07/10/2003 1:58 PM ET
Baker leaning toward Schmidt
NL All-Star manager narrows his choices to three
All-Star Game managers conf. call
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Dusty Baker said Thursday he is leaning toward San Francisco pitcher Jason Schmidt starting for the National League team in the All-Star Game.
Baker, who will manage the National League team in next Tuesday's game at U.S. Cellular Field, said he talked to Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti about Schmidt's availability.
The right-hander is 8-4 with a 2.30 ERA in 17 games, including a three-hit shutout against the Cubs on April 30. That game was Schmidt's first game back after missing nearly a week because of the death of his mother.
"It'll probably come down to Russ Ortiz, Kerry Wood, who pitched (Wednesday) and he's going to be strong, or Jason Schmidt, who I think is pitching today or (Friday)," Baker said. "Those are probably the guys I'm considering first. They are the most rested.
"Right now I might be leaning toward Jason Schmidt. It's been a tough year for him. His mother died earlier. It'd be a tremendous honor for him and a reward. It's one of those three guys."
Both Schmidt and Ortiz pitched for Baker last year to help the Giants reach the World Series.
"(Schmidt) has been dealing, plus he and Russ are both big reasons why I'm sitting here talking about it," Baker said. "I'd like to reward him. As a manager, there's not many ways you can reward a player for what they do for you. That would be a tremendous gesture to him."
Managing the All-Star Game is considered a reward and is supposed to be enjoyable, too, yet Baker has been criticized this week for comments he made regarding black and Latin players. Can he enjoy the event?
"It is supposed to be an enjoyable situation," Baker said. "Things are what they are and you have to deal with it. It's put me in an uncomfortable situation on a couple matters.
"One, the comments I made have made it uncomfortable, but you realize that when you make the comments and you mean what you say," he said. "Secondly, was the way the roster rounded out and not having the opportunity to take (Florida's Dontrelle) Willis for the All-Star team. He's my next pick.
"I'm just going to have a good time with it and manage the game because the game is fun. That's what we're there for. We're not there to talk about me, we're there to talk about the game and to play the game."
Speaking of the game, this year will be the first time that the winner of the All-Star Game will determine home-field advantage in the World Series.
"It's my luck that this is the year that it counts," Baker said. "Since it counts, you're going to play the game to win. I'm also going to try to be as fair as possible and get everybody in the game that I can because guys are traveling thousands of miles to try to win the game. I realize it does count."
Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia, who will manage the American League team, downplayed the importance of home-field advantage. Scioscia's Angels beat the Giants in seven games last fall, and the deciding game was played in Anaheim.
"I'm not as much a believer in home-field advantage deciding the World Series as some people are and as some statistics might point to," Scioscia said. "(This doesn't mean) If the American League wins (the All-Star Game), whoever the American League rep is in the World Series will all of a sudden win the World Series."
Baker also said the players are competitive by nature.
"Guys are going to play hard," Baker said. "They wouldn't be All-Stars if they didn't play hard. Most of these guys have been All-Stars most of their life. This isn't their first All-Star Game. It might be their first Major League All-Star Game but it isn't their first All-Star Game.
"If a guy has that much pride and inner drive to succeed and make it to where he is that translates to an All-Star Game. I think these guys will have the same attitude and play the same way if they were in an old-timers game. Most of these guys, that's all they know is to play hard and to win."
However, both managers felt the rule that requires each team to be represented should be reconsidered.
"That's something that's been questioned for a long, long time," Baker said. "I wouldn't be opposed to it necessarily, but I think teams in particular towns would want representatives. It's their kids, their fans and everybody in that town looks forward to seeing their local heroes. That's what the All-Star Game is all about."
Baker, whose Chicago Cubs opened a four-game series against Atlanta on Thursday, said Los Angeles pitcher Kevin Brown will probably not start the game.
"Right now, I'm probably not considering (Brown) for a starting spot because he's supposed to pitch on Sunday," Baker said. "If he has any physical problems, it wouldn't be good for him or good for the Dodgers for him to start on one day rest."
Baker defended his selection of Pittsburgh closer Mike Williams, who has 24 saves in 29 opportunities but a 6.62 ERA.
"When you're a reliever, you have one or two bad outings, your ERA can go to the sky," Baker said. "Had I taken a position player, I was thinking about (Brian) Giles and Kenny Lofton and (Jason) Kendall over there.
"If I take a position player there, another position player might get knocked out somewhere else. At that time I thought this would round out my roster the best as far as future guys like Kerry Wood and Russ Ortiz."
Atlanta's Marcus Giles and Rafael Furcal, Chicago's Mark Prior and Wood, Colorado's Preston Wilson and Shawn Chacon are among the first-time All-Stars on the National League team.
"There's always a turnover in stars and personnel," