the Dominican. Anybody that's been to Venezuela or Dominican, Mexico or Puerto Rico, there is far more pressure there than there is here.
The thing about it, we don't have the three clear-cut choices. I mean, you could put Halladay and Oswalt and Hamilton in a hat and put your hand in there and you'd come out with a number one. So what we have, we have guys that are approaching number one, we have quite a few of them. We just thought that Volquez was the best choice for Game 1.

Q. This is the time of year where a lot of guys are getting let go, managers and GMs are getting let go. A lot of people are sour, lot of guys are sour on the business. You've been around. Three organizations, you've been to a situation where one day they're giving you a parade, two years later they want to run you out of town.
DUSTY BAKER: I've had both, you know (laughing).

Q. Precisely. How have you been able to just maintain a really even keel, upbeat personality knowing the fickleness of the business?
DUSTY BAKER: Number one, I have confidence in myself. And my dad always taught me what you think of yourself is what you are, not what other people think of you. Also, the fact that God has been good to me and pointed me in the right direction to continue to do what I do . And also the fact I enjoy what I do, I enjoy being around young players and being around young people.
I have a young son that is 11 years old that relishes coming to this ballpark every day with me. I mean, how many kids 11 years old have carte blanche to the ballpark. So there are a lot of pluses and negatives.
I remember when I first took the job with the Giants, Al Rosen told me that managers are made to be hired and fired. I didn't think that that applied to me, of course. It happened, and then you pick yourself up and you keep going. You look at some of the best managers out there. I've been to three organizations, what's Tony La Russa been, three or four? Joe Torre's been to five. So you look around, and some of the best managers and coaches in the game have been in a number of organizations.

Q. Can you talk about what you consider to be the key point of this season, and I'm wondering about the resiliency that your guys showed after you got swept by St. Louis in that home series then? Lot of teams might have gone in the tank at that point, but you certainly responded with a good streak after that. Was that the key point in your mind?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, there are a couple of key points. That's one of them. That was probably the second key point. The first one was when we got swept here before the All-Star break. We lost some heartbreakers. Real heartbreakers and you have to go four days before the All-Star break and think about those heartbreakers where you're supposed to be on vacation and not think about it.
So we came together and said, hey, man, every time something happens adversely, we always respond in a positive manner. I think it's going to help this club. It has to help this club. You call up on your past to deal with the present. Especially if you happen to get behind in a series, this club is not the type of club that's going to give up or panic.

Q. Just getting back to your son. Does he still serve as a bat boy for you these days? Bring us up to date on his baseball life.
DUSTY BAKER: Actually, he's playing baseball out in California. He plays everything, football, basketball, black belt, Tae Kwon Do. He does about everything there is to do, football.
Yeah, he serves as sometime bat boy, sometimes good luck charm. Some of the guys have him rub their bats and stuff. Because he really thinks and believes it's him that's part of the reason we're winning. As long as he thinks it, some of our guys think it. You'll see him. He'll be here on Friday. He wanted to be here today, but certain thing called school. He doesn't understand why he has to go to school and I get to play baseball.

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