Schilling and ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Crew preview MLB 2012

From ESPN –

SPN Baseball Tonight Conference Call Transcript

ESPN hosted a media conference call today with Baseball Tonight commentators Karl Ravech, Curt Schilling, John Kruk and Barry Larkin to discuss the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season.

Q. I wanted to see if your analysts can weigh in on the potential World Series matchup again of the Cardinals and the Rangers.  In Oklahoma those are our two favorite teams.  What are the chances of either of those teams making it back?

BARRY LARKIN:  I think the Cardinals, I’m going to really watch what happens with the Cardinals this year, simply because of the loss of Albert Pujols.  I think there’s enough pitching if a Chris Carpenter does eventually get healthy and shows he’s able to do the things he’s capable of doing, but I think any time you lose a guy like that in the middle of the lineup regardless of who you go out and get just changes the complexity of the team, and I think the fact they have the new manager, as well, I think it’s going to be tough for them to get back.  So I don’t know about the Cardinals as far as I am concerned.

CURT SCHILLING:  I think Albert Pujols is going to have a direct impact on both of those clubs, both leaving St. Louis and being now the chief rival of the Rangers.  They didn’t just lose Albert but they lost Tony La Russa and they lost some of the things that made them special.  Like Carpenter’s injury is obviously a big deal, and he could pitch 150 innings, 200 innings or five, I don’t know.  That’s such a scary place to start the season.

You know, Texas, I don’t see a reason why they can’t go back.  I love what they did.  I love what they’ve done.  Yu Darvish is going to be an interesting story for I think the entire year because I don’t think anybody since Nomo has come over as an Asian player, on the mound anyway, and done what the expectations were.

I think there are a lot of other teams in the mix.  I think you’re going to see a lot of ‑‑ the extra wild card is going to obviously change some things, I think for the better, but I think there are a lot of teams and competition for the final two seats at the table this year.

JOHN KRUK:  Yeah, as soon as you start counting the Cardinals out because Carpenter might not pitch, they won the World Series last year without Adam Wainwright, and he was probably as good a pitcher as any they had, including Carpenter.  I think David Freese, if he can build on what he did in the postseason ‑‑ are they ever going to make up for the loss of Albert?  Absolutely not, it’s impossible.  But I think that the step they took with Freese, and to me Jason Motte is a big key, also.  What he did in the postseason to finally, I think, prove to the Cardinals’ organization and new manager Mike Matheny that we have a closer now.

Last year they lost so many games in the season because they couldn’t figure out who could close a game.  I think that they’re in a good spot right now with that closer spot with Motte because of the confidence he had with a great postseason that he had.

Can they go back?  I mean, history says no.  You know, but who knows.  And I agree with both these guys about the Rangers.  There’s no reason why they can’t go back.  They are that strong a team.  And if Joe Nathan can close and Feliz can start, then they’re better off than they were last year.

CURT SCHILLING:  I don’t know how these guys feel about this, there’s two X factors to watch.  I was a huge Mike Matheny fan when he was playing.  I’m going to be very curious to see how he handles this job, and I think quietly under the radar, and I’m not sure how it happened under the radar, but Greg Maddux is in and around the Texas Ranger pitching staff, and I would tell you that that to me right there means good things, not just the starters but that entire staff.  This guy talks about pitching at another level, and I think he’s going to help them, those young guys, get better.

KARL RAVECH:  I would say that conservatively the Cardinals may be the fifth best team in the National League, and the Rangers could be anywhere between the third and sixth best team in the American League, given the fact that the Cardinals came out of nowhere last year, I think predictions as far as their preseason goes, relative to injuries and trades, are almost impossible.  But I would doubt either of those teams get to the World Series this year based on the discussion today.

JOHN KRUK:  And let’s not forget Dave Duncan is not there, either.  That’s big.

Q. I wanted to ask Kurt and Barry and John about the two big things that happened in the American League, Prince Fielder going to the Tigers and Albert Pujols going to the Angels, how you think those guys will fit in with their new teams, and does that make them World Series A‑list contenders?

BARRY LARKIN:  I’ll talk about Prince because I had a chance to work out with Prince.  Prince is on a mission, and he looks good, and Spring Training ‑‑ going into Spring Training, he felt like he was kind of up in the air, and then he gets the opportunity to sign with Detroit, feels good about it, really came out of nowhere to be quite honest, at least as far as I know, and I knew.  We didn’t speak about Detroit, and so when he signed there, it was interesting.

