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December 6, 2010

Dusty Baker


Q. The Phillies just lost Jason Werth and you obviously saw them in the playoffs, what kind of impact do you think that can have on their lineup? Certainly he's been a very productive player for them.
DUSTY BAKER: I think the number one thing is that he balances their lineup, and sort of neutralizes them from just throwing lefty after lefty after lefty. But you know, baseball, it's getting tougher and tougher to keep championship teams together. Because it forces a team to choose between, do I keep this guy and let this guy go and can I replace this guy. So, I mean, he's a heck of a player. I liked him years ago when he was with the Dodgers before he hurt his hand. So he's really come into his own.

Q. And we're looking back at year gone by in Philadelphia sports and you had a front-row seat for one of our top moments, Roy Halladay's no-hitter in the playoffs; just tell me a little bit about what it was like to see that.
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I mean, probably around the sixth inning, you start counting the outs, and then you're hoping it doesn't happen. And then you know it's a possibility when he's getting strike one against you. And the strikes that he was throwing was -- if he swung at it, it wasn't a high percentage pitch to hit and if you didn't swing at it, you were down no balls and one strike.
Then the fans start feeling it and then the players start feeling it and you see guys on their toes and I mean, the umpires, they start feeling it. That wasn't a good moment. But it was a great moment for him.

Q. Sounds like you won't do much here or with free agency; are you okay with that, bringing the team back pretty much as it was last year?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't have much choice now. I mean, certainly you want to improve your team, but you don't just make moves to make moves, either. You know, you've got to make moves, try to strengthen yourself. My years of coming to this winter meeting, I don't recall a whole bunch happening here, anyways, especially the last few years. It seems like the last few years, less and less is happening and you're setting it up to happen later when you get home. You talk to quite a few clubs. Guys are posturing this and that and they get home and then you weigh which is the best deal for your organization at the time.
As far as free agency, we discussed a few things about free agency, but we are not the kind of team or market that probably has the finances to participate and heavily bid in the free agent market in the first place.
So we have to stay on the path we are chosen to do as much as you could.

Q. The contracts you've seen, does that reinforce that even more; that you won't be in a position --
DUSTY BAKER: I can't say. It's just, I mean, everybody has a budget, especially in this economic times that people are in right now. Just seems like some people may have more budget and more money than other people have. You know, we are still in the process of trying to build this team, big time.
And you never know when a deal is going to fall in your lap so to speak. You just don't know.

Q. Over the weekend, Votto was asked about wanting to stay in Cincinnati and didn't give a response; now when you see Gonzalez getting traded right before free agency, are you worried about Votto's long-term standing with the team?
DUSTY BAKER: Not really. I mean, that's four years from now, isn't it.

Q. Three.
DUSTY BAKER: Three. I mean, how are we going to worry about three years from now? That's too far down in the future for me to worry about. I have a two-year contract anyway. (Laughter.) I want to stay here myself.
I mean, everybody has their own way of saying things. Joey is not very direct about saying anything. Am I right? Joey is kind of vague on things.
Sure, everybody wants to know what's going to happen three or four years from now, but you don't know. And so to me, what's most important is trying to get Joey signed now and then hopefully we have Joey for years to come, as well.
I talked to him at the airport the other day. He wants to stay, big time, and he didn't mean for it to come across like he didn't want to stay.

Q. Did he realize after he said that that it came across that way to people?
DUSTY BAKER: He didn't really say that, you about you know, he just told me that he wanted to stay. He doesn't want to go anywhere. Just that he didn't want to stay that he wanted to stay for his whole life either.

Q. You mentioned that you are still in the process of building this team. What is the next step?
DUSTY BAKER: Next step is hope the guys mature, get better, and through natural progression of time and playing, hopefully they get better and hopefully we have a couple more surprises like we had last year. You know, it's always nice when you have got Leake and Chapman and these guys that you're not counting on to contribute, and hopefully we have some other guys that have better years, some other guys, it's an easier sell I think for me going forward than it was the last couple years on what is at the end of the rainbow; there wasn't even a rainbow visible.

Q. Is there one guy or a few guys in the Minor Leagues who might be ready to jump up?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know, to tell you the truth, I'm stilling learning some of the guys in our system. And again, like I said, we weren't counting on Leake last year. We weren't counting on Chapman. So the guys will mature through either winter ball or just through natural progression of just playing.

Q. But nobody throwing 104 miles an hour?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't think you're going to see that guy for a long time. (Laughter.)

Q. Is he going to stay in the bullpen, Chapman?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know that, either. I mean, right now, we have got six other starters. So at this point, probably. That's why we kind of put him there in the first place.

