Transcript: 2013 ESPN MLB World Series Media Conference Call

ESPN-MLB-logo1Earlier today, ESPN Baseball Tonight analysts Curt Schilling and John Kruk discussed the 2013 World Series with members of the media. Schilling and Kruk will contribute to ESPN’s on-site Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter coverage before and after every World Series game alongside Karl Ravech, Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian.

ESPN Radio will also serve as the exclusive radio broadcast home of the Fall Classic. Veteran play-by-play voice Dan Shulman and analyst Orel Hershiser will describe the action for each game. Pre-game coverage begins one hour prior to first pitch.

Here is the replay of today’s conference call.

Q.  Curt, wanted to get your opinion about Michael Wacha and his sensational postseason so far.  I know this is the biggest stage of all.  He may be pitching at Fenway Park, a tough place for a young pitcher.  How do you think he’ll handle the next phase here? 

CURT SCHILLING:  I think he’s one of the reasons why you look at this World Series and I don’t think there’s a clear favorite.  As good as Boston’s offense is, the Cardinals are running out as good of a power pitching bullpen as I’ve seen in my lifetime.  He is not to be rattled.  If you think about this, the biggest games of his life have come in succession over the last four to six weeks.  There at the end of the season, he almost throws back-to-back no-hitters.  [In the] postseason, he gets better.

He’ll have some nerves, but he’s the kind of guy, in my mind, that used nerves like I did:  I’m going to be throwing harder. I have a chance to be better.  And he’s going to use that to his advantage.

He’s a kid that doesn’t get rattled.  His mix and makeup are as good as any young pitcher I’ve seen in the game.

Q.  Could you compare this Red Sox team to the team you had in ’04 the last time.

SCHILLING:  I don’t see the similarities.  In philosophy, it’s the same.  You have two offenses that are incredibly deep and relentless.  They drive up pitch counts, knock starters out.

I think we knew going into the World Series in ’04 that we were pretty confident offensively that they didn’t have a pitcher.  We had an offense that you needed to have plus-plus stuff to get through and to beat.  They had nobody in their rotation that could do that.

This is a very different Cardinals rotation.  This is a rotation of power arms.  I think that’s going to present a challenge for the Red Sox.

As far as similarities go, if you remember the ’04 team, that was a pretty dynamic offense.  You had Pujols, Walker, Renteria.  They were something else.  This is more, to me, kind of a sabermetrics-built offense, a bunch of people that work around counts, get on base, know how to score runs.

Q.  Do you think this Red Sox team is more businesslike than the team you had in 2004, which were The Idiots or whatever you called them? 

SCHILLING:  I think that was played out much more for the media than was the case.  That was a team that we went about our business professionally at 7:05.  We played the game hard and, for the most part, everybody played the game right.  That was something the media latched on to.  We had fun.

I think this team has a lot of fun, as well.  They understand fun is only possible if you do what you got to do from 7:05 to 10:05.

Q.  Curt, I wanted to ask you, these two teams have played in the World Series three other times.  Each time it’s been kind of a big deal.  A lot of exciting play in the series itself, great drama.  Can you take us through some of your best memories from ’04, what that meant to Boston, how winning that World Series impacts your life nowadays?

SCHILLING:  They’ve been memorable World Series because you have two of the originals in the mix.  They’ve got a century’s worth of history coming out of these two cities.  Two towns that are absolutely in love with their baseball teams.  It’s a religion, a way of life.  Those go together well in the World Series.

The ’04 series, the thing I remember is how confident we were going in.  Honestly, I sat in the advanced scouting meetings, the pitcher prep meetings for that World Series.  We didn’t think they could win a game.  It had nothing to do with the Cardinals; they were a good team.  We felt we had built the thing the way it was supposed to be built and we were unbeatable at that point, especially coming off the Yankees series.

As far as what it’s meant, people outside New England think it was the worst thing that could ever happen.  I think for a couple years after that we had the Patriots, the Celtics and the Bruins.  It was a time of riches in Boston.  Boston fans, after so many years of being beaten down, had a chance to be king of the mountain.  To some degree, I think they took advantage of that.

