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Bobby Cox Winter Meetings Interview

I didn't conduct this interview, but I thought the transcript (posted through MLB Pressbox) was quite interesting. I have found bits and pieces of this discussion around the net, but nowhere have I seen this press session transcribed in its entirety.

The transcript recounts Bobby Cox' press conference that took place in Dallas yesterday. Some of the questions are already dated with the flurry of activity that took place today. Nevertheless, it's a very worthwhile read.

I'm presenting this interview courtesy of Major League Baseball, MLB.com, and FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

Now here's Bobby Cox...

Q. Talk about rebuilding the roster last year, this year how tough is it going to be to replace Furcal?

BOBBY COX: Well, obviously Furcal is in my mind an All-Star player, period. He's a great lead-off hitter. He had one of the best second halves I've ever witnessed last year, and steals bases, great defense. He gets extra base hits, as well.

You know, we have guys in the organization, Wilson Betemit, Tony Pena, the young shortstops in Class A, that's too big of a jump for them. If we don't come out of here with anything different on the 40-man roster, we feel like we can cover most everything.

Q. Any chance of Johnson moving back to shortstop?

BOBBY COX: I don't think so. I think Wilson Betemit defensively right now is as good as he's ever been. So we've played him there, and when we played him there two years ago when Raffy was out, he played extremely well.

Q. Are you excited without being specific about some of the things that are being discussed, some of the trade possibilities?

BOBBY COX: You have a way with words. (Laughter.) No, we're working hard there. We want to discuss everything possible and make sure we cover all of our bases while we're here in Dallas. So, yeah, we could be a better club if everything fell in the right way, we could be really good.

Q. Are you surprised to see a name like Renteria being floated out there?

BOBBY COX: I don't know if Boston wants to trade him or not, but we've heard those rumors ourselves.

Q. Can Nomar Garciaparra still play shortstop?

BOBBY COX: I think in his mind he thinks he can. I think in the baseball world now, there are some doubts. Personally, I think he still could. He's still one of the better hitters around. He's one of the top ones for me as far as a bat goes, and he's a great leader, great individual and I don't know if clubs are pursuing him as a shortstop or
not.

Q. Did you see him playing left field or somewhere else?

BOBBY COX: I've seen him at third and short but never in left. He's an athlete. I'm sure he can move anywhere you wanted him to, if he wanted to.

Q. Every year obviously people try to challenge the Braves and reload and challenge the Braves. With what the Mets have been doing, will that be the biggest challenge you've had?

BOBBY COX: They have been reloading for three years now. This will be the third year they have had a good team. You know, we're trying to reload a little bit ourselves. But they are making big strides right now, you bet, and they have in the past, with the big strides. You know, their problem was keeping guys healthy on the field. Piazza was out a long time for a number of days the last three years, Reyes last year killed them when he went out. You miss a few guys like that and you're in a pennant race.

Q. I know you're looking for a closer but how do you feel about the rest of the bullpen as it stands?

BOBBY COX: If everybody -- Boyer's arm is good. He was a little dinged up there at end. We can be just fine out there. But we are talking to clubs about relief pitchers right now and we'll see if we can, in fact, come up with something. But we don't have -- Reitsma is the only guy that's really actually close at the Major League level.

Q. And Dan Kolb?

BOBBY COX: Yeah.

Q. Do you anticipate Reitsma being back?

BOBBY COX: He'd better be back, we want him back.

Q. The last few years he's been really good until late in the season. Have you been pleased with what he's done?

BOBBY COX: I think Reitsma has done a good job with us. He's been spectacular at times. Like you say, the tail end, it got a little rough for him at times. But I think he's quality and I know he's looking forward to working with Roger really good.

Q. Where does Devine fit in there?

BOBBY COX: Devine is a young kid, just out of college. He started out in A-ball and he had some tough outings, but I really like the kid a lot. I think once he's able to pinpoint his fastball a little bit better, he's going to be awesome.

Q. Could you see him closing?

BOBBY COX: Absolutely. He's not out of the picture at all. Heck, no. And I'm just saying he's a little young to step into it right now, but yeah, he would be in the mix, you bet.

Q. Talk to Roger since you hired him?

BOBBY COX: I talked to Roger last night.

Q. Did he come out here?

BOBBY COX: No. I was asking him about some other things.

