Rob Dibble Interview
Rob Dibble was born on January 24, 1964 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and is a former Major League Baseball pitcher.
"Dibs" was a promising young pitcher with a blazing fastball that often exceeded 99 mph, he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round of the 1983 amateur draft, and made his debut with the Reds on June 29, 1988.
On June 4, 1989, Dibs struck out three batters on nine pitches in the eighth inning of a 5–3 win over the San Diego Padres. Dibs became the 14th National League pitcher and the 22nd pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning.
He was an MLB All-Star in 1990 and 1991, and was the 1990 NLCS Most Valuable Player (along with fellow "Nasty Boy" Randy Myers). Also in 1990, Dibble and his Reds won the World Series by beating the Oakland Athletics 4 games to 0.
As a member of the Cincinnati Reds, the reliever recorded his 500th career strikeout in fewer innings—368—than any other pitcher in modern baseball history. Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Lee Smith all needed more than 500 innings to strike out 500 batters.
During his career Dibs often was known for his temper. After one game, he threw a baseball into the outfield seats at Cincinnati and struck a woman. He was also involved in a brawl in 1991 with Astros shortstop Eric Yelding. That same season he was caught attempting to throw a baseball into the back of Cubs outfielder Doug Dascenzo as he ran down the first base line. Finally, Dibs was involved in a locker room brawl with Reds manager Lou Pinella after a game. In a "turn back the clock" game against the Mets at Shea Stadium in 1992, Dibble gave up a walk-off homer to Bobby Bonilla, and was seen on national TV ripping the old timers jersey off leaving the field.
Dibs required surgery to his pitching arm in 1994, and missed the entire season as a result. Dibs signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and also played with the Chicago White Sox. He signed with the Chicago Cubs at the end of the 1995 season, but didn't appear in a game. He signed with the Florida Marlins for the 1996 season, but missed the entire year due to injury, and retired soon after.
In 1998, Dibs joined ESPN as a baseball analyst, working mostly on the radio show hosted by Dan Patrick. Dibble worked on The Best Damn Sports Show Period as a co-host until 2008, when he left to join FOX on their Saturday baseball program as an analyst. Dibble also spends time as a co-host/analyst of Baseball This Morning on on XM Channel 175/Sirius channel 210. He formerly hosted The Show (on the same channel), with co-host Jody MacDonald. Dibs served as co-analyst with Kevin Kennedy for FOXSports.com on a weekly video segment entitled "Around the Bases," served as a Little-League baseball coach in Avon, CT during the 2001 season. Dibs also is a co-host with former Major League player Denny Hocking on Fox Sports Radio Sunday night programming. In 2009, Dibs signed a 3-year contract to replace Don Sutton as the color voice of the Washington Nationals on MASN.
HT: Were you the rebel as a kid in Connecticut?
RD: I was so out of control. Even when I was a baby I was so high strung and so hyper-active, I could never sit still. So my parents wanted me playing sports to kind of wear me out. I’ve never been one who sleeps a lot. My blood’s always kind of been boiling. There was a time in my life where I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and we were stealing tires and stereos, but it never graduated past that. I was raised by two God-fearing people, and we moved around because my dad was a news man on radio.
HT: So sports saved you from evil?
RD: Absolutely. Even when I was eight years old, I was really good at baseball and every sport but I never thought of making it a career. My dad would never play the sport because he was teaching at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and newsman that did the news at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 am up until his death eight years ago. He even started in the radio business with Bob Crane from Hogan’s Heroes way back in the fifties. So my broadcasting side comes from my father.
HT: You must’ve been one of those kids that was great at every sport?
RD: Yeah. I could have excelled at any sport. At eight years old, I struck out sixteen guys in a game, but baseball wasn’t necessarily the chosen sport. I was All State in soccer, and I had more college scholarships offers to play soccer than baseball. I could kick and pass with both feet, and I could outrun anybody out in the field. I could’ve easily been a great football or hockey. We played all Black schools from Norwalk and Southern Connecticut in football, soccer, basketball and baseball, and that’s the stuff that toughened me up; it would be an all out war because these kids meant business.
HT: How did you end up choosing baseball?
RD: I was going to Oklahoma State on a full scholarship for baseball, and I got drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals out of high school in the eleventh round. That kind of made my path a little easier. But I always felt that I could have been a pro at any other sport. I could’ve easily been a professional soccer player, or a defense man in hockey. It was always a speed thing for me. Whether it was throwing or running, that was one of the gifts that God gave to me. He gave me speed.
HT: Did you hit and run before you got into the big leagues?
RD: When I was in high school, I was the lead outfitter. I still hold the record for triples at my high school. Like I said, I was fast. I played center field, short stop and pitched, and I threw a few no-hitters in high school too. At that time, Dennis Eckersley was huge with the Boston Red Sox, so I would copy his mechanics and try to emulate him. So I incorporated the high leg kick, and throwing side arm. It was all fast balls. I never had a breaking ball in my twenties.
HT: How did you end up with the Reds?
RD: I played six months at Florida Southern. I was going to Oklahoma State on full scholarship, then I went out there for some workouts and they said that I had to make the team to get your full scholarship. And I said, ‘That’s not what we talked about’. I could have taken the eleventh round Cardinals pick money and gone pro and I didn’t. So they knew people at Florida Southern and so I went down there on a full scholarship which was a small division, two-school, top ten per cent as far as academics. And because I got to school so late, I was in three junior school courses, and it kind of screwed me up academically to where I had very low GPA, so after six months I quit. I was working at J.C. Penny, and I had to write a letter giving up my eligibility to Peter Uberoff, who was a Commissioner at the time in 1982, and then the Reds drafted me in the first round in ’83 in June. So I got lucky.
HT: Do you remember that moment when you were drafted?
RD: I was actually so nervous that I wasn’t going to get drafted. I was shooting hoops at a local elementary school, and my brother, who’s still a fireman in my hometown in Sellington, drove out and shouted, ‘Hey, the Reds drafted you in the first round’, and we both started crying. So it was one of those moments.
HT: Did you ever think ‘what if baseball doesn’t workout?’
RD: No. Because one of my brothers was in the Navy, my other brother was a fireman, and having a father that was a newsman; you know, we’re all pretty much civil servants. I had aspirations to be a cop and had I not played baseball, I would have definitely gone into the military or have been a police officer. That was more of a vocation for me because that’s the way I wanted to serve. It wasn’t a question of playing baseball. In fact, when I retired I was thirty-two years old, and I was studying to take the State police exam in Connecticut. I knew that I had some pension coming from baseball, I had some great times but now I’ve got to get on with my life. I’ve always been simple minded. I’ve had simple goals, simple dreams, I’ve never really aspired to be great at anything. I’m going to try to be the best I can.
HT: So it was never about the money?
RD: Never! Money has never meant a thing to me.
HT: But you like your bikes and watches like the other athletes. Aren’t you a little materialistic?
RD: Anybody who knows me, knows that I give most of the stuff that I own. I’m constantly selling cars, selling bikes, selling my snow mobiles and moving on to the next thing. It’s almost like a vicious cycle of ‘can I keep working long enough to buy another car or a nice bike?’
HT: You try not to hold on to anything?
RD: Never. If you came to my house, you’d never know that I played baseball. My NLCS MVP trophy, and my World Series trophy are behind empty clocks by the fire place. They’re not even up front, because I don’t live in the past. I just want to keep going forward.
HT: But that’s the highlight of your life isn’t it?
RD: Absolutely not. My two children, my fiancé and my family, that’s the highlight of my life. I never even wear my Championship ring. One of my best friends is Paul O’Neil, and he’s got five World Series rings. You’ll never see him wear them. A good friend of mine too, and a former teammate, B J Surhoff, said to me, ‘Quit living out of your scrapbook’, and it makes a lot of sense. People always say this or that about my career, all the suspensions or fights or whatever, but they forget the first five years of my career were great; they were All-Star years. But to me, those were just years for a job. When we won a World Series that was awesome because it was a team thing. I never thought I deserved the NLCS MVP award. You know, you could have easily given it to anybody on our team because that’s the type of person I was raised to be; a team player, not an individual.
HT: There are those that choose to look at that moment as ‘I’ll never be better than this’….’It will never get better than this’. You have the right to look at it that way, but I guess it’s a lot healthier to look at it your way and just move on.
RD: Some people are empty. They have no spirituality. They like to try to hold on to materialistic things, like championships. But I’d rather have a beautiful sixteen year old daughter, and a beautiful thirteen year old son. I’m lucky enough to have a second chance at marrying somebody. Those are the things that I’m very blessed in this life.
HT: It is sad to win a championship or an Oscar, only to think it’s all downhill from here on out.
RD: No, I’d much rather be remembered in this world as a great broadcaster.
RD: Oh yeah! This is actually my eighth year now which equals how long I played in the majors. So, for me, that’s a testament to my upbringing more so than anything I’ve done athletically.
HT: Did you have tough years in the minors?
RD: No, they were some of the greatest years of my life because you have no money but you have nothing but friends and time. Four and a half years of great memories. If you don’t put pressure on yourself and it’s even sweeter when you do make it. You know, I’ll never forget the when I made it, I was supposed to be traded to the Philly’s, but when the trade didn’t happen, they called me up two weeks later. I was shocked because you get passed over enough that you start to put that in the back of your mind and you never think it’s going to happen.
HT: I think a lot of athletes put pressure on themselves to succeed for their families, or to get rich.
RD: Yeah, and that’s the wrong reason to play. The reason you play is because you love the game, you’re passionate about it. The greatest blessing that God gave me was the ability to throw as hard as I did because I was so competitive and I love torturing the hitters. I love having the ability to throw it by you at a hundred, or throw a ninety-three mile an hour slider and strike you out. But I loved it when it was just me and the hitter. I don’t think I would have had as much fun if I was an outfielder or a short stop. I don’t think there’s anything better in the sports world than being a pitcher. During the playoffs of the World Series, there was a moment of clarity for me in the playoffs against Pittsburgh where there were fifty-five thousand people at Riverfront, and I’m just sitting there, and I’m going…’This is one of the greatest moments of my life’…not the fact that I was pitching in the playoffs, whatever, but the fact that fifty-five thousand people, whether they hated me or loved me, were there to see me pitch against Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Andy Van Slyke. And then in the World Series, it kind of replayed itself again. You have Canseco, McGwire, Ricky Henderson, Dave Henderson, and it’s like you’re standing there, and you see the tattoos, it’s all about being a warrior in the coliseum. My favorite movie is Gladiator; and if you’ve ever been in a baseball stadium like Riverfront, which is why I love Riverfront and I used to go there sometimes when I couldn’t sleep, and I went home late. When I turned the lights off, and it’s just the lights in the exit alleys, it looks just like a Roman coliseum. Every time I was out there, I’d just felt like, not a gladiator, but it was one on one. And it didn’t matter how many fans were out there or who was my team mates. It was me and that guy and I loved that.