But I think that ’04 team made a lot of things possible.  I don’t think you have ’07 without ’04.  I don’t know how it works after that.  I think what we did in ’04 opened the door for guys to come here and play that might not have come here and played, had they not won a World Series.

All the things you’d like to think about as a Boston fan, coming back and beating the Yankees, doing the things we did, the way we did it, to me it’s a lot like the ’93 Philly team.  It’s a team in the city people won’t ever forget.  That’s cool to be a part of.

Q.  Curt, you said it’s a series that might be too close to call.  If there was one aspect where the Cardinals were better than the Red Sox, where would it be?

SCHILLING:  Pitching, I think, from a power and depth perspective.  They’re going to be able to run three, four 95-mph guys out there as starters, which is the only way I think you beat a sabermetrics-built team.  It comes down to power pitching.  And power pitching that throws strikes, let me be clear.

If you look at the way that Tigers series went, you can shut them out, you can make them not score, but it’s going to be hard to get past the sixth inning.

You’re pitching against the soft underbelly of every team, which is those two or three guys in the middle of the bullpen who aren’t good enough to start, they’re good enough to be in the big leagues.  When you get those guys in against good offenses, they get pounded.  In the post-season, those guys don’t pitch.

This is a series built on probably your 11 to 12 best players and your seven best pitchers.  Generally, with the exception of a long extra-inning game, you don’t use all 25 guys.  You have the guys you’re going to go to, the guys on the bench you might play.

In that way, I think the Cardinals stack up incredibly well.  Honestly, not just for this year, if you look going forward, this has got to be an exciting period of time for Cardinals fans.  That is a team that’s built to be good over the next four, five, six years.

Q.  Do you buy into a team of destiny, maybe the way the ’04 team was looked at?

SCHILLING:  You certainly don’t downplay it.  I was on the other side of that in ’01.  We were playing the Yankees after 9/11.  If you looked at the way that series went, they came back.  Those three games in New York, wow, a lot of people were like, ‘this is meant to be.’

That stuff as a player, you cannot allow that stuff to be a part of your thinking.  You start to look away from the things you have to focus on.  Everybody talks about the thing, you can’t see the forest for the trees.  The focus here is kind of the head of a pin.  You’ve got to be able to look and live in the second, in the moment, to excel and be good here.  Those are the kind of things and thoughts that end up getting you beat.

Q.  If you don’t live in Boston or St. Louis, where should your loyalties go?  Should it go for watching a good series, exciting power against hitting? 

JOHN KRUK:  I think it should go to the chess match between the managers, when to bring in a reliever.  The Cardinals are going to [use] a defensive replacement for their third baseman.  When does he do it?  When is the right time to do it?

When you have two starting staffs that are good with power arms, as a hitter, you can’t get down on yourself if you’re 0-for your first seven or eight.  Look at what the Red Sox did against the Tigers.  Shane Victorino was awesome.  I don’t know if he swung the bat bad, they just got beat by better pitching.  Victorino comes up with a grand slam in Game 6.

You can’t get down, you can’t feel sorry for yourself if you’re 0-for your first eight in the first two games in the series.  You might get one pitch to hit in the game.  If you miss it, you’re out.  That to me is what I’m going to watc – to see how these guys deal with being 0-for.

SCHILLING:  It’s always funny how this game goes in cycles and trends.  Everybody seems to mimic and copy the teams getting to the World Series.

Neither one of these teams are using secret formulas.  The Cardinals build their team this way every year.  Since Theo [Epstein] came on and Ben [Cherington], the aberration that was last year is something that won’t happen again with the Red Sox.

There always seems to be a team to root against in the World Series.  This is going to be a series of good teams, real good managers, young, different managers, two guys that aren’t in the conventional mold of what people have come to think of as World Series managers.

I think it’s going to go the distance.  I don’t think either team has a clear edge.  The thing that Krukkie said is huge, especially with the kind of pitching in the series.  You have to play this series like every at-bat could be the series-changing at-bat because I think that’s the way this series is going to play out.