But anyway, I think Prince is going to be impactful wherever he goes, and obviously in Detroit, but you saw what happened in Spring Training with Miguel Cabrera, and I know that’s a ‑‑ not a situation that happens often where the third baseman catches the ball off the chin, but just watching his technique at attacking the ground ball, it’s going to be really interesting to see how he does.

Now, certainly being in the prime of his career, I’m sure he’s not going to go out there and play scared or play tentatively, but it’s really going to be interesting to see how him playing third base is going to affect him offensively, and I’m not saying that in a negative way, I’m not saying that his numbers may get better or worse, but any time you go on that side of the infield and you’re playing that position and you get hit in the face with a ball, it affects you, and I don’t care who it is.  It affected me at shortstop when I got hit in the jib with a ground ball.

And not only did it affect me when I was out there playing defense, it affected me when I was ‑‑ getting ready to go out there and play on defense, but when I was out there hitting.  I know Miguel Cabrera.  I know he is a strong‑willed individual, but it’s going to be really interesting to see how that plays out.

It’s also going to be interesting to see if he struggles, what moves they make to try to get him out of that struggle, which could eventually impact Prince at first base.

That’s what I’m looking at.  But I think Prince is going to obviously make an impact because the man is on a mission, and I think now it’s a situation where he wants to prove to everybody that he is well worth the money, which could be interesting to see, as well, because I know all the guys that are on this phone call know that any time you go out there and try to prove something based on what’s happening off the field, it kind of opens you up for failure.

So it’ll be just interesting.  Those are the dynamics that I’m looking at when thinking about Prince and Detroit.

CURT SCHILLING:  I think they were both A‑list contenders before these deals.  I think the Victor Martinez trade I don’t want to say nullifies bringing in Prince, but they were a potentially different team with Prince in that lineup and Victor and Miguel, as well, but I think they were both A‑list contenders.  I fully expect Albert Pujols to be in the top five in the MVP voting at the end of the year, and what that means with that pitching staff in Anaheim, I think Texas has a clear‑cut challenge for that divisional title.

But again, you go back to the fact that there’s another wild card team, I would be stunned if either of these teams isn’t in the postseason.

JOHN KRUK:  I agree with those guys.  The thing that concerns me with Miguel Cabrera, like Barry said, he takes one off the face, can he come back from that.  But if and when he does, we think he’s going to be fine.  How many at‑bats is he going to lose if they have to take him out for defense in the seventh inning if they have a lead?  That to me is a concern.  Can he lose a couple ‑‑ 100 at‑bats this year because of being taken out for defense?  You know, so his numbers could be down.

I think Prince could be the MVP of the American League.  I just think he’s that good a player.  I think he’s one of those guys to me that seems like he has something ‑‑ not that he has to live up to a contract because his numbers dictate it.  He got that money prior to this year.  I just think that he’s one of those guys that is going to stand up and say, you know what, I don’t care what they’re paying me, 30, 40 homers, 120, 130 RBIs with this team is what I’m going to do just because that’s what I’m capable of.

The Angels, the only thing that concerns me with the Angels, yes, their starting staff is phenomenal, and now with Albert and if Kendry Morales comes back, if he can play anywhere near what he did a couple years ago, their offense is going to be significantly better with those two additions.

The back end of their bullpen sometimes scares me.  They had a lot of issues last year, a lot of blown saves, and Curt can ‑‑ you’re a pitcher, and all of a sudden you start blowing saves at the end of games, it can wear on you.

CURT SCHILLING:  Yeah, two things you don’t want to do at the club is lose games defensively and lose games late, and both of those teams, I think Detroit is going to be challenged defensively.  I don’t know if it’s going to be enough to affect them in the standings, and I think that losing games late could be a bugaboo for the Angels.  A lot of it is how you get out of the gate.

Q. I wanted to ask all you guys what you thought of the Ryan Braun episode in the offseason, and if you think it will impact him at all, his performance this season.

KARL RAVECH:  I thought that the Braun press conference was handled beautifully in the things that he said.  I thought that he went way overboard in some of the things that he said with regards to sort of singling out the courier.  I think the impact on Ryan is going to be how he is looked at by other Major League Baseball players, several of whom I think feel as if he got away with something.