HT: Did you come in to the majors as a starter?
RD: My first two years in the minors I was a starter, and a great coach I had in the minors called Jay Ward saw something in me that said ‘this guy is not a good starter’. I ran out of gas by the fifth inning.
HT: Sort of like Eric Gagne?
RD: Yeah, exactly. It was a very similar career. I became a more erratic and I always got deep into counts; I was able to get out of it earlier in the game, but by the fifth inning I was really laboring out there. So my coach said, ‘Listen, this guy has such an attitude that he’d make a great closer someday at the major league level’, and this was back when I was twenty-one years old. They drafted as a starter. I give all the credit to Jay; I pitched against the Blue Jays in spring training where I threw sixty pitches in the first inning. I couldn’t even get out of the first inning and that was my last ever start. He said, ‘You’re a reliever from this point on’, and he staked his reputation on it.
HT: Was there specialization already?
RD: No, closing wasn’t as refined as it is today. The Reds had a twenty minute warm-up rule where you had to warm up twenty minutes before every start. I was loosened up in five minutes, so the next fifteen minutes were the first five innings of the game for me. So by the time I came out of that warm-up, I was gassed! I was pretty much in the sixth inning in the first inning. Thank God I had a manager that saw that. He said, ‘Listen, if we don’t make him a reliever soon, we’re going to burn this guy out’.
HT: I remember Mike Stanton of the Yankees saying that warming up in the bullpen was what wore out the arm of relievers, and not the innings.
RD: Tony LaRussa is the best at preserving a pitcher’s arm. He did it with Eckersley and got him to the Hall of Fame, and now he’s doing it with Isringhausen and all the guys that go through St. Louis, where if I get you up one, two, maybe three times and if I don’t get you in the game, you’re done. I’ve shut you down. There are some managers that warm guys up five times in a game and the next day that guy can barely throw. The more you get up and don’t get in the game, the more you’re going to get worn out. All those pitches add up. In the last ten years, they’ve started to keep track in the bullpens.
HT: What do you think of Mazzoni’s program of throwing everyday?
RD: I love his strong program. Both starters and relievers throw everyday to build arm strength. I would have loved to have pitched under Leo.
HT: Was there a significant turning point in your career?
RD: I went down to Puerto Rico in ’87 to close in winter ball. I made the All-Star team down there as a closer facing Barry Bonds, Bonilla, Juan Benikez and all these other major league, and almost major league players. I got the confidence that I needed, not only as a pitcher, but the thing that changed me was Ed Figueroa. Ed taught me the slider that put me in the major leagues; and Ed said, ‘if you can’t throw 2-0, 3- 0, 3- 1, three or two bases loaded in a count, you can’t pitch in the major leagues’. So he said, ‘Anytime you’re 2-0, 3-0, I want you to throw your slider, I don’t care how crappy it is’.
HT: You didn’t have a slider yet?
RD: No, I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have a change-up! I was still throwing just 100mph fastball because I never felt comfortable trying to break off a change-up, take something off, I just couldn’t do it.
HT: So if you were erratic that day then you were in big trouble.
RD: Oh yeah. There was one game in particular I threw a fastball, and he told me, ‘if you do that, I’m going to take you out of the game’. So he walked out; nobody warmed up, pulled me right out of the game. And so out of fear of never being embarrassed to be pulled out of a game, to get confidence in my slider, from that point on, 2-0, 3-0, 3-1, I could throw slider, fast ball, or whatever I wanted. That was the turning point.
HT: Pete Rose told me that he went winter ball in Venezuela just to work specifically on his weakness.
RD: Robby Alomar, Benito Santiago, Ron Gant was on my team, I mean, it was a future all-star team down there, and you lived with all these guys that played in different organizations. Some guys were major league players; to be playing against Barry Bonds and all these guys at the beginning of their careers, and Puerto Rican players like Juan Gonzales and Ivan Rodriguez were down there. I had a seventeen year old Bernie Williams on my team that was all legs and all he could do was run like a gazelle. Guys were like ‘who in the hell is this kid’? And then, to see him where he is today, that was all about winter ball. It was like an all-star game every day, and you learned how they used their techniques, their work ethic, loads of talent, but it was also a wonderful experience because at night, nobody had a whole lot of money and a lot of the families couldn’t even come down there. So once again it was the minor leagues, and you bonded with these guys and to this day I have friendships that are stronger that I got from winter ball than any time I played in the United States.
RD: I think the respect that I got from Latin and African American players, a lot of that was built in winter ball and not even in the minor leagues; because you really get to know guys when you’re living four guys in a condo over three or four months, and you’re driving in a car with four guys, 3-4 hours to a game everyday and riding 3-4 hours back and just surviving, trying to find your way around when you don’t speak Spanish. It was culture shock and it was all the above, but it was one of the greatest experiences in my life.
HT: You all had baseball in common.
RD: That was the common denominator. We all knew how to play baseball. We all played it well, and when we got down on the field, man, you busted your ass because you knew you were either going backwards or going forward. And everybody wanted to go forward and your payoff was the major leagues, and everybody knew it that was there. That was my edge coming into spring training in 1988. I came back with all the confidence and I’d been throwing all off season against hitters, when I came back into the camp in ’88, they couldn’t stop me and three months later I was in the major leagues.
HT: How many years did you end up playing in the big leagues?
RD: Seven and a half, and that eight and a half year was with the Marlins but I was hurt the entire season, so I only count seven and a half.
HT: And you won the championship early on?
RD: Yeah, within three years of my career I was a world champion.
HT: How did the Reds come up with the idea of closing by committee?
RD: The Nasty Boys really weren’t closing by committee. Randy Myers was the closer and Norm Charlton and I were the set-up guys, and I did finish with eleven saves in ‘90, but Randy had thirty-one. He was the guy…We actually liked him closing. He had a more defined role as a closer. It was perfect because he was great at getting the last three outs. But anywhere from the sixth inning on, any bases loaded jam, no outs, two outs, whatever, Norm and I loved it. We thrived on it. We were roommates for seven years, and I think that the best relationship I ever had in baseball was with Norm Charlton and we’re best friends, and I thought I was competitive until I met him. I mean he ran like Sciossa over. He went first to home and ran one of the greatest plate blocking catchers ever. Here’s a …I’m not going to say skinny, but a two hundred pound, six foot three pitcher ran him over and knocked the ball out of him. That’s the kind of guy he was, and I was very, very blessed to have a roommate like that in the major leagues for seven years.
HT: Randy Myers was a hell of a closer. He kind of left the game suddenly.
RD: He was hurt with the Padres. He had huge insurance policies with Lloyds of London, but you know the funniest thing that you might know about Randy, he started sixteen games in ’91. We had so many starting rotation injuries, he said, ‘Hey look Skip, let me start.’ He started sixteen games. So Norm and I were the closers. Then in ’92, and I still think this is the only time that’s ever happened, both Norm and I both had twenty-five saves on the same team, because I got hurt and started the season on the disabled list. Norm was closing, I came back. We didn’t care who closed out the games. We were both making over a million bucks and he had twenty-six. I had twenty-five. I think it’s the only time ever that two guys ever had twenty-five plus saves. The beautiful thing about playing with the Reds and the world championship team we played on, there was so much unselfishness. There wasn’t one guy that thought he was the guy, even though Eric Davis was obviously the guy; Barry Larkin was the guy. When I say team, I mean team. We had a team party, every guy showed up. If you didn’t show up, you might get an ass whipping in the club house the next day. If you were a trainer you showed up.
HT: It built team unity.
RD: Absolutely. It builds a family.
HT: Randy had a bit of a koo-koo reputation.
RD: Randy was eccentric. I wouldn’t say he was nuts. The craziest of the three is obviously Norm. He had three degrees from Rice University, brilliant guy, the practical joker. He would fight anybody at the drop of a hat because he’s a proud kid and that’s the kind of guy he was. I was more of the adrenalin junky. I was willing to drive my car a hundred fifty miles an hour or a motorcycle, or anything. I crashed one of my motorcycles going 80mph once and totaled it, that kind of stupid stuff. The team never knew about it. I was a risk taker. Norm was the brilliant, crazy man. Randy was more of the soldier of fortune, but that was just as much as an act I think as it was Randy. The Randy Myers that I knew was a very nice guy. But the guy that he gave the perception to everybody publicly was this soldier of fortune with the cut-off camouflage T-shirts and the fake grenades and all that other stuff like the real raspy voice. He wasn’t really like that.
HT: What a closer though. He had a couple of amazing years with the Orioles before he retired.
RD: With the Cubs, Padres, I mean you know he was amazing.
HT: Could there be another situation like The Nasty Boys?
RD: Never. You’ll never get three guys who will throw ninety-five miles an hour again in the same bullpen, and two of them left-handed. It will never happen again. Had we stayed healthy, stayed together for five years, I think it would have been the best five year run of any team.
HT: Rivera, Stanton and Nelson were amazing too.
RD: Yep. Rivera, Wettland was amazing too.
HT: By the way, weren’t you a Yankee fan growing up?
RD: No. I was an Oakland A’s fan.
RD: My dad was never really a big fan of sports because he was a news guy and one of my brothers liked the Red Sox, another one liked the Orioles. I didn’t want to be pinned with a New York team because they really weren’t fascinating to me until Reggie Jackson, who I loved, went to the Yankees in the 80’s. I was a short stop so I loved Burt Campaneris. I loved the names on the team; Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, and then you have Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Gene Tennison. It was an amazing team. The biggest thing was because I idolized my brother. And my brother, when he was playing American Legion baseball, their uniforms were very similar to the Oakland Athletics. They had the gold socks but they were gold and blue stirrups but still, I was an Oakland A’s man growing up. I just loved the white shoes. In fact, Joe Namath wore the white shoes of the Oakland Athletics, so I wore white shoes in high school, white spot belts, because of that. I was a hot dog, big time (he laughs).