Q. Managing the young guys last year, did that take you back to your playing days with the Dodgers and you had all those young guys under your wing, and did you enjoy that?
DUSTY BAKER: I enjoyed that a lot. That's something I've been yearning for a long time. I like being around -- I have got 16 nieces and nephews, man. I'm Uncle Dusty; Cool Uncle Dusty to some of them (Laughter). I like being around young people. They keep you up on what's up and I can give them wisdom and knowledge on how to play the game. I mean, it's a pleasure to be around.
When you have a 30-year-old daughter that's older than some of them and you've got an 11-year-old son who is younger than all of them, just being around young -- and it was a pleasure to teach them and see the progress. You see Bruce come through the second half and you see Stubbs come through in the second half and you see Janish get better and you see Hanigan get better and the young pitchers, Cueto, and all of these guys get better, yeah, it was fun for me.
I mean, sometimes it gets a little frustrating. Sometimes you're like, no, I don't believe I just saw what I saw. But on the other hand when you see them the next time and the next time, it's very gratifying that you teach them.

Q. With the young and relatively affordable pitching, is it fair to say you're really in an enviable position relative to the rest of baseball?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, you know, with the young pitching, yeah, and the young players, but you look at teams that have all the same kind of formula and format; Minnesota, you look at Oakland, I mean, Oakland, I didn't know Oakland led the American League in pitching last year. That kind of surprised me, especially with all of the young players that they had, and it seems like that's how a lot of baseball is supposed to go to if you don't have the financing in order to purchase what you need.

Q. You don't get a lot of credit for your managing of pitching but last year you had such a young staff and you managed their innings and everything else. What's the challenge of managing a young staff compared to making a young for a playoff berth at the same time? How do you balance that?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know, man, I just be me. I don't get credit for most stuff. (Laughter.) Doesn't really bother me. I take pride in, you know, just being me, you know what I mean.
Most of my life and most of this life, you get told what you can't do, they don't tell you what you can do. So that's my opening speech to young kids, don't listen to what people tell you you can't do, you just think about what you can do and try to do as much as you can.

Q. Is it a tougher job to deal with three young kids fresh out into the Major Leagues and having a veteran staff?
DUSTY BAKER: No, I mean, I think -- well, you know, it's probably easier dealing with a veteran staff because they are already making mistakes that the young staff will make so it's probably more gratifying with the younger staff, you know, because you can put your arm around them and say, look, this situation I would have done this and that. Or if you could eliminate 15 unnecessary pitches in the first three innings and instead of me taking you out at six and a third, you might have gone eight innings. It's just an example, it's like -- it's fun for me.

Q. In terms of expectations, are you confident that you can walk out of here a better ballclub?
DUSTY BAKER: No, not really. I don't think about that. Just hopefully walk out and keep most of the same ballclub. I mean, better might be just another year. But every year is different, you don't know. I mean, the main thing that happened to us last year, we remained healthy. That was big. Everyone talks about what you want, I want the club to be healthy. If the club is healthy then you have a great chance of doing well. The year before, you know, we were unhealthy, big time unhealthy. Going into Spring Training, everybody says what do you want the most for the year and everybody says health and it sounds corny but that is the No. 1 issue, other than talent is to stay healthy.

Q. In terms of things that you need to improve upon, would it be lead-off spot, something that you would like to get better at?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, lead-off spot I think, and get better at hitting, get better pitching and getting better at beating the better teams. We really did well against teams that were below .500, beat the teams that we felt we should beat. But we didn't fare very well against San Diego, Atlanta, St. Louis, some of the teams in baseball that had winning records, especially with better pitching staffs.

Q. When Chapman left at the end of the season, did you talk to him about what his role might be next season? What did you say to him?
DUSTY BAKER: No, I just told him, go home, wherever that home is, which is Miami, now, and just you know, enjoy his winter, continue to make adjustments to America and to work out.

Q. So in terms of work out as a starter or reliever --
DUSTY BAKER: No, no, not yet. Just tell him to go home and, I urge my guys to stay in shape and urge them to run. Just take off running, every day, and that way you stay in shape, keep your legs strong. Because see, he's not used to much time off. In Cuba, it was almost all year round. It was only two weeks off, and that's what you have to deal with once you come to the States. You have this free time to yourself that he didn't have to himself.

Q. So in your mind, he's a reliever going into next season?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. This is December 6th.

Q. Most of the players can change, but what are your thoughts about after the Giants won the World Series, and having spent so much time there, what were your thoughts immediately about that city finally getting a championship?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I didn't have to have thoughts. I went to Game 3 and Game 4 of the playoffs. My son went to Game 1 of the World Series. We saw Butch over there, he had all Giants stuff on. (Laughter.)
I came back from the Fall League and he had -- I was coming through the door with my keys and he had the beard on and fear the beard t-shirt, you know what I mean. All winter, I still live there, so all winter I see Giants stuff everywhere and I see people who say, "Dusty, aren't you happy." And yeah, I'm happy for them, I'm happy for the city and happy for the coaches that were there when I was there in the organization.
You know, I'm not a hater. So yeah, I mean, I'm happy for them, 50-some years, that's a long time. You wish it was you, but I've got an opportunity next year.