 

Q. With so many players playing in their first World Series, like the ’93 series, it must be difficult for young players to comprehend that this could be their only World Series.  Anything you know now that you wish you knew then? 

SCHILLING:  Well, no.  My first World Series game was probably the only game I ever pitched wrong in.  I completely screwed myself and my team by association because I thought you had to be different and do things differently.  It’s the only game I ever pitched in the postseason that I did that in.

I don’t know if Krukkie felt this way, but I never, ever thought about it being the only time.  I was so into the moment, it was so big. I look back, obviously six, seven, eight years later before ’01, thought maybe I won’t ever get back there again.  But I never thought about that during the series.

KRUK:  No, I never did either.  You’re trying to keep things as normal as possible.

The only big difference in the World Series and regular season is the amount of media that’s there, your obligations to the media when they’re there.  You can be taken out of your routine.

When I talk to players going into their first postseason, I talked to Marlon Byrd about it, I said every once in a while you’re going to have to step back, take a deep breath, relax, because the game is moving too fast.

I remember my first two postseason games, NLCS, seems like the game was going really fast.  You know what, it’s a dang game, a game you’ve been playing since you were a kid, play it that way.

That’s what you have to keep going back on – play your game.  Don’t make it speed up.  If you’re not a power hitter, don’t try to hit home runs.  If you’re not a base stealer, don’t try to steal bases.  Don’t try to do anything different than what got you here.

 

Q.  Can you believe it’s been 20 years since that series?

SCHILLING:  When I wake up in the morning, I can.  Otherwise, no.

KRUK:  I didn’t realize it until we had a reunion for it this summer.  Other than that, I had no clue.

Q.  I want your opinion on the two fan bases.  They’re both known for being passionate.  Your perspective on your experience with the Red Sox and Cardinals fans, what this World Series will mean to them. 

SCHILLING:  Playing in Boston after retiring, it’s one of the things I look back on and I thank God I was able to do it.  Philadelphia was amazing.  Arizona was kind of home for me.  Boston was an experience like nothing else.

I never played in St. Louis, but it was the one city when I retired I wish I had been able to play in.  Going there, I enjoyed it.  They’re such amazing fans.  They turn out.  They’re smart.  They’re respectful.  A lot fewer four-letter words coming from the stands.  They don’t like you, but they don’t voice it as adamantly as people in other cities.  I always enjoyed playing there.

KRUK:  I agree with Curt.  St. Louis is a place, looking back, you wish you had at least one year there.  Loved Philadelphia, the passion of those fans.  Similar to what Boston brings as far as fan base.  St. Louis, though, the nuances of the game they get, they understand.  Moving a runner, hitting a ground ball right side, they appreciate that.  They also appreciate good play by the opponent.  They’re not happy with it, but they appreciate it.  That’s why I think they’re in a class by themselves as far as what you would picture as the perfect fan base to be.

Q.  With so many good players in this series, is there potentially one or maybe a few you feel could make a difference for Boston or St. Louis? 

KRUK:  Well, if you watched Game 6 of the NLCS Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter had good at-bats against arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw.  Carlos Beltran has a history of postseason success.  You’re going to think he’s going to do something big at some point.

When your lead-off hitter is swinging the bat better, Matt Adams had a couple good at-bats against Kershaw.

For Boston, they have to look at the Detroit series.  Won in six games but didn’t hit well.  They had key hits.  That’s what you have to deal with when you’re facing them.  They have so many guys that can hurt you in the lineup.  You think you’re okay, but like Curt said earlier, any one of these guys can take you out.  That could be the deciding factor in the game.

I think the guys I’m looking for – can Victorino build on the grand slam? Can David Ortiz, who struggled in the ALCS against Detroit, can he come back?  He would be a major contributor.  And Carpenter and Adams are, I think, the two guys for St. Louis that are coming in feeling pretty good about themselves.

