I can’t really talk about the culture of winning because I haven’t been on a team that’s been to the playoffs. But at the same time, I was on teams that were on their way. I saw the beginning and I saw right before the teams started to win. I was on the Phillies coming up and got traded in ’05. In ’06, they were one game away, and ’07 was the first trip to the playoffs and that started their dynasty now. I saw the culture change over there. I saw them building within. I saw the young guys — we would have second- and third-rounders who would come in, high school kids who got paid big bucks, and their first year in Spring Training, and if they came in and weren’t in shape, they got rid of them. There was no b.s. involved in that organization as far as teaching and development. If you weren’t their type of player you had to go, it didn’t matter what they paid you.
Of course, nowadays, guys are getting paid more but at the same time, it didn’t happen that way. That culture in Tampa, they don’t mess with their top pick. When they had the first pick overall, they didn’t miss. And they produce. Same thing in Texas. That culture over there completely changed. In 2007, I came in and it seemed like it was a good team but the team really didn’t come together like you wanted, didn’t really have that chemistry. It was a great group of guys but it didn’t come together. Then, there was the influx of Mike Maddux and an influx of Ron Washington and an influx of Nolan Ryan, and they brought in all the right players. That was a huge step they made. From ’07 to ’08 to ’09, from 2007-08, getting beat down by the Angels, then us almost making the playoffs in 2009. But dominating the Angels changed everything in the AL West. You saw that last year in 2010. How the Rangers played, they weren’t scared of anybody.
It starts at the top. That’s automatic. I like what Pat Gillick says: “I’m not here to rebuild, I’m here to remodel.” That’s what he does and that’s what he did in Philly. That’s what Nolan did in Texas. It starts at the top but you have to put every single piece together. Ron Washington comes in and he says, “I need a Ron Washington team.” What did they do? They gave him a Ron Washington team — a team with speed, a team with defense, a team with pitching, a team with timely hitting. Now it seems like all the guys they have there are superstars.
What Pat Gillick did in Philly, he kept bringing in the right players and not just big name players, but players who are big names and they produce at the same time. Changing that culture, it’s not an easy thing to do. You need the right people in place at the top. Then you have to pick the right people all the way down.
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.
I have no clue why I have so many two-out RBI. Ron Washington pointed it out to me last year. He told me that with two outs, I drive in more runs than I do with less than two outs. He was trying to figure out what my approach was. I said, I’m just trying to bring them in, bottom line. I don’t know. When you see a guy out there, you have to try to keep your focus and try not to do too much and not change anything as far as trying to put the ball in play. I try to relax a little more and just touch the ball — I learned that from Bobby Abreu. He’s unbelievable driving guys in. Just hit it where it’s pitched and sort of flick at the ball and let it hit your bat instead of really trying to drive the ball into the gap.
I don’t think about the pitcher at all, not one bit. I try to stick to my game plan and try to keep it simple and clear my head as much as possible. The more you start thinking, the more you forget about the ball. I just try to see the ball and put it in a good spot and not try to do too much.
I’ve always run fast. No. 1, coming up, watching Scott Rolen. Two, I don’t want to show up anybody. Regardless of what happens, you hit the ball, you might see it go out, but when you get around the bases, get around to make sure you’re not showing up any pitchers. There’s one way I play the game and that’s hard. I believe that’s important. Just get aorund the bases, get home, high five and get ready for defense.
Rolen may not be that fast but he runs hard around the bases. You watch him — he hits homers, puts his head down and runs around the bases. It’s one thing that stuck in my head. it’s pretty cool because my cousin Roger, his son was playing and hit a home run and ran around the bases fast. Roger asked him why he ran around the bases that way, and he said, “That’s what Marlon does.” I’ll take a guy sprinting around the bases over someone who takes 40 seconds to get around on a homer.