Q. We've seen this off-season already four ex-managers get retired in different places, and I was wondering, when you were between your second and third job, from between the Cubs and now, what do you do to remain viable as a candidate?
DUSTY BAKER: I think it helps to remain visible in some kind of way. Whether it's a coaching job, like Clint Hurdle was a batting coach, Barry Manuel was a bench coach in New York or in my case, I went to ESPN; Buck Showalter went to ESPN. You know, I think that it helps to stay visible or stay in the game in some capacity.

Q. So you're not out of sight, out of mind.
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, because once you're gone, people forget about you rather quickly. And so it depends if you are still interested, I suggest that you stay in the game in some capacity.

Q. Did you stay in touch with different GMs at that time or just -- I'm not saying lobbying.
DUSTY BAKER: No, I didn't. Because when I was out there, seven job openings, so none of those seven called me, you know what I mean. (Laughter.)

Q. There are a couple of kids that are blocked Francisco, Alonso at first and third; that a good problem as a manager?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, because you never know what's going to happen, Alonso just spent a couple of months at Triple-A and Francisco was up and played a lot, especially -- he's probably in a better situation because Scott Rolen played in 120 games, so there's another 40 games that somebody could play. And I don't know a good team or organization that doesn't have some positions blocked, and I would imagine in, I remember for years, the Yankees, they are blocked everywhere. When I was on the Dodgers, we were blocked everywhere, half the league was either Dodgers -- former Dodgers and Yankees.
So if they can play and stay focused, there's going to be a place for them to play with us or with somebody.

Q. Janish, what did you see from him this summer and what makes you comfortable using him next year?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, you know, I mean, I was kind of pleased with Janish before. It's just that as an organization, we thought that Cabrera was better suited at that time and Janish needed some more time. That's why I had Janish talk to Rich Aurilia about how to wait your turn.
So you know, he showed improved offensively. No better place to serve your apprenticeship, get time in the big leagues and time in service than he had in that role before.

Q. Do you think he is ready this spring to be the guy?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I think so.

Q. Having seen what Gonzalez has done the last couple of years, what do you think about him with the Red Sox, Fenway Park?
DUSTY BAKER: This guy can hit, he's an excellent first baseman. We don't have to fight him anymore. This guy, if you can stop him from hurting you, you've got a better chance of beating the Padres. This guy can hit. He can hit against lefties, righties, he doesn't care who he's facing.

Q. You mentioned earlier, your team has payroll limitation so your guys are not out here bidding for big-time free agents, but the Royals, Blue Jays, seems like you are more creative going into the free agent international market. Is that what is required now of teams in this kind of budget area to just kind of search for different venues, as opposed to just the regular free agent market?
DUSTY BAKER: You know, that was a free agent acquisition, $3 million. Whether you go international or domestic, but he's a special person. But everybody is searching for, you know, somebody domestic and international, but if they can find a person international, it's usually, you know, it doesn't cost you as much as domestically.
So you know, we are looking for talent, period. We don't care where it comes from basically. We just look for players that can play.

Q. Back to Aroldis, is it better with a guy like that to stretch him out as a starter so it's easier to make the transition if you do need him in the bullpen rather than saying, you're a reliever and all of a sudden, you need him to start, he's not stretching out?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I think that it's a lot easier to go from starter to reliever if they learn how to warm up, which is what we kind of had to teach him at the Minor League level. That's what we had to do before we got him. You don't have 20 minutes to ball toss and take your time in the bullpen. And you know, he said he had done some of that before in Cuba, and you know, through need and what we have got, he would be best suited for us right now.
We have seen guys go back and forth but we wanted to keep him hopefully in one area versus, you know, back and forth. Because with a guy throwing that hard, I mean, is he more valuable to us every fifth day or, you know, every other day so to speak. Plus a lot of that had to do with the fact that we are deep in starters now. We are deep in young starters.
Either way, I mean, he's a tough situation. Because it was like when I had Billy Swift, he could be our best reliever and our best starter at the same time. So you've got to choose one or the other.

Q. But he's got the size and strength, it looks like he would hold his stuff in the seventh, eighth, right?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I've never -- but again, you know, I wasn't privileged to see that, because he was in Triple-A at the time so we have to go on what the report said about him, because the most I had seen him go, I think he went three innings in Spring Training, then he hurt his back and then we didn't see him hardly at all after that.
So to answer that question, I just didn't see it.

Q. What is the upside of him as a starter, command, presence?
DUSTY BAKER: Eventually, yeah, he has No. 1 starter stuff. But he has, like I said, No. 1 bullpen stuff, too. (Laughter.) You know what I mean.
The only thing is, out of the bullpen, he doesn't get the opportunity to use all his stuff. He might throw an occasional breaking ball. I hear he has an excellent changeup. Because guys start eliminating pitches generally when they go from starter to bullpen.

Q. Happy dilemma.
DUSTY BAKER: Very happy.

Q. The whole atmosphere at the park when he comes through the bullpen gates and the electricity, is that something that you can factor in, too?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. Yeah, I mean, it means a lot to us. You know, when you think about the gate, you know, there are people that want him to start a fifth day so they can practice -- and there are people that want him to be a reliever so they can see him every day. Only problem is it's 10-1 and they paid their money and they still want to see him.

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