HT: I remember you saying on The Dan Patrick Show how Norm Charlton kept telling to you to make a comeback. But you ended your career somewhat early didn’t you?
RD: I tried to make a comeback in ’98 with the Padres and it took me six months to get back to throwing in the nineties.
HT: You never really wanted to change your style?
RD: No. I’d never be a finesse guy. In fact, in ’96 they wanted to reconstruct my shoulder again and I said no. So that was the end with the Marlins in ’96. Dave Dumbrowski and Rene Lachman was the manager there. They believed they could get me back close to where I was, and one day I could throw a ninety-five, throw twenty-five strikes. The next day I could throw eighty and throw twenty-five in the third, and I just could not get any consistency out of my arm, and I did not want to go out that way. So then I went to Dr. Andrews again and he said, ‘Listen, the only thing we can do is slice you down on this side, like the Orel Hershiser surgery, but you’ll throw from the side at eighty miles an hour; and I said no, I won’t do that, I wont go out like that. I’m too proud to do that and I doubt that eighty would be good enough so I wouldn’t do that.
HT: I remember you saying on the radio…’I know I can still pitch’…last year.
RD: I could probably still pitch now. I mean, now that my elbow’s been reconstructed and my shoulder’s healed, when I play softball, it’s not the way I wanted it to end. I could still go out and do it. I could guarantee, if you gave me six months, I could go out there and get up to ninety, but it won’t be the same stuff I had when I was twenty-five, and it’s not worth it.
HT: The great thing you felt that way back in the late 90’s and you still feel that way.
RD: No, I didn’t want to be a role player and I definitely didn’t want to be eighty per cent or seventy-five per cent, and to have people say…’Man, that guy sucks’! That’s just not me.
HT: Right. You want people to remember you as ….
RD: As I was…exactly.
HT: Looking back now, do you feel like you’ve made the most of your given ability? No regrets?
RD: I do have some regrets. I wish I could have played football in high school and had seen what kind of football player I could’ve been.
HT: What about in baseball?
RD: Baseball was just one of the sports I was blessed to play. I definitely got the most out of it I could; absolutely no regrets. With what they know now surgically, I think they could have repaired me in a different way, and I may have added a couple more years. But they wouldn’t have been as good as the first five, and to me the statistics could have been nice but they would have never have been to me, because I was such a perfectionist, it wouldn’t have been worth it to me. No, I definitely got out when I should have.
HT: That’s refreshing to hear.
RD: I could honestly say, though, the one regret I do have is not being able to give the Marlins a little bit of something. I mean, for the year that I spent and traveled with the team and all the effort that Larry Rothchild and Rene Lachman put, they went out on a limb. Dave Dumbrowski went out on a limb to bring me in there; all the strength coaches and staff down there, everybody to a man truly believed that I could get back to being an all-star type pitcher; and when I fell short of that, that probably bothered me the most. It’s been ten years.
HT: They won it all soon after right?
RD: They won the next year in ’97!
HT: They really loaded up though.
RD: Yeah, they really loaded up but they had a great closer in Rob Nen; and I think people may not remember how great he was in his hay-day. And there’s a guy, reconstructed a Tommy John. He was a guy that had a very, very odd delivery where, in the middle of his wind-up, would actually kick the ground again, and then come up and throw a hundred miles an hour. And to this day, I’ve never seen anybody who can do that.
HT: He was gamer. I think it was Jack McDowell once said that the whole closer thing was way overrated. He was pretty outspoken but he said that any decent starter that throws heat could converted into a closer.
RD: It’s a mentality more so.
HT: Yeah, you’ve got to have the right make up.
RD: It’s not even about your ability. It’s your ability to forget your failure, and the one thing…
HT: It’s coming back day in and day out.
RD: Yeah, exactly. They have four days in between. I was a starter so I know. I’ve done both. You have to come back the next day and forget that game with a home run. That’s why I understand when Phil Garner didn’t bring Brad Lidge back in a final game against the Cardinals in that game they clinched. I think he had too much time to think about it. Had he brought it back just out there for one out, to just get that off his mind, I think the results against the White Sox might have been different. The thing about closing though, you can’t have a fear of failure. Throwing a three-two-slider with the bases loaded in a World Series game, you can’t have fear of failure. And I think the best closers in the game, whether it’s Rivera, Brad Lidge, Billy Wagner, they don’t have that fear. So for Jack Mc Dowell to say that, that’s because he’s never closed. Go out there, and it’s a lot harder to swallow, like the game I gave up that home run to Bobby Bonilla and I ripped off my shirt. Tim Belcher had pitched one of the best games I’ve ever seen. He had a two-hit shut-out in the eighth, and I blew the game. It was one of the worst nights I can remember as a professional athlete because that guy worked his ass off. I went in and threw fifteen pitches and lost the game. Show me a guy who can swallow Tim Belcher’s effort, and then have to walk up to him and say, ‘Dude, it was my fault we lost tonight…I’m sorry I fucked up your game’.
HT: Is that what you say to them?
RD: Yeah. There’s nothing I can say that can help a guy out. Like Roger Clemens was shut out nine times last year. There’s nothing they can say to him to bring back that body of work. He’s already done it. It’s in the past. So Tim Belcher, he went out there and threw one hundred and twenty pitches of the best baseball he could; and I failed him, and I failed my teammates. So, to tell me that closing is easy is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard, because you have to swallow that and know that twenty-four other guys did their job and me, I was the failure. I was the weak link.
HT: I’ve always been a fan of yours on The Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio. But did Dan and Phil ‘the show killer’ get to you when you had to pull out the ‘I’m a world champion, and you’re not!’ or ‘I played the game, you didn’t!’?
RD: I would say it as a joke, but I was also dead serious.
HT: But I have to say that certain closers don’t really have what it takes to close out play-off games though. I’m taking about Isringhausens, and the Benito Santiagos.
RD: Because every guy is different.
HT: They’re blowing play-off games!
RD: Because they have their own demons that they fight out there. That’s the one thing that people don’t understand. When you’re standing out there, and you’re sixty feet, six inches from a guy, you’ve got a million things going through your mind. You have to be able to clear it all out and have nothing, and just be able to concentrate on what’s going on. Some guys can’t block out their last game, or Barry Bond standing up there; or the fact that a…’God, I hope I throw this slider where I want it’. I always knew where the ball was going. Whether it got there or didn’t, I always knew. There was a moment, where you have to…and I try to teach this because I coach my son’s basketball team….that I’m going to shoot the ball or I’m not going to shoot the ball. I’m either going to throw this pitch for a strike or I’m not. I’m either going to throw this slider 3-2 with the bases loaded, or I’m not. There can’t be any kind of doubt in your mind whatsoever. The guys who give up the game ending home runs, I truly believe it’s that milli-second of doubt that puts that pitch right where it is.
HT: But to fans like myself, we go ‘you’ve got a two-run lead…Can’t you close it?...You’ve been doing it all season!’
RD: Because there are different things that are involved. Momentum is a big thing. There were games, I’d come in a 10-0 blow-out, and the team that had just been sitting there half asleep. But because there was so much hatred for me now they’re all standing up and cat-calling me from the dug-out. A lot of my friends, relatives and my family used to say, and I asked my dad about it, he loved what I did for the game. He loved that I would inject some life into a dead game. I loved that part of my career. I loved the fact that I was, and I used to always say this, I was either the black knight, or the cowboy wearing the black hat. I was always the bad guy and I loved being the bad guy. I think I would have been a great wrestler because I can play the bad guy.
HT: Kind of like Charlie Sheen’s character in ‘Major League’.
RD: Right, exactly.
HT: Who brings that kind of life in today’s game?
RD: Gagne! Without a doubt, Eric Gagne. He had better stuff than I did. I mean the velocity…
HT: He’s not a bad ass dude though in person.
RD: But, you know what? Anybody who knows me, I’m not like that. In every day stuff, I’m a teddy bear. But when I’m out there, I was an ax murderer, and I think that Eric Gagne can turn it on and turn it off. Nobody’s a nicer guy off the field than Mariano Rivera. On the field, I guarantee he would take your head off. That’s the difference. Billy Wagner is one of the nicest country boys from West Virginia, and you get him on the field, he’ll take your head off. That’s the difference.
HT: Do batters certain pitchers more?
RD: Batters have no fear, but they don’t know how crazy we are in our heads.
HT: I’m talking about how certain guys were terrified of Nolan Ryan, and I guess some fear Randy Johnson, or Clemens.
RD: Nolan, Clemens, guys like that would do something like that…
HT: Rivera wouldn’t though, unless there was a reason..
HT: He would?
RD: He would in a second. He would do it in a second!
RD: Yeah. Bob Gibson, Drysdale, Sandy Koufax…. There would be nothing sweeter than throwing a pitch and watching a guy’s head explode for any pitcher who has ever stood out there. Because there’re times when they hit that game winning home run, and in their head they’re laughing at you. So you know that. You’re just like…’all right’….but it’s not illegal. You can’t kill anybody. And you know what? You can’t put anybody on base, so there’s this insane part of the job that nobody understands that I would love to cross that line; and a couple times I did, and I got penalized for it. I look at guys like Ron Artest, Dennis Rodman, guys like that. Even in football, there’s always the henchman, like Dick Butkus. Over the course of history, there were guys that, when they were playing, they’ll play it was a reckless abandon. What he was, was insane. He was out of his mind, and there was at no point where you could have pulled that guy back. The only thing that pulled him back was himself. And I was my own worst enemy many, many times. Dennis Rodman, his own worst enemy. You know, there are a lot of athletes that I’ve always had so much respect for, like Nolan Ryan that could always pull himself back; a Roger Clemens can always pull himself back. But there are some guys, you’ll see them get out of control and people will go ‘How could he do that’?...because in a moment, you know you’re going to cross that line because you’re willing to cross that line. People don’t understand it. They can’t understand that that’s the beauty of the game is that pulling yourself back from the point of no return. Sometimes you can’t do it.
HT: Remember the critical stance you took against the Mets for not protecting Mike Piazza from Clemens?
RD: You see Estes disrespected Mike by not drilling him…
HT: And that became unfinished business for a long, long time. It dragged on.
