Over the next few weeks Talking Chop will be interviewing former Braves Fantasy Camp, January 25-30, 2011 at the Braves Spring Training facility at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex at Disney. Today we bring you our interview with former Braves outfielder Otis Nixon:players who will be participating in the first ever
Talking Chop: Since you retired from playing baseball, what have you been doing? Have you stayed connected to Major League baseball in any way?
Otis Nixon: I've been very busy after baseball. I have my Otis Nixon Foundation (OtisNixonFoundation.org) that I'm running, and if you go to the Foundation website, you can learn more about one of the largest recovery programs in the state of Georgia (On Track Transitional Center) that we run, so that keeps me really busy. I got married this year - I'm still a newlywed - got married January 9, 2010... on my birthday. And I've been connected with the Braves, doing caravans, and events at the field, so between all of those things I have going on I've kept very busy.
Talking Chop: What do you miss most about playing the game?
Otis Nixon: The competition. Every day being able to steal another base, win another game. Being in the playoffs and the World Series, but besides that, stealing bases, that's what I did best.
Talking Chop: Towards the end of your playing career, teams were shifting their focus away from good defensive outfielders and towards guys with pop. Now the trend is shifting back towards valuing defense. Do you think defense was underrated or overrated when you played. Do you think it's underrated or overrated in today's game?
Otis Nixon: I think it's underrated now and it wasn't as underrated when I played. We had not only had myself, Marquis Grissom, Andruw Jones, Ken Griffey (Sr.), Deion Sanders, when you put those kind of guys in the outfield defense can shut a game down. You'd better have a dominant team that can hit now.
It's coming back to where teams are saying we need defense for when we can't hit, because all teams have hitting slumps sooner or later.
Talking Chop: The Braves currently don't have a speedy lead-off man like you were for most of your career. How important is speed in the lead-off spot? If you could choose, who would you bat in the lead-off spot for the Braves next year, and why?
Otis Nixon: I would like to see Jordan Schafer do well. He's got enough speed if he can stay healthy. I'm an underdog type of guy. If he can stay healthy, he can provide what they need at the top of the lineup. He'll give you that threat, so I'm pulling for him. That's my guy and I'm hoping he can turn this thing around. Whether a guy can have as much speed as I had, dominating the league, stealing bases day in and out, I don't know. Some guys try to hit home runs, I just tried to get on and steal bases. I don't see one guy who can do that right now but Schafer has the potential, and it would be a great Christmas gift if we could get that kind of presence at the #1 spot, but the game has gotten away from that a little. But I think we're going to be fine next year.
Talking Chop: Do you think the 6 stolen base game will ever be topped?
Otis Nixon: They can't steal 6 bases in a week - I give them one week to steal 6 bases - any guy out there right now. Not one game... A week. It's not bragging, but that's how dominant Ricky Henderson, Vince Coleman, Deion Sanders, Kenny Lofton were, that's what we thrived on. We had some guys who could just flat out run. I could have stolen 8 in one game if I could have gotten on that many times. I give guys now a whole week to get a shot.
I want some fantasy campers to come down and attempt it. Memo from Otis Nixon to all the Fantasy Campers: I'm going to teach them some things and I'm challenging them to get 6 stolen bases in one game. Just get on and go, and see how close they can get to six stolen bases.
Talking Chop: In a footrace between you, Deion Sanders, and Ricky Henderson, who would win, and by how much or how little?
Otis Nixon: Ricky and I raced at the Wide World of Sports in 1988 or 89 in Hawaii, in a 40 yard dash and I beat him; he came up on the short end of that one. And I'd challenge him again. If anybody had to race Deion in his prime... Well... I wouldn't bet against myself. But you don't want to bet against Prime Time. Prime Time is Prime Time. Look at old tape, when he's running down the line, it looked like everyone else was in slow motion. We almost got to do this challenge one time before. We were going to race one time in Spring Training but I think Bobby was worried one of us were going to hurt ourselves so it didn't happen.
And for the campers- I'll give them the opportunity... one day, one race, one time, I'll race all the campers just to see what they have got, even at my age, I will race them down at Fantasy Camp.
Talking Chop: This baseball off-season has seen teams hand out several $100 million-plus contracts to players. Are these kinds of contracts good for the game? Do you see the money that's being handed out as an obstacle to competitive balance among all teams? Do you think the Braves can continue to be competitive in this market of $20 million a year players?
Otis Nixon: I think the Braves will always stay competitive in the market - the Braves are going to be in it. We've got a great team, a great minor league system, front office, and new manager. I think the Braves will stay competitive and let the market determine the factor of how much you pay for a guy.
Talking Chop: Have you participated in a baseball fantasy camp before? What do you hope to get out of the Braves fantasy camp?
Otis Nixon: I played one with George Foster, Ken Griffey, Glen Barker for the Yankees organization and by the end of the day we had to really play hard to beat the campers, I'm almost thinking they beat us for some reason. We tried to intimidate everyone with how good and fast we used to be, but by the time we were ready to play they came out swinging. Played in a couple before, so I sort of know what to expect, and I'm really looking forward to it.
As this is the first one with the Braves, I'm really looking forward to this one most. There's a lot of excitement with Avery, Bream, and so many other guys, and I've got something to settle with Sid. He's telling everyone how fast he came around the base to score that one run, and fans have been telling me about how's he's been bragging about how fast he is, so we've been in touch at golf tournaments and other events, and I'm looking forward to picking a bone with him down there. We're looking forward to getting together down there with everybody.
Talking Chop: What's your favorite Bobby Cox story? How did Bobby impact you as a player?
Otis Nixon: Bobby gave me my first real opportunity in the majors - he said here's your glove, shoes, uniform - go out and play, I'm not going to stop you, I'm going to allow you to steal when you want to steal and I'm not going to stop you. He only gave me a stop sign one time. That's how he motivated me - he gave me a chance to go out and steal bases every day.
Many thanks to Otis Nixon for taking the time to answer my questions. Next week we'll present our interview with Sid Bream.