04/03/12 12:00 AM ET
No time but the present: Baker believes in now
Reds manager discusses optimism for 2012 with MLB.com
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
W: Cueto (1-0) L: Buehrle (0-1)
MLB.com: Before and after the injury to Madson, a lot of people like your team's chances to win the division. Why do you like your team?Baker: I think we're a well-rounded team. We have relative speed. We can hit. We can catch the ball, I think, the best. We're another year experienced with our young guys -- guys like Jay Bruce, Chris Heisey, Drew Stubbs -- and we added experience, with guys like Ludwick and the possibility of [Willie] Harris and [Wilson] Valdez. We're also a bit younger, with [Devin] Mesoraco and [Zack] Cozart. I think we have a good combination. I really liked our bullpen before Madson got hurt. It was set up perfectly the way you wanted it -- a couple of quality lefties, maybe even three, some quality righties. Now we have to regroup and revamp things. MLB.com: Can the bullpen still be a strength? Baker: Yeah, it can. That was our strength last year before we had Madson, but we had a bona fide closer at that time, with [Francisco] Cordero. Even though he was much maligned, he was very durable. So now we have to find or hope somebody else emerges. MLB.com: With the additions of Madson, Ludwick and the trade for Latos and Marshall, it seemed to cast an "all-in" feel, or urgency feel, to the season. I know every year is important, but do you share the view that it's an "all-in" year, or a more important year? Baker: They are all important to me. This year is no more urgent than others. There should be more urgency as you get older as a manager like me, but I just don't think in those terms. Everybody knows this is my option year for myself. My teams have always performed well for me in those years. Urgency does not help the situation. Urgency actually implies and puts more pressure than there needs to be. You have enough pressure with the opposition. You start adding pressure from within the organization, it makes it worse to me. I've always considered myself a "handle the pressure situation" guy -- whether I was a player, coach, manager or whatever. I've been under pressure most of my life. It brings out the best in me, personally. I don't need it. But you do what you do. MLB.com: So you don't, nor never do, view yourself as being on the so-called hot seat -- especially when you're in the final year of a contract? Baker: How many times have I been there? By this time, my butt should be burnt up. I should not even have a butt if that was the case. I've been in this situation most of my life. MLB.com: So do you feel, with good confidence, that at this time next year, you will still be sitting in that chair? Baker: I don't know if I will be alive next year at this time. You hope you are. Who knows what it's going to bring? You can't hire yourself. But I have as much say in the situation as the organization does. MLB.com: You mentioned earlier about getting older. Do you have an idea of the number of more years that you do want to manage? Baker: Nah, not really. I remember I was in a duck blind once with [former NFL head coach] George Seifert. He told me, 'Don't sell yourself short.' He told me he might have cut himself short a couple of years when he left Carolina after he was with the 49ers. I'm 62. What am I, the third or fourth oldest in the league now? Joe Torre was 70 when he quit. Tony La Russa was 66. [Jim] Leyland is, what, 65-66? Davey Johnson is almost 70. Charlie Manuel is older than me.
Once upon a time, I thought in those terms. It doesn't do any good to think in those terms. Either time will tell you, you'll tell yourself or your family will tell you. My son and my family, they love what I am doing. That means a lot to me. And I love what I am doing. Quite frankly, I sort of get tired of people asking how much longer I want to do this. I don't hear other people that have been in it longer [say] how much more they want to manage. Tony was in it twice as long as me, but he started a whole lot younger. He was managing when I was still playing. I don't know why I keep being asked that question.MLB.com: With the contract situations of Votto and Phillips being short term, is that something that could be an unwanted distraction, whether you guys talk about it or not? Baker: Probably not. Joey has a contract. He has two more years on his contract. Brandon is the one that doesn't have a contract at the end of this year. Quite frankly, I've never extended a contract as a player or manager -- nor did I ever want to. I always believed in fulfilling the contract that I had. I don't believe in renegotiating, personally. When I sign something, I sign it. I told Brandon to just go play. As to why they haven't come together, it's probably a little bit on both sides. That's how negotiations go. Brandon doesn't look any less happy than he usually does. He's fine. Brandon plays hard. Like I tell the guys, don't worry about the money. Play and the money will follow. Don't worry about the money and then play, because then it's going to affect your play. MLB.com: With Scott Rolen appearing to be as healthy, and possibly as productive, as two seasons ago, how big is that in the equation? Baker: That's huge. I think that is big. He's a big part of our team, not only offensively, defensively, baserunning. As a leader, it's tough to lead when you're not able to be out there. It's tough on the leader and it's tough on the team. I saw how hard it was on Scotty the last couple of months of last year. You don't feel as assertive. MLB.com: Are you guys more equipped depth-wise to handle the grind of a season and any injuries that come along -- even after trading guys away? Are there players you can reach down and get from the system? Baker: Most of the guys we traded away, other than Travis Wood, weren't really in a position to help us in the positions that we needed. Woody and [Brad] Boxberger. [Yonder] Alonso was more a first baseman than he was an outfielder. We're pretty good in that department. You have to trade something to get something. You add a [Brett] Tomko, [Jeff] Francis and guys like that, it certainly adds to your depth. MLB.com: You say 2012 is a big year for you, because you wear No. 12? Baker: I believe that from the bottom of my heart. I am just full of belief.