RD: Yeah, because it was eighteen months from the time that Roger hit Mike in the head; now whether he did it intentionally or not, my point was, as a pitching staff though, we have to send a message to any other pitching staff or any other team that you’re not going to injure our hitters, whether it’s right or wrong, whether it’s a grey area, whether Roger intentionally tried to nail Mike in the head. If Mike’s my teammate, in order for Mike Piazza to do his job, in order for Mike to be comfortable and stand up there and be a free swinger, and not worry about Roger Clemens drilling him in the head, you had to ‘an eye for an eye’ on Roger Clemens, and Estes didn’t do it. He threw a ball behind him on the ground, and I said ‘that’s it!’ The fans waited eighteen months, the team waited eighteen months, Mike Piazza waited for some justice and that’s the best he got. And even Roger Clemens looked at him and it was like ‘Is that all you’re going to give him’?
HT: Right. And I think you even said on the radio the next day, I think it was Leiter.
HT: That maybe he should be in the first inning to finish the job.
RD: He should have done what should have been done, because it’s not so much whether it’s right or wrong, or tit for tat, or whether you should stay in the ball game or get suspended, fight or whatever. It’s not even …see people…it’s way too much thought processes. The thought process is Roger wasn’t going to come up in the next game, and now you can’t do anything about it. Until they face Roger Clemens again, you don’t have that chance. It’s kind of making things right, and Mike Piazza being in the Hall of Fame, he deserved that much. But you know what? I still like Shawn. I mean, it wasn’t a personal attack on Shawn Estes. What people didn’t realize it’s just as a professional courtesy for your teammate, you have to stick up for your teammates.
HT: Piazza is a nice guy, but he must felt disrespected.
HT: Why aren’t these guys sticking up for me? The Yankees would’ve!
RD: This is the bottom line. You walk down a dark alley, you want to know that guys have your back. If I’m like Piazza and I’m walking down a dark alley, I’d know that there’s not a lot of guys on that pitching staff that had my back. That’s what bothers me.
HT: Like when Benitez drilled a Tino on the back. Strawberry went ballistic! But I thought the insight you shared at that time was the most honest.
RD: Well, thank you and I didn’t like the fact there were people that thought that he had evened the score. There was a lot of New York media that thought that he stood up there…. That was one thing that pissed me off was that he was standing up there laughing about it….’Uh, I got away from it’. That’s not the point, even if Shawn Estes wasn’t the guy and it was somebody else, for a player to sit up there and kind of laugh about it, you’re not laughing at Mike Piazza. You’re not laughing at Roger Clemens. Clemens is going ‘Hey, thank God he didn’t hit me; I don’t want to get hurt; he could have hit me in the head, he could have killed me’…You know there’s a million things that Roger could have been thinking but Mike Piazza’s got to be sitting there somewhere thinking …’Man, eighteen months and that’s the best I got!?’
HT: Right. But as far as the baseball protocols goes Estes became the designated guy, but if they’d sent Benitez to care of the business it would’ve started a war.
RD: Right, but they should have brought a closer in, in the middle of the game to do it.
HT: Interesting; interesting. What’s the protocol? You hit someone else or you hit one of ours, we’ll hit one of yours?
RD: But there’s always a time and a place.
HT: Do you have to drill a guy in the ear?
RD: No, You don’t have to try and hurt a guy. I never hit a guy in the head. Like I said, I only hit twelve guys in my career. But it’s…you know what?...You hit one of our guys, we might put three of your guys on their backs and still strike them out, but we’re going to scare the crap out of you. I mean, it’s a question of, you want to make sure that nobody is going to take advantage of our hitters.
HT: You put down three guys, then it’ll become a head-hunting contest.
RD: No, as long as you don’t hurt anybody. And there’s a place to hit guys. You hit a guy under the arm pit, in the ribs, that’s where you’re supposed to hit a guy. I never would want anybody to throw at somebody’s head. That’s the wrong way to do it. First of all, you are exciting the other team and making it more than it should be.
RD: And if you police yourselves correctly, he hits one of our guys in the ribs, we hit one of your guys in the ribs, and it’s over. But if we hit you in the ribs and then you hit us in the head, well now, you’ve started it all over again. It’s a vicious cycle. You know, that’s what people don’t understand I learned that stuff from a God-fearing man and people might say, ‘Oh you’re crazy’, or something. My dad was the one that said ‘what’s right is what’s right’, and if protecting your teammates at all costs is what you have to do, and there are many times I had to protect my teammates and I took the four games suspension; I took a week’s suspension at one time. I paid the ten thousand dollar fine. I was willing to do that. And like you said, Jack Mc Dowell can make fun of closers, or whatever, but …and I love Jack, he’s a good friend of mine, but there’re certain guys on a team that have to enforce the rule of what’s right and what’s wrong; and some guys are willing to do it and other guys aren’t. And it usually should be the guy who can make the most noise which is the guy who throws the hardest.
HT: You probably feel like you do your job and we’ll do ours. You know what I mean?
RD: Absolutely. There was one time when Dennis Martinez was on the Expos and he was hitting a lot of our guys, and this had nothing to do with me. This is our starting pitcher….
He went out and hit him three times in the mouth. And by the third time, he was like…‘okay, I get the point’. I mean, that’s just the way things have to be taken care of.
HT: Do you think it gets a little out of hand because pitchers get a little brave because they don’t have to bat?
RD: .Yes and No…But you know what, it goes far beyond hittin guys. You might hit one of our guys; we might take out your short stop at second base. We might run over your catcher. Your pitcher might be covering first base. We run em over at first base. It’s not even an unwritten rule. It’s just the way it is. It’s the way our game is played and the way it was played for a hundred years. I look back and I can recall an incident when Bill White, the then President of the National League, flew out to San Diego because Norm Charlton and myself had hit a few guys, we started a few brawls and we’re dusting guys, you know 0-2, putting them on their back; but then we’d strike you out. For us, it was very effective. It was psychological warfare from where we were coming from, and it was very effective at giving us an edge and helping us to finish our job off, which is striking you out. That’s the bottom line. Bill White came out, had a private meeting with myself and Norm Charlton and said, ‘You guys are dinosaurs; the owner is afraid you’re going to injure one of their high-priced ball players; you’ve got to stop throwing at heads’. Never once did we ever throw at a guy’s head. But that was the perception that by 0-2 pitches under the chin, or by drilling a guy in the numbers was headhunting. And yeah, I was called a headhunter. Pedro has been called a headhunter; Pedro Martinez! You know, headhunting is just stupidity. That’s a guy that doesn’t know how to send a message. Sending a message is 0-2, having a guy looking up going, ‘That was pretty close’; then standing up and striking out. That’s sending a message; that at any time, if I want to hit you, I will; but I don’t even need to hit you to get my point across.
HT: Do your teammates get pissed when a short-tempered pitcher, or he’s getting pissed because the guy’s crowding the plate so ends up hitting the guy?
RD: Like I said, you don’t want to cross the line of losing games and putting unnecessary runners on base, and that’s about being good. If you’re good at your craft, you don’t even need to hit a guy. You can send a message, you can scare the hell out of a guy, and I’ll tell you, Norm will throw two feet behind your head. And thank God a guy never went backwards instead of forwards on those pitches, or he’d be dead.
HT: But if a pitcher’s just hitting the guy because he’s getting pissed in the fifth inning, that’s not being a good teammate.
RD: That’s just a guy that’s stupid.
HT: Right. If one of your guys hits Manny then your franchise player will get hit back?
RD: But see, they understand something like that. If Randy Johnson hits Manny Ramirez, and Josh is pitching in that game and he’s got to come back and hit one of them. They know they’re going to get hit. They expect it.
HT: But at what point can A-Rod or Jeter get pissed; if it gets kind of too close?
RD: If it gets too close to the head, then it’s gone beyond sending a message to this guy who can’t control the ball, and that’s scary because now he could stop my career, or he could end my career. There’s a difference between messing with a guy’s livelihood which the bottom line is his job, and good sense. And good sense is drilling a guy in the ribs; it’s over with.
HT: Do you guys think in terms of ‘if I hit Sheffield, he might charge the mound so I’d rather hit A-Rod? Did pitchers think that way?
RD: I actually tried to throw at guys that would charge the mound.
HT: Oh yeah?
RD: Yeah, because a lot of times we can be on a losing streak or we were kind of lifeless and we went on a lot of runs, the quickest way to get some team unity and some life going on in that clubhouse is start a fight, because that’s all you talk about over beers that night…’Oh, that was great…Did you see this guy that did this?...This guy was hitting us…” then you replay it the next day, and it’s all good fun as long as nobody ever gets hurt, it’s fun. The moment a guy gets hurt, then you’ve screwed up.
HT: ‘We’re in it together’. That’s why managers get ejected too right?
RD: Absolutely. Trust me, brawls, ever since I was in high school, I was in a brawl. I mean going to the minor leagues, I was in way more brawls than I was in the major leagues. Everyone is different. There were times I’ve been at the bottom of the pile with ten guys on my back, I’m being choked, I mean I’m purple because I’ve been choked out by the Coach of the Houston Astros. Some guys are out of control at a brawl. Other guys are going over at what restaurants they’re going to eat at, so everybody has an agenda and those are the guys you have to be nervous about at a brawl.
HT: But you know how the benches clear, a couple will come out and kind of fraternize or laugh at shit with the other team.
RD: I have no problem with that; I have no problem with that as long as you’re grabbing one of their team mates. Here’s another thing about a brawl, never grab your own teammates, because if you grab me, there’s an extra guy for them running around.
HT: And you become a free target too.
RD: Oh yeah, I’ve been there.
HT: Were you combative with your managers?
RD: No, never. Are you referring to the Lou Pinella fight? Lou and I are best friends so we can talk about that. You know what…That has nothing to do with Lou or me. It had to do with a reporter that was actually miscommunicating things between Lou and myself, and it got to a point where it erupted into a fight. But you know what? It wasn’t much of a fight, it was more of a wrestling match and it was all in good fun The next day we were the best of friends. But, I got the save the very next day, Lou came out and threw a few fake jabs into my stomach and it was all over with. You see, when you love somebody and they’re part of your family, having two older brothers, you can fight with people no matter what. If they’re family, they’re family forever. So, that reporter has gone on to another town, but Lou and I will always be family, and we won a world championship together and I’ll always love him and his entire family because they’re just like my own family. So a lot of my relationships run a lot deeper. You know, I knew Lou from watching him as a player, and I was blessed to have him as a manager. He made me a better player.
