Winter Meetings interview with Dusty Baker
DUSTY BAKER: We're trying to keep the team together and trying to keep the quality of pitching together. We still may have some other moves.
Q. You guys obviously made no secret you're looking for a leadoff man. How important do you think that addition would be to your team next year?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, every team needs that. There are very few leadoff men around. A leadoff man keeps the pitcher in the stretch. A lot of times they work the count, hope that he has enough speed to steal bases to make it easy on the guys hitting behind him, get good pitches to hit. It's distracting. They throw balls away on pickoffs. So you think of Rickey Henderson, this guy was a major distraction. They set the table and also permit you to win games without hitting the ball out of the ballpark.
We depend on the home run a lot. And the fact that we have low scoring games and good pitching, that's even more important for us to have the leadoff man to win even more one run ball games than we do.
Q. If you don't get one, do you have someone in mind to get that role? You've been trying a lot of different people.
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I've been trying everybody. If we don't get one, I've just got to keep trying like I've been trying.
We've been saying this for three or four years. Trying to get Stubbs into the maturity of a leadoff man because he's a perfect leadoff man for the team if he could get it together.
Q. Where would you prefer to see Chapman? In the rotation or in the bullpen?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, that's a very interesting question because Chapman very well could be, like I said earlier, could be like when I had Billy Swift in San Francisco. He could very well be my best starter and my best leader. So I'm sure that we'll do whatever you ask him to do.
He would probably prefer to start probably, but last year we were preparing him as a starter, and there was much debate about whether to send him to the minor leagues to start or not. Emphatically, some of us wanted him in the big leagues, and he ended up being the setup man and ended up being a closer.
So we'll have to see. Right now we have six starters and Chapman could possibly be one of them or could be our best closer. It's a pretty good problem to have.
Q. Is he completely back 100 percent, feeling good?
DUSTY BAKER: Oh, yeah. I'm doing great. You know, the rest does wonders. Being at home, being with your family, all these things. Plus I've been poked and prodded and doctors from all over to determine what was wrong and to make sure it doesn't come back. I think I'll be fine.
Q. Did you have to make any radical changes in your diet or anything else you do or just slight changes?
DUSTY BAKER: No, not really. Just slight changes. Just things in moderation. I can't have as many scotches as I used to have.
Q. How many was too many?
DUSTY BAKER: I didn't think I was having too many before. Depends if we won or lost. You know what happens in this game. You celebrate when you win and then lament when you lose sometimes.
Q. You spent a lot of time after the season was over thinking about the end of the season, how it went down?
DUSTY BAKER: No, not really. Because I didn't have to think about it. I was constantly reminded living in the Bay Area. That was the toughest part of the winner. Toughest part has been to see the amount of hats, different color hats, Giant hats, flags waving from cars, license plates. That's been the toughest part.
People ask me, did I go to game three or four? Did I go to the parade? I'm just glad the 49ers are doing good because they're paying more attention now to the 49ers than they are the Giants.
More people telling me that they were pulling for me.
Q. Dusty, how far away do you think that Hamilton is, from your estimation?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know. He's come pretty quickly.
Q. Played very well this fall.
DUSTY BAKER: He's learning how to play centerfield, and he's learning how to switch hit. He has a few things to learn just about baseball, and it won't be too long. I can't say how long because I don't know how quickly he can come.
It's just a tendency to rush him because we've heard so much about him, but are you doing him a disservice by rushing him? That's where the dilemma comes in where people are going to be hollering to see him. Whether he's ready or not to play as mistake free baseball as possible.
Q. Joe Torre was up here about the WBC. With Cueto, would you like him not to pitch because of the risk of injury to other guys?
DUSTY BAKER: The injury should have had time to heal by now, number one. Number two, it's a little tough, especially in the Latin American countries and other countries to not succumb to the pressure of playing for your country.
So it's going to be, if he's healthy, it's going to be tough for him to say no, being so young. What did he win, 18, 19 games? He's one of the top pitchers in the country.
We got other guys too. Is Joey Votto going to play after he had the knee injury? Just how well are they? Have they had time to heal?
Q. When you're managing your team and those teams are playing, do you secretly hope that those teams lose so you get your players back?
DUSTY BAKER: No, I can't say that. No, I couldn't do that because I remember talking to Joey Votto and some of the other guys about how fun how much fun it was playing for the country, and I wanted them -- I had Joey address the team one time about what it was like, the excitement and the vision that that was a playoffs and world series type atmosphere.