I don’t think it’s going to impact him individually with his ability to hit the baseball, which he’s always been able to do, and field the baseball.  So I would say that I have very mixed feelings.  It’s not a positive or a negative, but I think that the impact is going to be felt in the way that others perceive him and treat him, but I don’t think ‑‑ I think he’s going to be able to compartmentalize it enough and continue to succeed.

The biggest issue around Ryan Braun to me is the fact that Prince Fielder is not there to protect him in the lineup.  That may be the biggest adverse affect on his ability to put up the numbers he’s put up.  But again, I thought what he said was eloquently said, I just think he said things he shouldn’t have said.

BARRY LARKIN:  I’d like to add to that.  I think you’re absolutely right.  You know, one thing about Ryan, and Ryan is an enigma because Ryan cares about what other people feel and think, not that it affects him in a negative way, but he is a relationship guy.  Ryan Braun is one of those guys that you want to go talk to him because he’s such a positive, positive guy, and being in Spring Training and speaking to some guys about the whole situation, Karl, once again, you are absolutely right; some guys believe that he got away with something.  They don’t know what it was, but he got away with something.  So they are going to look at him in a different light, and some of those relationships probably will be strained.

I don’t think that’s going to affect him.  And once again, Karl, to echo what you said, I think the fact that Prince Fielder is not there protecting him is going to be the biggest thing he’s going to have to deal with.

CURT SCHILLING:  I would agree.  I think the Prince Fielder aspect is probably the biggest performance thing.  This is going to affect Ryan Braun however Ryan Braun allows it to affect him.

Going off tangent, as a former player rep and someone who was in labor negotiations, this was our worst nightmare.  This was our dream scenario and worst nightmare scenario when we talked about drug testing was we were sworn to and committed to the privacy piece of this, and I have yet to see that actually work.  It seems to me like anything and everything from an information perspective is available to the highest bidder, and part of the reason I think the players, in addition to wanting to clean up the game, agreed to do this was there was a lot of trust being imparted on the ownership and the people handling the testing, and I think it’s failed miserably.

I don’t think we’re far off from at some point down the road finding out who the 103 players are that were on the list, as well, because this stuff should not have been public, ever, and we continually are spinning our wheels and news cycles around this stuff day after day, and it’s sad.

JOHN KRUK:  Yeah, I mean, I agree with Curt.  These things are supposed to be kept in confidentiality, but yet it seems like as soon as something happens, one side or the other is trying to make themselves look better by releasing information or a source releasing information.  You know, if it’s supposed to be kept confidential, then someone should be fired for letting all this information out.  You know, the 102 names, like Curt said, no one is ever supposed to know, but yet somehow, some way, some of these names started leaking out, and more will be coming, and we all know that eventually the whole list is going to be out.

How does someone keep a job if these leaks keep jobs?  You can get into a whole scenario of how this stuff happened, but the bottom line is with Ryan Braun, what he did, who knows.  He says he didn’t do it, but the testing said he did do it.  He’s exonerated.  You can cry over it.  If you’re a Cardinals fan or another team besides Milwaukee in the central, you’re upset about it.

But the bottom line is it’s over.  He’s going to be able to play.  He’s going to be allowed to play a full season, so we have to live with it and accept it, and hopefully Aramis Ramirez can help him in the lineup and get Milwaukee back to the postseason.

Q. Curt, John and Barry, as you guys know, the Pirates for years have been selling the future, but you also know that own one of the most infamous records in sports, 19 losing seasons.  Do you think the team they put on the field this year can end that streak, or are they a few years away?

BARRY LARKIN:  I think losing is a mindset, and I think that is the toughest thing to change.  And certainly we can see the attitude last year, and we saw the great start that they got off to last year, and I think that’s what it takes.  But you have to continue that.

Eventually it’s no longer ‑‑ it’s about the X’s and O’s and getting it done on the field, and some of the things that were happening earlier in the season weren’t being executed later in the season.  It’s attention to detail, and that’s certainly what they were able to do last year and early in the season.

Now, I think that A.J. Burnett has a commitment to this club, to bring someone who has had some success.  I think Bedard can certainly help out, as well.

But it’s a mindset, and you have to change that mindset, and the only way to do that is to have success.  You can’t have success in the half season.  No one has won the championship winning just the half season.  So they’re going to have to continue to build on what they were able to do last year and just keep executing, and that’s the biggest thing.  I think that was the thing that I saw last year, the difference between what happened early in the season and late in the season.