HT: He’s old school but he’s a real player’s manager.
RD: He’s from the old school but nobody hates to lose more than Lou, and he’s taken years off his own life by taking the game home with him too much. The most wonderful part about having a manager like Lou, is that he cares; he really, really cares and gets it. That’s the bottom line.
RD: And if you had started a team today and I could still play, I’d play for him.
HT: How did you like playing for Pete Rose?
RD: Loved playing for Pete! Pete was as knowledgeable about the game as you’ll ever find. He’s probably the smartest baseball mind that’s ever lived and that’s the biggest shame about this whole thing where he’s not allowed to be around baseball. People are losing the knowledge that they can gain from Pete Rose. Forget the Hall of Fame, the suspension and all the other crap; they lose what Pete could offer them. So in any capacity at major league baseball had any clue, they used Pete Rose for his baseball knowledge.
HT: He said on your show that ‘Baseball can really do with me right now’.
RD: Right. Let’s put it this way. I think we get after fifteen years, don’t gamble on baseball. I think we get that. So what can you do to Pete Rose? You’re killing the guy because you won’t allow him in the game. They’re killing Terrell Owens this year, of the Eagles, by not letting him play football. Okay, he gets…’I better keep my mouth shut or I’m not going to be allowed to play’. That’s what Terrell loves to do. That’s what makes him Terrell Owens. It’s the same with Pete Rose. For fifteen years he loves to coach, he loves to be around the game, he loves to teach, that’s what’s killing Pete more so than the Hall of Fame and all the other stuff. I know him. We’re very good friends. He let me live at his house one year during spring training when my housing fell through. I mean, he’s a beautiful, and wonderful man.
RD: That hurts me more than anything. That pisses me off more than anything. Let the guy back in the game. He can’t manage, can’t coach; that’s fine. Let him be a consultant. Let him do something to where at least you’ve let him in the game. And another thing is, it cheapens the Hall of Fame every year when you have to talk about Pete Rose not being in it. Let him in it. Just put him in the Hall of Fame. That subject is over with and done and Bruce Sutter goes in, or whoever keeps going in, in the future, and you don’t have to talk about it. Listen, he’s the all-time hits leader!
HT: He’s a baseball treasure.
RD: He is…You know what? The bottom line is, he’s baseball royalty and the guys that are keeping him out of baseball, are not. It’s that simple. Like I said, I’m a simple person. It’s this guy, came from nothing, made himself into something, one of the greatest, if not the greatest players that ever played, couldn’t throw that well, couldn’t run that fast, couldn’t hit that far; yet he’s got the most hits ever in the game and every other records that he has that are ridiculous but … Did he help the game when he was playing? Absolutely! You know, I look at the same thing with Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds, or Sammy Sosa, even Ralphael Palmeiro for that matter; so what, the guy cheated and used steroids, do you wipe away everything he did before that moment? Hell no! He was so great to the game for fifteen, eighteen years, you can’t take that away from him; and it’s not fair, and that’s the way I look at it. People are hypocrites. The same people that are keeping all these guys out of baseball or suspending people, or even politicians that wanted to get involved…. Are you perfect? Are these politicians perfect? That’s the saddest part about it. When they were mud slinging in major league baseball, what happened this year? Most fans ever went to games because fans get it, they’re smart. Seventy-five million people went this year, a major league record in a hundred and forty years. Do the congressmen understand that? No. But those, the constituents for baseball are our fans, and that’s the bottom line. If they get it, they understand. They know that less than one per cent of the players are cheating. And you know what? All those guys were dealt with and they’ll be embarrassed.
HT: You know, I interviewed Derek Lowe last year, and I asked him if he considered taking steroids cheating, and he said, ‘No, I don’t care’.
RD: Hell no!
HT: He said, ‘If the guy wants to take it in his body, that’s his choice’.
RD: I played in the steroid era. I played against Canseco in his time in the nineties and I blew him away. To me, it’s a feather in my cap that you got to cheat to try to beat me.
HT: It was also before there was any policy too.
RD: Right, and to that McGwire cheated, you’ll never know but he retired before they started testing for it. That’s like saying…’Okay, this guy is a heroin addict and he was using heroin and now it’s illegal but he stopped before it was illegal, but we’re going to go back and arrest this guy because he used to use it ten years ago. You can’t do that kind of stuff! But that’s the type of society…You know what it is? Everybody wants to knock everybody else down a notch because Mark McGwire had such a great run, brought the game back from the ashes in ’98. We destroyed the game in ’94 with that strike. He brought it back in ’98 with Sammy Sosa and there’s so much jealousy in this world, we want to knock people down a notch. So we want to say..’I know Mark McGuire cheated…Were you ever there?...Do you have any kind of proof that he cheated’? No. Did he want to incriminate anybody? This is how hollow that congressional hearing was. They wouldn’t give any of those guys immunity. But the only reason they were there, was because of one guy’s book. None of those guys would have been brought up to Washington unless Jose Canseco outed them all. So now, if I’m sitting there and I’m Mark McGwire, I might say…’I’m not going to say anything…I’ve got nothing to gain by saying”…’Well you, you know what? These three teammates that have nothing to do with this cheated with me and so I’m going to drag them into it’. Where I lost respect for Raphael Palmeiro was when he incriminated Miguel Tejada. Miguel had nothing to do with your problem. What’s my business is my business. If I killed somebody, I killed somebody. It wasn’t even the three guys I was with when I robbed that bank, if you get what I’m saying. There’s no reason why I have to drag anybody else in. But that’s the kind of society we live in. I’m around enough kids that make excuses where…you know what?...Where’s the accountability? We always want somebody to accountable for the two… You know, God bless the two families that lost their kids to suicide over steroids. But you know what? Not one major league player forced those kids to make that choice to use steroids. But congress wanted to have major league baseball be held accountable for those deaths. That’s not fair….That’s not fair. Yes, we all mourn for their kids but we didn’t force those kids to take the steroids, and I try to keep everything simple. But we live in a society where we want to always go a step further and hold somebody accountable for our mistakes. And that’s the problem I have with that.
HT: In the case of Mark McGwire, look what a good guy he was to the game?
RD: He brought the game back and made it where it is today.
HT: Everyone thought he was the great person back then and now he’s not?
RD: Everything he has done, all the money that he’s donated, all the things he’s done for charities and communities, and the game, and the country as a whole, we want to just erase all of that just because of somebody else trying to hold him accountable. It’s not fair!
HT: I’m going to ask you a simple question. There are steroids all over sports now, right?
HT: Guys like John Salley chose to answer me by saying there’s not much steroids as people think, which I thought was total bullshit. He's always looking out for the athletes, and defending Kobe or whoever his buddies are.
RD: This is the way I look at it. It’s about believing in your own ability, and if you have a lack of belief in your own ability, you’ll do anything or everything to succeed, and that means cheating; that means using steroids. Now if you’re doing everything within the rules, which at the time in major league baseball, using steroids were within the rules, to me you’re not cheating. You may be cheating yourself because that’s a selfish act but you weren’t cheating. So the people who want it say that their records don’t count, and these writers, that have the Hall of Fame votes, keep saying, ‘Well, we can’t put them in the Hall of Fame’. You know what? That’s a joke, because if you’re doing everything within the rules at the time, you’re not cheating. You’re only cheating yourself. And like I said, if you don’t believe in your ability and you need to cheat to try to beat me, I’m actually more proud of my accomplishments knowing that there guys cheating to try to beat me.
RD: And still couldn’t.
HT: I think we talked a little about…Would you consider yourself short-tempered?
RD: No. I would consider myself a perfectionist, and I think I expected so much out of myself, not only on the field but even in my profession now that I guess short-fuse could be used but I look the word perfectionist a little bit more because I was raised by two deacons and my father, me and a teacher at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and my coach many, many years of my life from farm league baseball up through Babe Ruth, he put that into me. He instilled that into that you should always give your best effort, whether you’re a garbage man or a cop, or a fireman; you should be the best at what you do.
HT: That’s also one of the misconceptions about you because I mean the fact that you actually didn’t hit a lot of guys in your career. But people often kid you about being out of control and short tempered.
RD: Oh yeah.
HT: It probably takes a quite a bit to push your buttons, but I know Dan Patrick used to get you all worked up.
RD: My partner now, Kevin Kennedy on XM, we get along so well because he’s identical to me in personality, the way he managed in the major leagues and the way he managed close to two thousand games or more in the minor leagues, he expected, not perfection, but a certain amount of professionalism and I think that’s the way I am. I approached …Whatever I’ve done in my life, I’ve approached it with a certain amount of professionalism and I guess having a method to my madness, I always planned out a lot of the things that I did on the field. I didn’t plan out my melt downs but for the most part, I planned out a lot of the intimidation and the psychological warfare because being blessed with the arm that I had, it was fun. It was fun to get into the guys’ heads and see whose head could you get into and whose head couldn’t you get into, and a little bit different in the game now especially with broadcasting. It’s more of your smarts and being prepared and your preparation for presentation kind of stuff but… It’s a little bit different but I want to be a professional every day.
HT: I loved you on The Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio. You know, I thought you were the best thing about it actually. Obviously, because you brought them baseball, but also because that was your mentality looking at other sports too as a professional. I haven’t had a chance to check out your XM show yet but is there much ball busting between you and Kevin Kennedy like there was on ESPN?
RD: Never, never. There’s none of that. We’ve doing this for over a year on XM. I respect him as much as anybody as I’ve ever worked with, played for, played with. He’s the consummate professional and we’re very good friends on the air and off the air. I don’t think….There’s nothing I could ever say to attack Kevin. He’s very good natured and our producers will joke with us a little bit. But his approach is so identical to mine, I would say the worst part of our show is we agree too much.
HT: So it’s all about the game.
RD: Yeah, we both have such a passionate love for the game, and basically the whole MLB, home plate philosophy and why they got the sport for XM for the next ten years is to bring back the romance and the passion, and the love for the game, the traditions. Even today, we were talking about the way major league players are so sloppily dressed off the field. Their responsibility is not of the player; it is of the ball club, the organization and major league baseball, Bud Selig and major league baseball. That’s why I respect the heck out of Paul Tagliabue in the NFL, David Stern in the NBA. You know what? You come to the field dressed like a professional. When you step out on the court and you’re on the company’s time, MLB’s time, you have the same traditions and standards that they’ve had for the last hundred and thirty years. And you don’t waver.