Q. Are you excited about that?

BOBBY COX: Yeah, I've heard so many  good things about him. All of the Dodger people here are raving about him. So, yeah, it's good news.

Q. Who replaces Mike Hampton?

BOBBY COX: We've got about six, seven potential starters right now. We'll let that be fought out in the spring. Mike should be out the entire year. So I would not look for Mike to come back late.

Q. You say the organization could fill Furcal's spot internally, would you be surprised if that's the end result?

BOBBY COX: Would I be surprised, heck, no. Wilson has never been given a chance to play on a regular basis. He's developed his game to the point where he needs to play every day. He's earned it.

Q. What are your thoughts right now as it stands on the leadoff guys?

BOBBY COX: It depends on how our lineup sets up. We've won before in my career without a guy that walks a lot or steals a lot of bases. If your lineup is potent enough, it doesn't matter, I don't think. It's not overrated by any means. I would have loved to have had Ricky Henderson my entire managing career, because he is a game- changer, period. But there's not a lot of those guys around.

Q. As your roster is constituted now, who do you see there?

BOBBY COX: I couldn't give you a lineup right now, because our roster, you know, could change.

Q. Do you think Andy is ready?

BOBBY COX: Yes, I think he can play in the big leagues right now, I do. Unfortunately he's the third baseman and so is Chipper Jones.

Q. Last year you had a lot of rookies who were productive for you, do you see that happening again, with a lot of guys in the farm
system?

BOBBY COX: We've had quite a few injuries the last two years, and that's why all of these kids, especially this past season, had the opportunity to come up and show what they are made out of.I'm crossing my fingers we don't have any injuries because most of them are young out there.

Q. What did you think about Chipper's gesture to restructure the contract, give you guys -- free up a little bit of money?

BOBBY COX: I think it was good for him, good for us. We wouldn't have that much extra money to spend, that's for sure. So I think --Chipper's always been a guy that his viewpoint is to try to win. If we can free up some money on his behalf, he's willing to do that.

Q. Do you have any thoughts about him and Smoltz possibly playing in that World Baseball Classic?

BOBBY COX: I just ran into Lachemann and he was under the understanding that Smoltzy wants to pitch. You know, Smoltzy ended up with a dinged-up shoulder at the end which is my only concern. I told him, if Smoltzy wants to do it, that's fine with me. You can't ever stop John from doing something that he's set his mind to do.

Q. I apologize if somebody asked this, but did you talk to Furcal after he signed with the Dodgers?

BOBBY COX: I told him that he absolutely had to take that deal. He was apologizing, my whole life with the Braves. I said, "Those are once-in-a-lifetime deals. You would be irresponsible if you had not taken that."

Q. So feeling bad for yourself, but good for him?

BOBBY COX: Yeah, I am. I'm feeling real bad for myself. I don't have next year on my contract yet. I told him if he left us, he'd have my blood on his hands. (Laughter.)
Anyway, we hate to lose him. He's a great kid. They will love him out there.

Q. He's going to be here today.

BOBBY COX: What time is he due in here? We'll be making major deals about 2 o'clock. (Laughter.)

Q. Can we hold you to that?

BOBBY COX: No. If all of the deals worked up on those boards in all of these rooms in this hotel, you guys would get no sleep.

Q. You said throughout the season, those young kids rejuvenated you or whatever the word would be; same thing during the off-season, do you look forward to the season that much more?

BOBBY COX: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it, yeah. We'll get our club put together and we'll be just fine.

Q. Going back to Joey Devine, do you think the timetable was something you expected out of college in June, in your bullpen by August?

BOBBY COX: We felt it was pretty close, the scouts did, that when we signed him, it would not take long at all. Then because of certain situations in the bullpen, Joey got the opportunity to come up.

Q. Do you feel he got shell-shocked by that?

BOBBY COX: No. He hurt his hip a little bit and that bothered him some with his control. He still threw hard.

Q. Is that okay?

BOBBY COX: As far as I know it is. All he needed was some rest.

Q. What impresses you most about him being so young and coming up so quickly?

BOBBY COX: I like his makeup and I like  his stuff. He throws hard and he's got a breaking ball. You know, he's not afraid to mix it up. You can tell he's a great competitor. Doesn't scare. Fits right in, actually.