Clint Hurdle really paid a lot of attention to detail.  They started in Spring Training and continued that.  I asked the question personally, “Why in the world would you go to Pittsburgh?”  He said, “because I like what we have here,” and he really, truly meant that.  To see them execute, like I said, at the beginning of the season last year was nice to see, but they have to continue to get it done.

It’s just a mindset.  I remember the years in Cincinnati when we won, it was simply because we all wanted to win, but it was the fact that we were able to continue to stay focused in order to execute late in the season.  That’s the only way you win.  If they can do that, they’ve got a chance, and if they can’t, it’ll be 20 years.

CURT SCHILLING:  I mean, this hurts.  As a born‑and‑raised Pirate fan, it’s been painful to watch.  I don’t see any way that they’re going to be able to contend this year.

I know they’ve got some nice pieces.  I know Clint, and I know the other guys that know him know that Clint is a motivational speaker guy.  He’s about positive frame of mind and about keeping things positive, but these guys can tell you as everyday players, you can’t stay positive when you’re continually getting your brains beat in.  It’s impossible to do.

And the challenge is if you want to look at it realistically, their opening day starter is a guy that the Red Sox were trying to throw into their No. 5 spot last year for three or four September starts, and their No. 2 guy is a guy that somebody was willing to pay millions and millions and millions of dollars for him to go play for somebody else.

If those guys can take that personally and go out and play with chips on their shoulder, then you know what, you’ve got a little different ballgame.  But there are so many challenges for them to do what they do.  They have to ‑‑ in some ways they need to follow the Tampa’s and the Oakland’s and create a Minor League system that’s throwing out player after player year after year from the draft and build that way, because they’re not showing capability or desire to go out and spend big money on free agents, which is fine.

But that also means they’re not going to be able to retain very talented, very young players past that six‑year mark.  So their window is small, but right now I don’t think it’s even open for them to get in yet.

KARL RAVECH:  I think they’re going in the right direction.  And this is no knock on Jim Tracy and John Russell, the guys who preceded Cliff.  But when you have young players, especially it seems like in this day and age, young players are coddled now.  I think Clint came into his first press conference and said we’re going to win and we’re going to win now, and he put the onus on these young kids, it’s time for you to step up and start playing.  And like Barry and Curt said, yes, for the first half of the season they were unbelievable, but reality does set in after a while, that you are what you are and over 162 games it’s going to play out just exactly what type of team you are.

With that being said, I don’t know if they can finish .500 this year, but their chances got better when Albert and Prince left the division.  So if they’re ever going to do it, this is the year to do it, because pretty much every team got weaker.

You know, if there’s an opportunity, if you’re a Pirates fan, you’d better hope it’s this year.

CURT SCHILLING:  But we talk about the Pirates and we always talk about young players.  Who’s the young player on this team?  Tabata, Pedro Alvarez?  It’s not like they’re spring chickens.  Nate McLouth is back there, I’m not sure of the other outfielders.  McCutcheon is not a rookie; Neil Walker had a great season; Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes?  I mean, Rod Barajas is the starting catcher and then you’ve got veteran, veteran, veteran on the starting staff, and with Joel Hanrahan throwing 100 at the back of the bullpen.  So it’s like, why, because the talent has always been there, I’ve thought.  I think it’s just a mindset.

And somehow, you guys said it, Clint Hurdle, he certainly is a motivational guy, but you know what, if you can’t motivate yourself past 81 games, there’s a problem.  They really need to look at what’s going on there because you have to start making excuses at some point, and I know they’re trying to bring people in and trying to make some things happen, but that young excuse only happens when you’re really young, and I don’t know if they’re really, really young anymore.

Q. You all played in the National League West at some point, and I was curious about your thoughts on the effect of the Dodgers’ sale on the rest of the division, and with the Giants in particular, with the big rivalry between the teams.  Any thoughts on whether that might turn into a high‑priced show like Yankees‑Red Sox?

CURT SCHILLING:  Well, I think that the Dodgers are making a statement.  I mean, if you listen to anything that Magic said, I think they’re going to put the rest of the league on notice, and it won’t be next year.  It’s going to be now.

I think it’s great for baseball, great for that division.  They’re going to change the bar, raise the bar over the next 12 to 24 months, and when you’re doing that from a place of strength, which I think they are, they’ve got a reigning Cy Young guy and MVP candidate to build around and now they’ve obviously got capital to go out and make moves and be aggressive, and I think with that ownership group, I think when he talked about this next offseason with the Cole Hamel’s and the Matt Cain’s going out on the market, I think you’re going to see the Yankees and the Red Sox and maybe the Phillies, but you’re going to hear the Dodgers in that conversation I think much more going forward than you did in the last couple years.

