I was traded late in 2005 from the only organization I knew to the Washington Nationals. The weird thing about getting traded is, you’re thinking, “It’s going to be great for me, a new start” and everything, but you never really know what you had until it’s gone. It seems like since I got traded, I was always trying to get back to Philly some way, some how.
For Theriot, it’s the first time he’s been through it. The Cubs will always be home for him. This is the organization he came up with. When you get drafted by an organization, you think you’re going to stay there your whole career. On the flip side, Ted Lilly has been through it. I’ve been on four teams, I think this is his sixth team. I don’t think it really fazes him. It’s the business aspect of the game.
It seems like the first time you get traded, you take it personally. You have to transfer all that energy into playing the game instead of trying to show your old team, “Hey, see what you’re missing.” That can be a positive or a negative. It was a negative for me when I went to Washington. I was trying to show the Phillies.
Everyone wishes Theriot good luck. Ted’s a vet, he’s been in this game a long time and he’ll go be Ted Lilly. We just want Ryan to go be Ryan Theriot and not try to prove anything to the Cubs, not try to prove anything to L.A. He’ll be fine.
Larry Bowa was my first manager. Frank Robinson was my second. With Bowa, you’re talking about one of the greatest shortstops of all time, even though people forget that. He had 2,800 hits and Gold Glove defense and played on championship teams. He was a fiery, fiery guy, sort of like Lou. Frank Robinson, I don’t have to say anything about him. A Hall of Famer and one of the greatest of all time — 586 home runs, a little short of 3,000 hits. I’m sure he could come back now and get them.
Then I played for Ron Washington. He’s probably the only one who’s different. I think if you mold all those guys together, you have Lou. He’s a clubhouse guy, a players’ manager as well as knows his X’s and O’s on the field. Baseball is going to miss him. He’s always going to be known for his fieriness but at the same time he’ll be known for taking teams to the playoffs and having very good teams.
Note: On Thursday, Marlon Byrd visited the Union League Boys & Girls Club on North Washtenaw Avenue to kickoff a summer-long program. It was the official launch of a community outreach program created by the Cubs and Steiner Sports Memorabilia, Inc., which will include a clinic Monday at Wrigley, hosted by Byrd and pitcher Randy Wells.
It was funny because I remember my first day at the Boys Club — me going in and meeting new people and being a little bit scared because I didn’t know anybody. The relationships that carried over — I met Dion Glover, who used to play with the Atlanta Hawks. Today just took me back. I remembered all those days and the fun we had with all the kids. Everybody was so friendly. At the same time, being able to give back and having them cheer for you and seeing the smiling faces, it was wonderful.
The All-Star Game was unbelievable. A couple lockers down from me was Albert Pujols, right around the corner, Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, the Great One. The whole experience was unbelievable. I think what really capped it off was after I made that throw, after the game, having the other All-Star outfielders come up to me and say that was a heck of a play. You go out there and just try to execute and play hard. It’s the All-Star Game, and being recognized by your peers, them voting me in, and at the same time, great play, and you start realizing, “Hey, I can play this game a little bit.”
I’m the guy who flies under the radar, I try to do small things to help the team. My defense has kept me in the game. The walk to keep the game going to let the MVP, Brian McCann, come through, just little things like that, it was fun. I was really glad I was part of it.
Thanks to all the NL players. That’s No. 1, hands down. Without them, I wouldn’t be in the All-Star Game. I made the All-Star team all the way thorugh the Minor Leagues and now I made it in the big leagues. It’s just huge for me. I’m not a guy who likes talking about himself but being voted in by your peers, I don’t think there’s a bigger honor. The players see me day in, day out, the NL Central, the guys in the West, the East — I’ve played against all of them. They know what I’ve been doing and it shows they’ve been paying attention. It doesn’t get any better than being recognized as one of the best in the National League.
Silva was on a team in 2006 with the Twins that was 14 games back at the All-Star break and on the last day of the season, made the playoffs. I saw the Twins do it a couple years ago when they caught Detroit and played that extra game and ended up beating them. I saw the Phillies come back from seven games out with 17 games to go and they caught the Mets. Lou’s done it. They were 14 games out and wanted to dismantle the Yankees and they ended up winning the World Series.
When you have a good team, you can’t count that team out at all. You see how everybody and every team has been playing us — they play us tough. There’s a reason. They know how good we are. We have to start believing that and get back to that feeling of knowing how good we are and having that swagger on the field. A 9 1/2-game lead, 8 1/2-game lead, 10-game lead can turn around quick. I believe we can get that down within five games by the All-Star break, we’ll be where we need to be. The second half, like everyone says, it’s 0-0 again.