Q. When you look at your closer situation for the year, do you look and draw comparisons to what Oakland did?

BOBBY COX: Or what Milwaukee did with Turnbow out of nowhere, this guy is dynamite. Yeah, you get lucky.

Q. How much do you have to talk to McDowell to get him on the same page with you?

BOBBY COX: Free to do whatever he wants.

Q. You've had the same guy around forever, is there anything where you have to say, hey, this is the way I like -- I would like for you to handle the pitchers?

BOBBY COX: Well, there's certain things. I like to give our coaching staff -- I like to let ...leaders lead and stay out of their business as
much as I can.

Q. Is it going to be good or bad not having (mimicking Leo Mazzone) next to you?

BOBBY COX: Things change every year, I hate losing coaches, hate losing players. All part of the game.

Q. But I mean just that physical, you're so used to that.

BOBBY COX: I won't miss it.

Q. Did you run into him in the lobby?

BOBBY COX: Who, Leo? No.

Q. So if you were not able to get a shortstop, lead-off hitter or a closer this week or even next, do you feel like within your system right now you have the capable pieces?

BOBBY COX: I don't think it's the end of the world if we leave here without making a deal or anything. We've got all through Spring Training. And if we don't, then, you know, we go for it.

Q. With the World Baseball Classic, will that affect Spring Training at all for you?

BOBBY COX: No.

Q. These guys are still going to be playing baseball.

BOBBY COX: I don't know if we've readjusted our schedule. I don't know all of the particulars of it. No, it's not going to have any effect I don't think.

Q. You can go down and watch some of those games, Venezuela and Dominican.

BOBBY COX: Absolutely. They play at night, right? Is that when they are playing? Does anybody know? Because there was conflicts between our schedules.

Q. They said they would schedule them opposite your games?

BOBBY COX: We adjusted.

Q. They gave us a schedule yesterday and in the opening pool play there was afternoon games.

BOBBY COX: We could be doing double duty.

Q. They will be on your field a couple of games?

BOBBY COX: Yeah, I'm kind of anxious to see how it all works out. It's getting a lot of publicity right now. It looks like it's going to be real good.

Q. When they started announcing the names of the players, that's when people started to get a feel for it.

BOBBY COX: They have All-Star casts on all of the teams if they can.

Q. After seeing Roger last year, would  you be surprised if he's not back pitching next year, seeing what he did last year?

BOBBY COX: He had one of most incredible years ever, for me. His ERA, did it go over 2.0? I don't think it did. Did he ever go under 2.0 in the American League? No. I don't know what he's thinking, but could he pitch next year? Absolutely.

Q. Could you comment on the NL east, the Mets doing all of the things they are doing, Marlins doing what they are doing, do you see it as a changing division?

BOBBY COX: The Marlins have really changed. And the Mets, you know, they have been adding pieces for the last three years. They added a lot of pieces three years ago and they added them last year and really added some more this year. Yeah, it's changing.

Q. Every year that your team loses players, people say you can't win again and then you always do win, but what's the limit on that, now losing Furcal, how many people can you lose?

BOBBY COX: If things go right, I think we can be as good as we were last year, if not better.

Q. How about having Pat Gillick over in Philly, is that a potentially formidable opponent there?

BOBBY COX: They sure were last year. They played great, really came on strong at the end.

Q. You guys have a lot of ties.

BOBBY COX: Oh, Pat? Pat's great. I've had the good fortune of working for two of the best, Schuerholz and Gillick, almost my entire career.

Q. Do you see any more prospects coming up next year?

BOBBY COX: You know, we brought an awful lot of them up last year, so I don't know if you're going to see any actually new faces Opening Day. But if there's injuries, you'll see some.

Q. How about James and LaRew?

BOBBY COX: I love James and I love LaRew. James is a left-hander that doesn't give you the appearance that he's a baseball player, if you just look at him. The kid, the fact is he can pitch. He's really sneaky. LaRew is a big kid that's got a chance to be outstanding as a starter or a reliever, really outstanding.

Q. The Marlins have been such a factor in recent years because of their young arms; how different is it going to be in there facing a team of kids?

BOBBY COX: I have no idea how good those kids can play. Doesn't matter to me, if they are 19 or 36, if you can play the game, you can play it. You know, losing Burnett, losing Beckett, those are huge hits. I guess they have lost their entire outfield now and infield. But, I don't know. They obviously have a plan in my mind.