And Joey addressed the team. I mean, I won't be that sad if something happens.
Q. Dusty, was the best part of the season seeing so many of your young guys' growth that they made and also the anticipation that that will continue? Because this is basically a young club, right?
DUSTY BAKER: Right, correct. That's a very good question. When you see like Frazier, you're curious about how he's going to make the adjustment to next year, but you really see the growth of Cueto and the growth of Homer Bailey. I mean, he's probably grown as much as anybody we have on our team, I mean, as a young man and as a ballplayer and as a pitcher.
You know, you want to see some more growth in some of the other guys, and then not only do you want to see growth, you want to some of the other guys do what they've been doing, you know what I mean? The Joey Vottos and Brandon Phillips that you'd like to see Cozart get better.
Big guy in the equation that we'd like to see everything come together and that light turn on with Stubbs because this guy is people wonder why he keeps playing. This guy is a talent that very few people are blessed with.
Q. With a guy like him, can it be almost like Bailey, who just seemed to find it, and then all of a sudden, his confidence soars? Is that what Stubbs is waiting for?
DUSTY BAKER: We're waiting for it too. I've seen players do it. But you have to kind of when do you cut the cord, and how much longer do you stick with him before they find it? That's where the dilemma comes in.
And then the other dilemma is salary, arbitration there's a lot more now than there used to be.
I know he wants it. We want it for him. And I hope he gets it.
Q. Do you get the impression that Rolen wants to play anybody? Do you have any interest in bringing him back?
DUSTY BAKER: I talked to Scotty the other day, and he doesn't know. If you don't know, it's hard for me to know for you. It's hard for me to answer that question. There comes a point in time, you know, when you're tired of paying as an older player. There comes a time when you're also wrestling between still playing and your family wanting you home. So I just think that's a decision that has to start with him.
Q. If he wants to, would you have interest in bringing him back?
DUSTY BAKER: Like I said, that's it. He's one of my favorite guys. Let's start with him.
Q. If you're going into the season maybe with Chapman going into the rotation, is Broxton your main guy in the bullpen? Are you going to open that up?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, I mean, if Chapman's in the rotation, then we'll start the season probably with Broxton.
Q. Not going to give Sean a look?
DUSTY BAKER: Pardon?
Q. Not going to give Marshall a look?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, Marshall had the look last year. If Marshall had if he was the type of person that could handle the closing role, he would have closed in Chicago a long time before we got him. So Sean is very important toward the end of the game. So we'll see.
Q. How difficult has it been for you to deal with a player like Chapman in changing his role from Cuba to the States to the big leagues? How is he?
DUSTY BAKER: It's easy for me because I identify with him. I speak Spanish, and he helps me sometimes in Spanish, and I help him sometimes in English. He's a very pleasant and easy guy to be around. He wants to do well. He wants to perform for his team.
I went to Cuba two winters ago, which not for very long, but it give me a truer understanding of what they go through and the difficulties of being in America. I mean, it's totally different.
I mean, you expect everybody to have the same attitude and outlook on things, but he's from a different culture, and it's going to take a while. He's adapting pretty good, you know, with iPhones and Maserati and stuff like that.
Q. How much weight have you lost this year?
DUSTY BAKER: I don't know, man. Probably 20 pounds. I'm almost playing shape. Just things look
Q. Could you come off the bench and take a swing maybe?
DUSTY BAKER: No. Somebody would have to run for me. But things seem to reposition themselves even though you weigh the same as you get older, you know what I mean?
Q. Yeah, I do.
Dusty, if I could ask about one of your former players. Jonny Gomes, everywhere he's been, seems to have a habit of being on a team that makes the playoffs?
DUSTY BAKER: Johnny's a great teammate. I had somebody call me this winter and ask me what does Jonny Gomes bring to the team? He brings a positive attitude. He may not like how he's used, but he's never a distraction. He never brings the team down.
Jonny Gomes is one of the best guys I've ever had on the team. And I talked to Chili Davis this winter, and Chili feels the same way about him. A guy that can help your young players learn how to be professional. He can teach them how, hopefully, which is one of the toughest things to do, teach them how to be an unselfish player, especially in a selfish society, that's very tough to do. Jonny Gomes is one of the best.
Q. When you guys made that first playoff appearance in 2010 after 15 years, how much of a role did he play in that off the field?
DUSTY BAKER: Johnny had a big role. When Johnny came up he didn't make the team out of Spring Training. He came up later. Johnny would have been there probably now down to next year. I was counting on his offensive output.