It’s different facing the West teams now and when I was with the Rangers. It’s different when you face a team 19 times because they figure you out, then you figure them out and it goes back and forth. It seems like they keep a steady rotation and you’re facing guys over and over again and you pick up on things as a hitter. It’s the same thing with the Angels and Mariners. It’s a division that keeps getting better and better. The AL East is the beast, they’ll always be No. 1. The Central with the Twins and Tigers will be tough. I believe a champion will come out of the West very soon. It looks like the Rangers are doing a good job and they’re not far behind the A’s with the young leadership over there. There’s guys like Mark Ellis, and I call Kurt Suzuki a veteran — it seems like he’s been around for 10 years. They’re just a tough team and it’s shown in the games we’ve played against them.
It’s different facing the West now since I’ve been facing National League pitching. In my mind, sometimes I have to get back to that American League style. For example, Gio Gonzalez has a great fastball but on 2-0, he threw me a changeup. I’ve been getting fastballs on 2-0. It’s a little different and you have to change your mindset. I’ll be happy when we finish these games and I get back to National League style.
Everyone’s heard the names. Juan Gonzalez. Pudge Rodriguez. Rafael Palmeiro. Alex Rodriguez. Michael Young. Then you turn the page to Gary Matthews Jr., Mark DeRosa, Marlon Byrd, Nelson Cruz. One thing all those guys has in common is they’ve worked with Rudy and they have positive things to say.
With Gary Matthews and Nelson Cruz, we’re all big league players but we struggled in the big leagues. Opening Day, we were sitting at home. Gary Matthews went through that with me. Nelson Cruz went through that same thing, getting designated. Sticking with Rudy’s program, him believing in us, us believing in him, working hard every single day, getting in a routine, we got better. Hands down, he’s the best hitting coach in baseball and everybody knows that.
I also had to talk to Rudy and remind him that in 2007 when I came to Texas, the Rangers were a team nobody talked about. The energy wasn’t there. It was a team that just hit. It took a couple years to change the culture. You saw how they won in 2009 and you see how they are now in 2010 — full of energy. Everybody over there is doing their jobs.
I told Rudy coming over here, implementing your system, it doesn’t happen right away. That’s what the fans and everybody watching the Cubs has to understand. It doesn’t happen right away. Me working with him, it’s my fourth year. I know how to work with him and he knows how to work with me. He’s still learning everybody’s swing and he’s still trying to figure out how to work with different players and personalities. It doesn’t sound good to say it but 2011 is going to be a better year as far as this whole Cubs organization knowing his system. We are going to get better as we go through this year.
I think our defense has been pretty good all year long. You have some ups and downs. Any time you get the great pitching we’re getting, it’s automatically good defense. Guys hitting their spots, you get in the right position. You’ve got the advance scouts who put us in the right spot. Josh Hamilton the other day in Texas — I was playing him the other way and most guys play him to pull. You hit the spot. James Loney, same thing last night. It makes it easier. Our outfielders work together, we work in tandem. If you watch the games, whenever I move to the pull side, everybody moves, everybody shifts. Maybe I go to the pull side and leave the right fielder on the line because the hitter is a guy who doesn’t really go into the gap in right center.
I have little hand signals, little movements to communicate with the guys. If I want a guy to get into the gap, I point to them and point to the gap. If I want to move them a little bit, I put my hand down a little. If I don’t want them to move but I want them to know, “Hey, I’m moving, so you’re going to have to help me out to my right or left,” I’ll point to myself and show them where I am. It’s little movements that people never pay attention to. You never really see us until the ball gets out there.
We’re doing a good job infield, outfield. It all starts with our pitcher and our catcher. Geo is calling a great game. Last night, you never say just a starter threw a shutout, you also say a catcher threw a shutout, too. He’s calling the pitches. That right there improves our defense.
Last year, they wanted Yoshi [Nakazawa] to be the bat boy, and I know he’s undefeated. I don’t know how many wins he had but I know he’s undefeated. We begged him today. He saw that we were in need so he did it. We always need a lttle luck on our side. It seems like he brought it. I think he has a new job — massage/bat boy/everything else.
It’s just great to get a win, great to get good pitching and get timely hitting and have something go our way. The Pirates, they played great. Defensively, they had four web gems in the game. If we keep playing like this, like I’ve said over and over again, we’re going to be fine and start winning series and we’re going to take off and catch up to whoever’s in first in the Central.