HT: What about on the field these days with the oversized caps and wearing them crooked?
RD: There shouldn’t be any jewelry on these guys. There shouldn’t be none of that stuff. It’s one thing if you want to have goofy hair, whatever, and stuff like that. I love the long hair and stuff like that, but you should not have baggy pants. You should not have loose fitting uniforms. Everybody should look the same. That’s what the NFL adheres to, that’s what the NBA adheres to, and they have boards of discipline. They have guys that go to every game, walk around during stretching. When you’re on a football field, or you’re on a basketball court, and you’re on a baseball field, if you’re not dressed properly, they should fine you heavily. But there should also be a certain amount of respect from the players for the game. And you saw that in the World Baseball Classic; the Korean, Japanese, Cuban teams.
RD: You didn’t see one guy with his uniform out of place. You didn’t see one guy hot doggin it. When any of them did their drills, and I’d watch the pitchers or the every day players, it was all in unison. It was always like a beautiful ballet or an opera, and that’s what the major leagues should learn from the World baseball Classics.
HT: To me, the undershirt should be a strict part of the uniform. Guys like to wear different color shirts or beat up good luck shirts or whatever. If you’re superstitious and you want to wear the same shirt every day, wear it underneath the uniform shirt.
HT: One thing that was great about your ESPN Radio days was that we got to see the goofy fun side of you, which I’m sure has helped you with your popularity today.
RD: Absolutely, yeah.
HT: You have a lot of fun now on the Best Damn Sports Show Period now right?
RD: That’s where I get my fix of having fun; the Best Damn Sports Show is definitely a blast and there’s never a dull moment on that show. And that was a lot like the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN, whether it was Baseball Tonight or Sportscenter. They were great to me. They treated me with a lot of respect and let me grow into the person I am today, and I wouldn’t be what I’m doing today without ESPN. But XM is serious baseball stuff. It’s for the passionate man and the serious man; and then the Best Damn Sports Show, as far as they allow us to take it is where we’re going to take it.
HT: When you have to get your balls busted on the air, does it make a difference when guys like Salley and Rodney Peete bust your balls because they’ve been there like you have? I mean it must get annoying when Phil the show killer, or Dan, or even Chris Rose try to bust your balls?
RD: Well, not so much because Chris respects the sports; Dan really respects the sports; and Phil is a great kid.
HT: I remember Phil got you pissed a couple of times though.
RD: It was annoying; it was annoying because I think the role that I played on the show, that more times than not, I think they believed that I was that guy.
RD: They never saw the serious guy. They never saw how I worked my ass off to get to where I was. There’s a lot of people over at ESPN and other networks including our own, where the talking head guys have no clue about the difficulty of being a professional athlete and getting to where you are. It has nothing to do with the money. It has everything to do with the work ethic, the discipline and the sacrifice. So broadcasting is broadcasting but professional athletes; and even Olympians and people like Lance Armstrong, there’s a higher respect that I have for a lot of those people. I’m not saying I don’t respect Dan Patrick or Chris Rose, but making jokes over highlights is a hell of a lot different than actually making the highlights, if you can understand what I’m saying. For many years, it lost a lot of respect for people at ESPN and a lot of the people they put on the air, because first of all, those people wouldn’t have the guts to walk into a locker room and say to an athlete’s face what they say over highlights. They joke about professional athletes like you would like guys on your softball team. I have more respect I think with guys on my softball team that I played with my brother and all my friends back in Connecticut than I do a lot of those guys on air, not just for ESPN but a lot of networks.
HT: I don’t think you would’ve made a joke about the ball bouncing on Canseco’s dome and going over the wall for a homerun.
RD: Never! Because you know what? The fact that that happened is not a joke and …
HT: Look at his positive accomplishments!
RD: Nobody in Jose’s day was as good as Jose. Period!
HT: Right. Sportscenter’s fun and entertaining and everything but they’d bring up these sports mis-haps all week long.
RD: You know what? And the way I look at that? Those guys couldn’t carry their jock. On Jose’s worst day, there wasn’t one guy in there that can carry his jock. And that’s the thing that was annoying. The guys that I loved were Mark Schlereth, Mark Malone, the guys who played. Look at Sean Salisbury, people bust his balls about being a backup quarterback. Hey, you play ten years in the NFL buddy, I don’t care if you’re backup quarterback or the third string kicker, you’re in the NFL. I have a certain amount of respect for those guys because you make those teams, you have to be good enough to make those teams and stay on the roster, and there’s not too many of those guys who have played can say that.
HT: Sean takes it very good though.
RD: Yeah, and he does and that’s why I love Sean. The people that I don’t respect are the people who can’t respect the professional athletes because of the jealousy they have. So what they do is when they’re on air, they joke. So it’s like the guys who joke are the guys who couldn’t do it, they couldn’t hack it.
HT: Also, because you’re a nice guy, do they think they can push you?
RD: Oh and that’s the thing. You know what? I was an All-Star; I did all that stuff but that’s in another life for me. That was my baseball….
HT: You talk about crossing the line; some people just go over and become pushy…
RD: The one thing that Dan always had for me was the respect factor. Dan never let anybody try to … Dan was allowed to joke with me because we were friends.
HT: A lot of people went a little too far too.
RD: As far as Dan, he can be an anchor on any of the networks as far as news goes. He’s that talented and his professionalism is second to none. But it was some of the other guys that I worked with, even on Baseball Tonight, and things like that, some of the producers were a joke. It was a joke to me because you get twenty-five, twenty-two year old kids in a production meeting telling me what I should say about baseball, and that’s where it becomes laughable. And I know that John Kruk and Peter Gammons, who’s a Hall of Famer, and guys like that, they sit in those meetings, Bobby Valentine, Jeff Brantley, we used to laugh, Mike Mc Farland. They don’t know anything about the sport of baseball other than what they see on television. And in order to really understand the game, you need to have done the spring trainings and basically the cattle calls in spring training. I’ll never forget when my family came down to spring training when I was in the minor leagues and saw a hundred and eighty kids with my talent fighting for one hundred and twenty jobs. Sixty kids would be packing and their dreams would end. They don’t appreciate that. They have no respect for it. And so a lot of those people that you see on air, behind the scenes, they have no respect for the athletes.
HT: The fact that you moved to XM and FOX, was not just a contractual and financial?
RD: Absolutely not. It got to the point where…
HT: There’s more freedom now?
RD: Yes, there’s definitely … but I can honestly tell you the respect that I’ve gotten at XM and at FOX, and even now I’m doing Saturday’s FOX sports radio, that I started a month ago, I’ve gotten more respect in the last year than I got in seven years with ESPN. It hurts me because it hurts me because I grew up a mile from the ESPN, and you always think that ESPN or FOX should be the two. It’s like the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers of baseball. It’s just that you have to understand that the people that were hiring some of the people that are on there, it’s very political. And what they’ve done to a lot of, and I’m just saying former baseball guys, but the way they treat some of the former football guys, the way they treat some of the former hockey players they ran there, and the former basketball players, they just don’t get it. They think it’s just…’Okay, come on in and do this, that…and we’ll bust your chops and at the end of the day, we should still be friends. They just don’t get it that these guys are used to being warriors and competitive guys that would rip your heart out. And now, all of a sudden, you’ve got some guy that’s twenty-five year old telling you about your sport. It’s laughable to me.
HT: I’m sure a whole bunch of retired guys next year will be ready to take your spot, whether you want to play ball or not. Obviously, you’ve got a lot to offer.
RD: And that was the whole thing, they had no respect for me as far as knowledge of the sport, my preparation and all that stuff. The only time on Baseball Tonight they wanted me to talk about something is when it was controversial, because none of the other guys, and I won’t say all of the other guys. Tim Kurkjian, Peter Gammons, and Jeff Brantley would always give an honest opinion.
HT: You’ve got to be in the trenches every day.
RD: Right. Guys like Rick Sutcliffe that do games and also have the guts and the balls to go down on the field and talk to the players, and be in the clubhouse. There were some other guys, that they wouldn’t form an opinion because basically they want to befriend the ball players. They don’t want to offend anybody. And the one thing that ball players respect is you’re honest. If they stink, you have every right to say that they stink. When they’re doing great, you better tell people out there that they’re doing great. Just give them the credit when they’re due and then when they’re stinking up the joint…Listen, if you’re making ten, fifteen, twenty million or three hundred thousand dollars, you’re making more than the average Joe; and when you’re stinking up the place, I’m going to tell you about it. But there’re guys there, and there’re producers there that didn’t want to go on the air and actually do that. They want to show homeruns, they want to show great highlights, and web gems and make up cute little phrases like ‘walk off home run’. First of all, unless you’ve ever been out there, and given up and I’ll tell you, it’s a game winning or game losing home run. Unless you’ve actually given up one of those, or hit one of those, or been on the field for one of those, it’s a joke that they sit there and talk about it; their own OPS. ESPN made up that stat, you know ‘slugging’, and ‘you’re on base percentage’ to get. It’s a meaningless stat that they think is a cute stat. For me, it’s playing a game.
HT: You told me last time about how you gave up Tim Belcher’s game. He pitched the game of his life and you lost that game for him. That kind of stuff, people should hear more of that.
RD: Exactly, they should see the more human aspect of that.
HT: Try to relate the human stories. Like in the movies.
RD: Try to relate to how devastated you feel when you got to walk in there in front of twenty-four of your peers, and your coaches and the trainers and know that you’re the one that just cost them a win, cost them a championship, cost them a play-off spot and what it’s like to feel like a man to walk into there and those people don’t care what…
HT: They love to show the guy breaking his hand hitting the water cooler over and over.
RD: They miss the big picture. They want to show you the little cute little pictures and try to paint the game in a different way. You know, people that are hanging on to this Barry Bond steroid thing. You know what? I’ve made the analogy on radio and T.V. that when I was eighteen, the drinking age in Connecticut was eighteen, and two years later they changed it to twenty-one. Well, are they going to go back now and arrest me for drinking when I was under age because at 19 and 20 I had a beer? No. It wasn’t illegal then. It wasn’t cheating. And in ’98 to 2003 from the so-called experts, who wrote these books, unless the Federal Government charges Barry Bonds with the crime, it wasn’t cheating in baseball, it wasn’t a crime; and whether or not he did it or not, it shouldn’t be the point. The point is if he’s cheating now…boom…we’ve got to nail him for it.