SCHILLING:  I would tell you, one of the more fascinating things to watch will be the Red Sox pitchers against Carlos Beltran.  I understand how these advance scouts put their game plan together, how they pitch it to their pitchers to execute.  I would be stunned if Carlos Beltran is put in a position to make a difference in a game and he’s pitched to, if they could avoid it at all costs.  Which means to me there are guys behind and ahead of him that are going to have better at-bats and be on their game.

I don’t think he’s going to get a chance.  I wouldn’t bet against him having an impact.  I think guys in October that do that consistently, it’s in their makeup.  The one thing he’s going to have to avoid is pressing early.  They’re going to try to expand, try to make him force the issue, especially here in Fenway.

On the Red Sox side of things, I look back the other way – the Cardinals starting pitcher, Michael Wacha. Shelby Miller, who I’m stunned we haven’t seen start. And Wainwright obviously.

The starting pitcher is like a goalie in the hockey playoffs.  If he’s right and on, he’s power, he can carry a series, two games of a series on his own.  There are a couple pitchers in this World Series in Jon Lester and the guys I just mentioned that can do that.  They are, to me, the guys to watch.

Q.  The whole thing with the beards, you talked about The Idiots thing before.  Sort of team camaraderie.  Is that getting more superstitious play outside the clubhouse than inside? 

SCHILLING:  They always get more superstitious play.  If you look back at the team I was on in ’93 as a young player, I think the words we used were gypsies, tramps and thieves.  The media had a blast with that.

Keep going back to the same thing I always go back to.  It’s great that the media latches onto that.  If the Angels had grown beards this year, you wouldn’t be hearing this story.  These stories only come to life when teams win.

I always enjoyed when teams did this.  They were fun and goofy because you are together for nine months, you’re looking for something to laugh at 2:30 in the morning when you’re on the bus going to Detroit.  You’re looking for those guys in those moments.  This team, it seems to me, is full of them.

At the end of the day, I’ll say the same thing I said before, at 7:05, they understand their job.  He’ll take none of it because he doesn’t play or pitch but John Farrell completely changed the makeup and psyche of everything here.  It’s exactly what I expected when they hired him.  To have gotten as far away from the fiasco of last year this fast is pretty mind-boggling.

Q.  Touch on the success of John Farrell.

SCHILLING:  I’ve known John Farrell for a while now.  I would tell you from a baseball perspective, he’s probably one of the smartest – if not the smartest – baseball people I’ve ever been around.  He’s absolutely one of the best communicators.

I thought last year was a disaster to begin with.  I never understood the hire, especially given the makeup of the team, this market.  You couldn’t go farther around the world than you went to hire this guy.  The change in culture has been directly from the manager’s office.

I know it gets underplayed, people don’t appreciate this like they should.  I would tell you this is probably one of the premiere coaching staffs in the game.  This is a group of guys that are hard-working, that are communicative.  This is a staff of communicators, hard workers.  That’s not a small thing for a team like this.

As far as Mike Matheny goes, one of the best manager hires in the last 15 years.  I thought he was a great guy to compete against.  He’s taken everything you thought of him as a player and taken it to the manager’s office and done nothing short of an amazing job in St. Louis.  Hopefully he’s there for a long, long time.

KRUK:  I agree with everything Curt said.  As far as Mike Matheny goes, when you watched him play, you could tell as a catcher how into the game he was, how his main focus was forget the offense, my job is to get this pitching staff through a game and get this pitcher through a game.  He has a great relationship with his catcher, who is the best catcher in baseball, who adheres to those same qualities that Matheny did.

When you go into the clubhouse, talk to players, you talk to Mike himself, it’s business as usual.  It’s more of a businesslike atmosphere.

The Red Sox, the guys are having fun, joking around.  The Cardinals aren’t really like that.  It’s business.  We’re here to take care of business.  We’re not here to joke around, make friends, listen to loud music.  This is our job.

You’ll watch them when you go in their clubhouse, there’s eight or ten guys sitting around the TV watching baseball.  At the end of the year, once they clinched, we were in Milwaukee with them, they were watching football.  We can let them slide there.

They’re more of a businesslike team, where the Red Sox, up until 7:00 p.m., you’ll see guys getting their work in, but they’re having fun with it.                                                                                          

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