BARRY LARKIN:  I think it’s a tough read for me.  I think the fan experience will be better.  I think Magic and his group will certainly try to make it fun, and I’m sure Magic will try to put his own twist into the experience in Dodger Stadium.  I’m looking forward to that.

But as far as on the field is concerned, fiscal responsibility is fiscal responsibility, and they’re going to have to spend their dollars wisely and be able to look at where their dollars are spent at this particular time.  Certainly spending that type of money, you’re not going out there just to show face, you’re going out there to win.  As Curt said, I think you will see them being players, but once again, you talk about a mindset, when is the last time that they legitimately put a team on the field and thought, okay, we’re going to win this thing?

It’ll be interesting.  Certainly Cy Young, MVP guy, you certainly have the core there, and it would just ‑‑ it will be interesting to watch.  That’s one of my story lines that I am going to be watching, not so much this year but certainly in the next few years, to see what kind of play they have as far as going after ‑‑ putting forth that team that’s going to be the team with that marquee player or those marquee players together on the field.

JOHN KRUK:  Well, I’m happy for Magic.  We got a chance to get to know him doing basketball with ESPN, so I am happy for him that he’s getting this opportunity.  And yeah, you know, if they’re going to go out and spend money and not have to overpay but pay significant money to get free agents to come in there and help them win and that’s what he’s all about, then it’s great for baseball.  It’s great for everyone else.

When the Dodgers are a good team, it’s great for us, too, television wise, ratings wise.  So we’re going to get a little selfish here, and my TV head is coming on and we’re going to talk about ratings.  The Dodgers on TV rate if they’re good.  If they’re not, who cares?

But I think Magic, if you know him as a player, if you knew him in the business world, he wants to come out on top, and he’s going to do everything he can to get out on top.  Now it’s just about will players want to go there and play.

Q. Karl, you, Curt and Buster just interviewed Magic on Baseball Tonight.  Do you want to jump in on this?

KARL RAVECH:  I think that the optimism is well founded because Magic has been as successful as he’s been on the court and off the court.  You think you have to guard that optimism with probably the only other guy that was more successful on the court, and you could argue equally successful off the court, is also the owner of a sports franchise, and Michael Jordan’s basketball team stinks.  He’s going to try to change the culture there, he’s all about winning, but building a baseball team is probably more difficult than a basketball team.

To me what Magic made it sound like to us is that the Giant rivalry is significant, but his rivalry is going to be with the Yankees and the Red Sox, and he’s not going to try to win only nationally, he’s going to try to win internationally.  That was my take from what Magic had to say today.

Q. A couple of quick things:  One, as most of you have played against Jamie Moyer, can I get some thoughts from the panel on Moyer?  It looks like he has a good chance to make the Rockies as a fifth starter.  What is your reaction to Moyer’s comeback?  And then the second question, just how you think the Rockies will do this season.  Obviously they’ve gotten a lot older with their everyday lineup.

CURT SCHILLING:  Yeah, I could not be more impressed.  You know, right now my life at 45, the challenge for me is getting out of bed in the morning, and the challenge for him is whether he can get into the seventh or eighth inning of a Major League Baseball game.  I am so proud to call him a friend and see what he’s doing.  That can be nothing but a positive for that staff, to have his wisdom.  And Jamie is a coach; make no mistake about it.  He’s all about being a part of a staff, having that staff become his group of kids and guys and making the pitchers around him better.

It’s an incredibly great story, and I think it’s going to be a huge plus for that staff as a whole.

BARRY LARKIN:  I agree with you, Curt.  I think it’s going to be an absolutely fantastic thing for Jamie.  When Jamie spent time with us last year at Baseball Tonight, we were asking him the question about is he going to come back next year, and he said no, I’m not coming back.  We all kind of played around with him like, really?  He was like, no, really, I’m going to go pitch.  So his conviction is incredible.

Curt, you said something, he’s a coach.  There is something to be said about pitching in the Big Leagues and not breaking 85, and I don’t know if ‑‑ that’s no disrespect to Jamie, but I don’t know if Jamie is throwing 85 miles an hour or not, but he’s getting guys off.  I saw something about someone wrote something and said slow, slower and slowest, and I think just that alone, the fact that he’s able to go out there and compete and win with that kind of stuff, or lack of stuff, I think that absolutely helps guys around you.  So I think it’s an absolutely positive thing on and off the field.