HT: So in a nutshell, as long as he’s not using now he shouldn’t be accused of any wrong doing?
RD: No! As long as he’s not doing it now if he was working within the rules of major league baseball. The only person, the only entity I blame for the whole steroid thing is major league and the union. Background’s a player rep wanted complete testing; and I’m going to tell you right now has nothing to do with steroids. When I stood up and I was a player rep with the Reds at one of the player rep meetings, I said, ‘We want to test everybody in the union, not just for drugs and all the negatives. How about saving lives? How about some of you who have cancer? How about some of you who have some kind of disease?...you know, could have HIV or Aids? And it was shot down so quick and it was amazing to me. And to come ten or eleven years later, have a congressional hearing on steroids and people think that the game is dirty or cheap, or these records have been lessened or cheapened, to me hurts me personally, because these guys would sacrifice everything they have; their health, their wealth, their fame for one more game; and unless you’ve done that, you can’t understand the sacrifices that these guys go through.
HT: How would you feel if and when Bonds admits that he is still using steroids?
RD: I won’t lose any respect for him. If it was McGwire, Canseco or anybody, you know I’ve been there and if taking steroids would have prolonged my career for one more game, I would have done it.
HT: You know, if a certain vitamin or something was outlawed tomorrow, then we’d all have to go back and say, look….”
RD: Right. It’s the same thing. If you knew now what you know about aspirin and things like that, I mean some of this stuff would be outlawed.
RD: It’s amazing to me that there’s such a hysteria about steroids. So many of these people are not knowledgeable. Now I’ve been in the weight room the last ten years since I’ve retired, and I can tell you that steroids can only take you so far; whether it’s in the weight room, on a baseball field, on a football field. Without that God-given talent, you’re nowhere.
RD: So for people who are not knowledgeable that say…’Oh, well it makes you hit the ball fifty feet further’ or ‘You can throw five miles an hour faster’ but can you throw strikes on steroids? Can you actually get better hand-eye coordination?
HT: But the thing is though, Salley and I had this argument. He said, ‘no, you’re not going to turn warning track power fly ball into a homerun.’ But I say, if you’ve got the talent to do that, ten home runs can be twenty home runs!
HT: He disagreed. He said, ‘no it doesn’t’.
RD: Well, I can also say the way the ball parks are built, the way the balls and the bats with the fifteen to twenty coats of lacquer that make the baseball like aluminum bats now, the way technology has improved the game, and the way they’ve shrunk the ball parks and shrunken the strikes zone, has also improved a lot of guys’ games. And nobody talks about that stuff. Nobody talks about the watered down pitching. There’re guys, there’re are fifty pitchers in the major leagues now that wouldn’t have been drafted when I was playing, and that’s one of the most laughable things that’s going on. There’re guys down there that are throwing balls straight down Broadway to Alex Rodriguez or Bonds saying ‘hit me’. Did Barry Bonds, when he walked over two hundred times, did the steroids help his eye? Did the steroids help his hand-eye coordination when he hit four hundred plus home runs, and stole four hundred plus …
HT: So the percentage of pitches he’s getting, he’s driving out anyway. I mean, that’s an amazing talent and unbelievable stat.
RD: He should be allowed to take steroids anyway for as little as they let him play the game, and they take Barry Bonds’ talent out of the game, it just shows you it’s sad. It’s a sad hysteria that the world is in right now.
HT: So if you had a vote, he’d be a first ballot Hall of Famer?
RD: There’s no doubt.
HT: But Palmeiro, no?
RD: Palmeiro, no doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer. The most laughable thing about Raphael is? Raphael should have come out quickly and said…’I screwed up; I screwed up royally; I tried…
HT: You wouldn’t punish him for that though…
RD: Absolutely not…oh my God. It’s like saying a guy taking Viagra so he can sleep with his wife. Would you be pissed at a guy for doing that? No. You know what? To me, the fact that I pitched so well in the steroid era as people will say, it makes my career look that much better. To me, it’s like, if you have to do anything to enhance your game because I’m good, that makes me feel better about my games.
HT: You mentioned earlier how you knew certain guys were taking ‘roids and you were still blowing them away.
RD: You see, jealousy is such a huge thing in this country. People hate to see people be successful and to have Barry Bonds coming up on the Babe Ruth record and the Hank Aaron record, you know, when Hank Aaron was doing it, there wasn’t a steroid question with Hank Aaron. It was the color of his skin. So they threatened his life. He had to have a guy walk around with a gun to protect his life. There was a hysteria back then that was racial. Now it’s chemical and its steroids and stuff like that. So to me, we’ve changed how much we hate people, but it’s just a different thing we’re now talking about.
HT: Okay, let me ask you … If this is controversial, we can take it out. But could you say for sure that certain closers are on steroids?
RD: No, absolutely not. I couldn’t say that without a shadow of a doubt fact but I’m sure there are probably guys who have tried those treatments though.
HT: Even with the type of injuries that some of the closers are getting these days?
RD: Yeah, but you know what? There’re also signs of guys getting too big, too strong, throwing too hard and doing too much. Just the act of throwing a baseball, you’re going against nature.
HT: What percentage of players do you think are on steroids right now?
RD: Well last year, they caught twelve guys out of twelve hundred with the random testing and testing guys twice a year.
HT: You don’t think that’s to protect the majority of players from a total scandal?
RD: No I’m not a conspiracy theorist. But one thing I do know about major league baseball, they care nothing about the union. They’re not going to protect their people. It was funny when I listened to that one reporter from one of the Boston newspapers absolutely lie to the public and say there were fifty guys that were going to be caught, there were going to be huge names guys that were going to be caught, and never have anybody get caught other than guys like Ryan Franklin and Ring Carter. All these other guys that got caught and Raphie Palmeiro. They got one big fish so far out of twelve hundred major leaguers on the roster. To me that’s nothing. There’s less than one per cent of the major leaguers for all the congressional hearings and all of the stuff that they said. And now in all the sports, we have the toughest drug testing policies and the toughest suspensions of one year. We went from ..’we’ll suspend you for ten games’ to ‘fifty, hundred, to one year’ just because that’s … First of all, that’s another misconception. The players wanted the drug testing. That’s another thing that really upsets me. The players wanted the drug testing. The owners didn’t want it, didn’t care. They weren’t pushing for it in the last agreement.
RD: It was the players who said…’If there’s going to be a work stoppage for putting this in the agreement.’ They went against the union. Marvin Miller, I’ve interviewed him two or three times in the last year. Marvin Miller, who basically is the biggest thing for the union ever, was totally against it. He said..’Don’t ever give in to the owners; don’t ever go back and open up the basic agreement’. He said the players hurt themselves, but it was the players that wanted to clean up the game. And the players, I guarantee it, when ninety nine per cent of the guys were clean and one per cent is dirty, those ninety-nine guys are tired of staying silent. They’re not going to be the silent majority anymore.
HT: Right. You and Dan were really the first guys to talk to Jose Canseco when he announced he was going to write a tell-all book, two years before it actually happened.
HT: I could tell just on the radio that you were really holding back but …
RD: While I was also with Kevin Kennedy, we were the first ones to interview him on XM. He was our first guest when we started our show back in February of ’05. But I didn’t want him to do it from the standpoint of …just not going to talk about yourself, you’re going to injure a lot of people and he hurt a lot of people. It’s unfair.
HT: But at least from a premier player and culprit #1.
RD: I believe that most of the things that Jose said in his book were true, and I’ve never known Jose, and we’re friends, to be a liar. And the one thing I can say about him that at least …
HT: It’s going against the code.
RD: Well, there is a code and there isn’t a code, and I think the one thing that the players respected was that it was something that people had been talking about for over a decade that major league baseball, the union, everybody was turning a blind eye too because they were making so much money, and enough was enough. The last people you want to alienate, and we know that from ’94, are the fans. The game is all about the fans. And last year having seventy-five million people come back and show that they didn’t believe the whole congressional hearing, the best year of fans going to baseball games ever in the history of the game, just shows that people are much smarter than the media perception.
HT: Did Jose do good for baseball?
RD: Oh he did a great service to baseball.
HT: He sacrificed himself.
RD: He sacrificed himself. The guy threw himself on a grenade. He’ll be black-balled forever. He’ll always be the guy that …
HT: He probably doesn’t deserve to be back in baseball again, right?
RD: I have no problem if Jose came back to baseball. The one thing about Jose or Pete Rose, I mean, are they any worse than some of the other people that are in the game? The one thing you want to do is you want to leave the game better than when you found it. And I think Jose, after everything is said and done, he’s put the game in a better place than it was when he was playing.
HT: Right. You know, I’ve got to mention this because I know both you and Salley, and Salley loves Kobe, and Salley would never say anything…well basically would always take Kobe’s side. I respect that. He’s got his back. He’s not going to turn on him. But I remember one time when you guys were talking about Kobe and all of you were giving your opinions, and you went completely against Salley and said …‘no, you’re wrong; this guy’s selfish etc.’ But I remember that moment when I was hoping ‘Dibs won’t let us down; he’ll say it like it is.’ And you went completely against Salley of course. That’s what I love about what you do because you know, Salley’s got Kobe’s back but much like, you’ve got Pete Rose’s back.
RD: I love Pete and I know Pete and he’s a very unselfish person. He would give you the shirt off his back. That’s the one thing about Pete that I love and we all make mistakes. He’s lived in his own purgatory for the last sixteen years and nobody’s had a worse go of it than Pete. Yeah, he can make all the money and sign all the autographs and all that stuff. But the one thing that baseball took away from him was baseball. They won’t allow him in the game; they won’t allow him to coach; they won’t allow him to teach kids the game. That kills him. So at the end of the day when you’re sitting there by yourself and you’re thinking ‘what do I have?’, he doesn’t have the one thing he loves the most and cherishes the most, which is baseball.
HT: He’s arguably the greatest player ever, and he’s still can’t have anything to do with baseball. That’s unbelievable.