I'm happy for Johnny. Johnny's been through a lot. I know his background. He's close to being from where I'm from. I doubt if very many people in our country had as tough a time as Johnny has.
Q. Dusty, having been here less than 24 hours, what's your sense of the organization being able to make a tangible move here in Nashville?
DUSTY BAKER: I was the first guy here. I got here when did I get in, Butch?
Q. Saturday night.
DUSTY BAKER: I got in Saturday night. What was your question now?
Q. Having been here since Saturday night, what's your perception of the organization potentially making a tangible move here?
DUSTY BAKER: We're trying to make moves. We thought we had a couple of moves. And we still may have a couple moves that fell through.
Basically, what I've learned about being in the Winter Meetings is you generally don't make many trades in Winter Meetings. Most of the time, you're setting it up for when you get home to make moves. I don't know if there's going to be a move like last year. That was the Pujols' move was unprecedented. We're trying.
Everybody's talking. There are a lot of secret meetings, and most of them don't accomplish much.
Q. Are you more likely to address needs through a trade instead of potentially overpaying in free agency?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, it's not our track record to overpay in free agency. And if we have the money to do it, it's not necessarily overpaying, you know what I mean? So it just depends what you need and if you can agree on the salary.
Most of time we do it from within or with a trade?
Q. Have you spoke to Edward?
DUSTY BAKER: I spoke to him about a week ago. We have an offer on the table. But he's a free agent, and he's weighing his options even though he wants to come back here first. I'm hoping that we get it done.
Q. You're in a five team division for the first time. Does that make a lot of difference having Houston out of the division and out of the league?
DUSTY BAKER: I think it makes a lot of difference because Houston hasn't been good the last couple of years. There was a lot of victories for our division. It's the truth. Right?
Q. That's the truth.
DUSTY BAKER: That's the truth.
Q. They got two teams in the playoffs last year from your division, not that you may have noticed.
DUSTY BAKER: Did they really?
Q. I think so.
It's a good park for hitters too. Dusty, back to Chapman for just a second. I don't know if this came up, but is it absolutely necessary for a starter to have three quality pitches. There's a lot of talk about that, but it seems to me there's a lot of guys who have gotten by in the past with a good hard fastball, breaking ball.
DUSTY BAKER: Sandy Koufax used to. But you've got to have Sandy Koufax stuff or have pinpoint control to throw your slider off the plate when you want to or spot your ball on the inside. It's not mandatory you have three pitches, but it just helps, you know what I mean?
But I've seen guys have eight pitches, and they might as well have two because they have too many pitches.
Q. Is his change up in development, Chapman?
DUSTY BAKER: No, his change up is I think it's past development. He's got a split finger and a slider too. It's nasty.
Q. His split?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, but in his role as closer, you don't get to those, those other pitches, you know what I mean?
Q. So he has the potential to stretch out?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, but then do you when it comes in, do you monitor his pitch count? We don't know what his maximum is yet. Do you monitor his innings? Do you do a Strasburg situation where you sit him down the last month of the season.
Q. Maybe sit him midway through the season.
DUSTY BAKER: Or he could maybe relieve early or something and stretch him out. That's what Bryan Price is
Q. So you need to get creative?
DUSTY BAKER: Maybe.
Q. You mentioned the young guys taking the steps. Where do you Cozart going after his rookie?
DUSTY BAKER: Well, Cozart learned some things, and there's a lot more to learn. I know he can get that fastball going. Pitch selection has to get better. Bunting, I think, No. 2 role. There's some things that he can improve on. But he's a tremendous talent. I like his attitude. He's not scared. He likes to be there.
If we can teach him how to hit with runners in scoring position. Some things that all young guys can learn.
He's very steady. For a young man, he doesn't if he gets his hands on it, most times he's going to catch it and not throw it away.
Q. Even with the ups and downs offensively, he stayed pretty steady defensively.
DUSTY BAKER: Yes, he did. That's a tribute to him. His mental strength. He didn't take his offense to the field. You can't afford to do that at shortstop. You've got to play winning baseball.
Q. With the whole call for instant replay and what happened in a couple of postseason games, would you like to see it expand to the winter?
DUSTY BAKER: I'd like to see it expanded but just not take as long to come up with the solution. Come up with a quicker way to solve the problem because right now it's just home runs verify, whatever it is, and that takes a long time, five minutes, and guys are standing around.
And baseball is already complaining about the length of games. So as long as they could do it in a timely fashion.