JOHN KRUK:  If I’m a young pitcher and I throw 85 and I’ve got to watch Jamie Moyer go out there with 82 and win, you have to feel good about what you’re featuring out there.  If you can figure out, wait a minute, how does he do that, and I think if you ask Cole Hamels how his career changed with having Jamie as a teammate, if Cole doesn’t say he helped tremendously, then Cole didn’t pay much attention to a lot of things.

You know, it would be to me like watching a hitter go out there with a hand that’s broken and not be able to take a full swing but yet he hits .320 every year with 20 bombs.  You’re going to say wait a second how are you doing that.  Well, I’m doing it with my brain.  If you’re throwing 95 with a brain, like our esteemed colleague Curt Schilling could, there’s a reason why people are successful, and I think these young pitchers have to follow what Jamie is doing and just say, with my stuff if I pitch like him with my stuff, how can I not win at least 15 games?

KARL RAVECH:  I think calling Curt esteemed is one thing, but I think that our guys are being really nice to the Rockies.  I don’t think there’s a team that should worry more about its starting pitching maybe in baseball than the Rockies should.  They can score runs, but I really don’t think if you look around the majors, and if you just want to focus on your division, it pales in comparison to what Arizona and Los Angeles and San Francisco throw out there.  I think that there’s a huge worry about the Rockies’ starting staff compared to any team in their division and most teams in baseball.

Q. What does the rest of the panel think of the Rockies’ chances this year?  Not just pitching but the everyday lineup.  Even with Blake gone they’re going to be an average age of over 30.  They’ll be basically the Yankees of the National League in terms of an everyday lineup age.

JOHN KRUK:  And they’re playing in probably the toughest division now.  The National League West is tough.  You look at the Diamondbacks, and Karl, you’re absolutely right.  You look at the starting staffs on all those different teams, and you lock at the Rockies’ starting staff, and when you face the Colorado Rockies, it’s not necessarily about their starting staff.  Certainly they have to not allow you to score eight runs and they can score nine, and like you said, their offensive team or defensive team is getting older.  But it’s not always just about your team, it’s about who you’re competing with, and they’re competing in a very tough, tough division.

CURT SCHILLING:  I don’t think they have a chance to make the postseason this year, not with that rotation, no.

JOHN KRUK:  I agree.  We were talking about Jamie and what his impact can be.  If you’re a young pitcher and you can’t learn from him, then that’s your problem.  No, they’re not going to ‑‑ it would shock me if they compete in this division, it really would.

Q. Just to talk about the Dodgers again, obviously it’s a feel‑good story here in the LA area, but from a practical standpoint I’m kind of wondering if there’s maybe almost too much emphasis on Magic.  How much impact do you think he’ll actually have?  Obviously he’s a minority owner, he’s going to be kind of the face of this ownership group, but he’s said he’s not the baseball man in this operation.  What kind of thoughts do you have about that?

KARL RAVECH:  I think when Magic answered the question to us on Baseball Tonight, he said his office is going to be at Dodger Stadium, and he ultimately is selling the Dodgers to any free agent.  He’s selling the Dodgers to the country.  He’s selling the Dodgers overseas.  There are very few pitch men who can attract probably players, who can sell something like Magic can.  But they also brought in, and they have Stan Kasten, who for every year that the Braves won the division title, he was an integral part of that with John Schuerholz.  They have a real baseball guy there, and you take the package as a whole with Magic, with the money that Walter brings and with Kasten’s baseball acumen, the player development that the Dodgers hopefully will work on in Latin American countries where they’ve kind of lacked a little bit, with Ned Colletti who’s done a really good job given what he’s had to deal with the last couple years, and hopefully Don Mattingly continues to learn on the job and takes from the men that he had as managers when he was a player and when he was on the Yankee bench as a coach.

The formula is there for success, and Magic, if he brings the assets that we know he can bring, you wouldn’t look for Magic to be the baseball guy.  They have baseball people, but I’d sign up for any organization that has Magic on my team.  Magic wasn’t really looked on to score all the points for the Lakers; he was supposed to set up the other guys, but boy, when somebody got hurt, he played center and helped win a championship and scored a lot of points.

He’s a winner, and that’s what the takeaway should be from Magic as it relates to this baseball team.