RD: I don’t see why there can’t more mercy towards Pete. If anything, use him as a tool and say…’Listen, here’s the greatest example of what not to do’ and use him for the next five years, you’re on probation, and for the next five years, you’re going to go around and talk to kids and high schoolers and college athletes, and professional athletes about the ills of gambling; it’s a disease, it’s an addiction, it’s all the above, and use him talking baseball and allows him at the same time to be a consultant, to still be able to teach and be around the game and things like that. And I don’t understand…
HT: I like that opportunity you guys give Pete on BDSSP.
RD: Yeah, I don’t think he’d ever talk to ESPN again after everything they did, that fake trial B.S., that whole…if you saw me after they did that movie about him, I was there for that. Yeah, I was a part of that whole thing and so much of that was not true. I thought it was a cheap shot at Pete, and that’s one more thing I can say about ESPN that that was in order to make a backer, or get people to watch your show, casting a guy who’s got more personal issues than Pete.
HT: It kind of a dig at him. Okay, real quick…Predictions for 2006, now that spring is through and guys are still coming back from the WBC…Generally across the board do you think A’s look like the team to take it all?
RD: You can’t discount the White Sox. I’d pick the White Sox over everybody.
HT: You think they’ve improved?
RD: Oh….Javier Vasquez to go with that starting rotation, they picked up Jim Thome and if he’s healthy he can have twenty home runs. That’s going to be great. The Frank Thomas thing is behind them. I just truly believe that being the reigning champs and being as talented as they are, I think with that rotation…the A’s have to be there in the top five…but …
HT: And Iguchi and Crede, those guys are going to be even better.
RD: There’re going to get even better and I also think Bryan Anderson, if he just has an average or above average season, can be a stud. The kid that took over Aaron Rowand.
RD: So they’re able to trade Rowand to bring Bryan Anderson in. I mean that’s the thing. I think that they’re as talented or more talented the last year, and they were one of the toughest teams to beat last year. So I think….
HT: And AJ’s got the attitude you know.
RD: They have a swagger. That’s one thing I like about the White Sox.
HT: Yanks, are they a possibility or a question mark?
RD: I think the Yanks could fall this year. You know, that eight-straight division titles I think can go down.
RD: Yeah, I think the Blue Jays can catch em.
HT: Oh yeah?.
RD: Oh, absolutely.
HT: The Red Sox have a ton of question marks too don’t they?!
RD: The Red Sox have a ton of question marks. They’re not as strong. But the Yankee’s rotation, Johnson’s old, Mussina’s still big-choke artist, Pavano’s health’s in question, Jarret Wright is going to add nothing, Small’s hurt already, Ching Ming Wang will add but…
RD: I think Shaun Chacon is going to be great. I think he’s going to be great. His change up and his attitude are perfect for the New York Yankees. With that offense, you give him six or seven runs a game, Chacon wins twenty games. I truly believe that.
HT: What about the middle relief?
RD: I think Farnsworth’s going to be excellent. I think their bullpen’s going to be excellent. I think that’s something that was hurting them last year but as far as that rotation, that rotation’s just shot. I think this is the year that they crumble.
HT: What about the National, the Cards, Mets, Astros…?
RD: National, the Cards, they lost a lot. You lose Matt Morris, Walker and Reggie Sanders and all those guys, I mean, then Grudzalonick on top of that. I mean him and Eckstein were a nice double-play combination.
HT: You got Puljols and Rolen.
RD: Rolen really needs to come back but I think a great pick up was Braden Looper to set up Isringhausen and that makes the names of the games tough. I think they’ll be fine. I think the Astros aren’t any stronger than they were last year. I definitely think the Cubs are hurting if Woods and Prior start the season on the DL. I like the Cardinals in the Central. I like the Dodgers in the West. I think they’ve gotten a little bit better than the Padres and I think the Braves are going to be tough to beat in that East. You know, the Mets have really improved but I will never go against the Braves when you get when you get fourteen straight division titles.
HT: Who are your dark horses? The Angels?
RD: I love the Indians in the American League. I love the talent that they have on that ball club, and I’m a really big fan of the Milwaukee Brewers. They’ve done an awful lot in the last few years talent-wise. I think they’re going to have a kick-ass team.
HT: You think a small market team can stick around till September?
RD: I think if the Milwaukee Brewers get close and they’re close to the wild card team, they could shock a lot of people. And then if you can go out and add maybe a good starter, and they’ve got the bullpen, and they’ve got the offense and defense so they could win.
HT: A L West?
RD: A L West? Well I think the Angels are going to be tough again. I think Jeff Weaver’s pitching good in the spring. You’re going to have Jarod Weaver and if he makes that rotation or he gets called up there in the season to go with Bartolo Colon, Cy Young guy, I think that they’re going to have a kick-ass team.
HT: Was WBC a positive?
RD: Oh absolutely. Close to a million fans, you saw some great baseball from a lot of the foreign teams; the Koreans, the Japanese, the Cubans, the…..
HT: What needs to be done for the next WBC to be more successful?
RD: I would like to see it every two years. I hate the format of three, four years. Every two years would be way better. People were so into it because spring training exhibition baseball is worse than exhibition football.
HT: I heard that the ratings in Japan were unbelievable.
RD: Oh, absolutely. I played over in Japan in the All-Star tour fifteen years ago. But the thing about it is, that I just love the whole team thing, the whole Korean team thing, the whole Japanese team thing. There’s just an honor factor there too. There’s just an honor about their people and their tradition.
HT: Right. And I’ll tell you that Korean team was not that good compared to the Japanese. This Japan team, for first time, this was a real true All-Star team from both leagues, even though we didn’t have Matsui and …
RD: I just thought that they out-classed us. I mean, everybody’s talking about the small ball. I just thought they were just from Sadaharu Oh, and all the way through their lineup; the whole Korean thing. Even the Cubans, you know.
HT: The Koreans beat everybody with the major league pitchers that everyone was down on.
RD: Yep, yep. Because you know why? When you’re one through nine guys all can do the exact same things, they can all but, they can all run through bases, they can all hit the cut-off guy, they played flawless baseball to the most extent you can do, and an occasional error here and there; but they’re all so disciplined, that’s my favorite thing to watch. If you could ever think about doing the best job as a coach and having one through twenty-five on your roster all be the same, that’s why I love the WBC.
HT: But it takes the U.S. to really show up for continued success.
RD: You know what?...Not to offend the U.S. at all, because it’s very hard but Buck Martinez’s hands were tied. They made him take a lot of superstar guys, a lot of big name guys. Next time, we need to throw guys out there, especially against the Japanese and Korean team that are well versed in fundamentals. David Eckstein type players that don’t try to do too much; Brian Roberts, Chawn Figgins; we didn’t have any of those guys on the team.
HT: You know, I’ll tell you what, because I know the Japanese teams, I mean they had Chiba Lotte Marines, ….That team, they were eight, probably Bobby Valentine it seems, those were like twenty-one year olds, possibly like rookies last year, but they played together. You know, it’s like having the Chicago White Sox team out there peppered with a Clemens and Jeter and whatever. You know what I mean?
RD: Let’s put it this way, I’d rather have twenty-five guys that play together than ten super stars. And you saw that that’s why the Japanese won.
RD: You get the Cuban team; the Cuban team’s the exact same way. That whole Cuban team; yeah there were about five guys that were excellent players but maybe two or three that could play in the major leagues here, or even play in the Japanese major leagues. But as far as team, one through twenty-five, the guys in the rotation, the guys that were in the bullpen being able to pitch every day and pitch five innings out of the bullpen and not question your coach. That’s baseball; that’s fundamental sacrifice for the team baseball, and that’s what I love.
HT: It’s almost like being back in the high school days. You have to do whatever the team needs you to do.
RD: Absolutely. You do whatever the coach asks of you without question. And I think that’s what we do too much here. And the one thing about why the Dominicans, the Venezuelans, Mexicans…they’re all part of our league… so when you splint the United States, Dominican, Venezuelan, and Puerto Rican, Mexican, and all those teams, you splint them apart, yeah it’s nice to see those big name guys but there’s no unity there. The Japanese team, the Korean team, even the Chinese Taipei team, there’s a certain amount of ‘we’ve been together, we’ve played international baseball’…We had no clue what we were getting into when we did that.
HT: Well, Japanese were All-Stars but they all spent time training and preparing together.
RD: Oh yeah. The Korean and Japanese teams both had six weeks to prepare but the Cubans were in the middle of their season. So they were already playing for half their season before they came into this.
HT: Okay, finally… Do you think baseball is dying among the American youth?
RD: Absolutely, absolutely!
HT: The best athletes are going to…?
RD: I don’t even think that. I think all the best athletes are sitting in front of television and they’re playing video games, and actually imagining that they’re playing but they’re watching it on the T.V. screen. The one thing I would love to see, parents including myself, is to just get rid of the video games in the house, make the kids go outside and play…
HT: Can you predict the future of the game?
RD: The future of the game… Well I think they just showed you the future of the game. It’s going to come from Japan, and Korea, Cuba, the Netherlands; it’s going to be a wake-up call and it’s going to….
HT: Just like the NBA players are coming from Europe and Argentina now.
RD: The thing is nobody is more developed especially technology-wise than Japan, but we’re going to have to go to far-reaching countries to go to places that kids don’t sit in front of computers every day, that they’re willing to go out there and experiment in baseball, see what they can do, talk to Bruce Hurst and Jim LeFevre that have been over in China for three years. Out of 1.3 billion people, they can only find a thousand kids that were willing to try baseball. Ten years from now, hopefully, we get fifty thousand, hundred thousand, a million kids in China that want to play baseball and a few years after that, two or three decades from now, a lot of them will be playing here. Our society is such a text-message computer oriented country that it wasn’t like thirty years ago. These kids, there is no motivation, even my thirteen year old son to get his butt out and play baseball. He’s playing video games that are so realistic. He’s in the game. He believes that playing the Madden game or playing a war game or playing the new Godfather game, that he’s actually a part of that game doing something; where in reality, he’s sitting on his butt doing absolutely nothing just moving his fingers.
RD: That is what’s going to be the problem in trying to get baseball back out of the houses and into the streets.
Dibs' 'ICHIRO' kanji tatoo on his butt cheek. Dibs manned up and got the 'Ichiro' tatoo for an on-air bet he lost to co-host Dan Patrick. He bet Dan that Ichiro wouldn't hit .300 in his rookie year. The great Ichiro hit .350, lead all votes to become an All Star, was AL Rookie of the Year, and MLB MVP!