Q. Dontrelle is back.

BOBBY COX: Yeah.

Q. Do you think a guy like Gillick can make a difference?

BOBBY COX: I do. Always had. He did in Toronto, he did in Seattle.

Q. Would you say Dale Murphy deserves more recognition for the Hall of Fame?

BOBBY COX: I would love to see Dale in the Hall of Fame, for two reasons, the numbers he put up, he was MVP twice. And if you look at the all-around type of player, he went from catcher to first base to left field to centerfield, became a Gold Glove winner, and absolutely his character, what he does for communities and all that, has to add in somewhere.

Q. I work for the Dodgers stations. Can you tell Dodgers fans what they are going to expect from Furcal?

BOBBY COX: They are going to love him. He's a tremendously exciting player. He can run with the wind. He played great shortstop. He's a great defensive guy. He's going to hit a lot of extra-base hits, too. He's a fan favorite. He absolutely will have the fans loving him.

Q. Disappointing for you?

BOBBY COX: Yeah, we thought we could get him back, but we were separated a long ways. in the salary department. It was a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and he could not refuse that. He had to go for it.

Q. You know Grady pretty well.

BOBBY COX: Yeah, I just talked to him.

Q. How will he do out in L.A.?

BOBBY COX: Grady will do good anywhere, has the Texas drawl and all that. He's fun to be around. I think he's fun for the writers and the players always liked him, so he'll have no problems.

Q. They always said he would be the guy to replace you actually.

BOBBY COX: He still could, who knows. Grady is one of my favorite people.

Q. Were you surprised at Farnsworth's decision?

BOBBY COX: A little bit. We thought he was coming back, too. We thought he would come back. I don't know exactly what happened.

Q. It seems like you're always talking about a player that goes to New York. Do you think he can handle the adjustment?

BOBBY COX: If he throws like he did with us, he'll be fine. And he pitched well for Detroit.

Q. The fact that Roger McDowell was a relief pitcher and your weakness is in the bullpen, does that help?

BOBBY COX: The good thing about Roger, he has been a starter, he has been a reliever, he has had shoulder problems, he has
had elbow problems; so he knows everything, how it works. So he will help a lot of guys.

Q. How much will you guys miss Leo?

BOBBY COX: Well, it's, again, you know, you cut if loose and you go -- we're happy with Roger, we love him.

Q. Do you expect to see Julio back next year?

BOBBY COX: Yeah, he's been a big part of it, man.

Q. Same role?

BOBBY COX: Yeah.

Q. Is he going to play until he's 50?

BOBBY COX: I think he really wants to, I really do.

Q. He'll be 48 next year. Are you happy with the platoon, the last couple of years?

BOBBY COX: Well, he hit almost 30 home runs and drove in over a hundred. Both of them are great fielders. Julio is really underrated. I don't know how people rate him but he is a very good first baseman.

Q. How much does Wagner change the Mets?

BOBBY COX: A lot. They blew a lot of games last year. A lot.

Q. They could be a much different team.

BOBBY COX: I'd put a pretty high value on a closer myself.

Q. He wanted to pitch for you guys.

BOBBY COX: Yeah, close to home.

Q. Money issues.

BOBBY COX: Yeah, a little bit.

Q. Do you have any theories on what happened to Kolb after he left Milwaukee and went to your place?

BOBBY COX: I don't have any theories. Just didn't work out.

Q. Was that as big a puzzle as anything you had going on?

BOBBY COX: Well, it was a puzzle with him all year just about. He'd show flashes. I felt bad because we couldn't get him -- couldn't get him going and we should have.

Q. He was okay health-wise?

BOBBY COX: No, he was fine, he was healthy.

Q. It was never related to that?

BOBBY COX: No. I mean, he could very well turn it around next year and get the groundballs at somebody. I felt bad because he had spurts where he pitched pretty darned good, and was kind of like reach man the year before, every head-knocker that was hit went through the infield and then bad things started happening.

Q. Except for the really elite closers, there's a lot of people that think that it's hard for relief pitchers to have two good years in a row because they get used so much.

BOBBY COX: You look at all of the track records, that happens.

Q. Which is interesting with the multi-year contracts they are all getting now.

BOBBY COX: Age 38, 39.

Q. You commit three and four years to a relief pitcher, you're going to be disappointed.

BOBBY COX: Small market.