JOHN KRUK:  If you’re a free agent and Magic Johnson calls you and says, hey, I’d love for you to come out to LA and talk to us, how do you not even go?  You would go.  There’s a lot of teams ‑‑ we X’d this team off the list, we are going to X this team off the list, we’re going to X this team.  Magic calls you, you erase the X and go see it.  He’s Magic.  That’s what he can bring to this organization.

We said it before, Curt said it and Barry said it; with Kasten and with Kershaw the foundation is there, the nucleus is there for a great team.  It’s now how do you piece together the other parts to make it a complete team, because right now they’re to me far from being a complete team.

Can Magic do that?  Who knows.  Can Stan Kasten help with that?  I don’t know how much ‑‑ first of all, it’s hard to spend enough money this year to make them competitive this year.  They’re going to be good, but are they going to be competitive?  Now, this winter is going to be the telltale sign.  How are they going to go about all the free agents that are available and who do they bring in?

CURT SCHILLING:  Do not undersell the winning aspect of this.  Athletes, I don’t care what sport you play, winning athletes all talk the same language, and as someone who runs my own business of 400 people, I can tell you this:  It’s never about what I know or what I do, it’s about who I surround myself with.  Magic is a guy ‑‑ he’s the face of this and the voice of this right now for all the reasons you want him to be.  They’re trying to ‑‑ they’ve gone from the outhouse to the penthouse in a lot of people’s eyes, and that’s going to be free agents, as well.  There’s some brilliant baseball people around and involved in this that have won before.  I mean, this guy is about winning.

He can go into the clubhouse and stand in front of a group of guys in July when they’re going 0 and 8 and they’re playing like crap and he can say, listen, unacceptable, and this is how things are going to change, not a lot of owners have ever had that ability.  Magic played in a really good situation when he was at the Lakers for an owner he cared about, for an owner he loved.  I’ve done both, and I know John has done, as well, and Barry.  I’ve played for guys that I really respected as owners and guys that I didn’t care about, and there’s a difference.  You don’t play differently, but the feeling is different.  It’s a much more personal thing.  He’s going to bring a lot of things to the table that nobody else can bring, and I think they’re all value add.

Q. I wanted to discuss who you guys think will be the Yankees’ fifth starter before Pettitte officially joins the Yankees, and what do you think the rotation will look like after he returns?

KARL RAVECH:  I think Phil Hughes is going to be the fifth starter, and after that when Pettitte comes back, by then honest to God I think something will have created itself, whether it be injury or poor performance from Hughes or Pineda, and you hope it’s not Sabathia, but Nova.  Something is going to happen.  I don’t think that there’s been a season in which ‑‑ certainly in recent memory where a team has used five starters and gone through the entire season.  It doesn’t happen.

So the idea that Joe Girardi is going to be forced into making a major decision when Andy is ready, something will create itself that will allow that decision to be easy.  I know Curt always looks at the starting rotations when a season begins and says whichever of the rotations gets the most starts from those give guys will either be in the playoffs or be really close to it.  I think you need six or seven legitimate starters if you really want to entertain a postseason bid.

So when Pettitte comes back, there will be a situation that has already presented itself where he’ll slide right in and somebody will slide right out.

JOHN KRUK:  I agree with Karl.  I think what allows teams to have a deep rotation as far as the back end goes with the fifth guy is the fact that they have a strong seventh, eighth and ninth inning, and I think what David Robertson did last year has a lot to do with the fact that now they can move Phil Hughes and give him that fifth spot.  Seventh inning to me in baseball now has become as crucial as your fifth starter it seems like.  I always thought starting pitching was most important, but teams keep moving around every year, and last year’s World Series was the ultimate proving ground for me that starting pitching is irrelevant.

The reason why the Yankees are allowed to try different guys in the fifth inning is because the bullpens are set.  You look at what the situation is with the Rays.  They have six starters.  Wade Davis is going to go to the bullpen because he’s the one that can most help them down there.  If they didn’t have David Robertson down there at the Yankees, Phil Hughes might be forced to be that guy to pitch that seventh inning and now the fifth starter spot has already been figured out.  But I think because their bullpen is deep in the back end, I think now that you can have this competition for the fifth spot if their rotation ‑‑ I agree with Karl.  Any team that goes into a season and they say we have five starters and five only and this is the way we’re going to do it, you have a big chance of being disappointed by the All‑Star break.

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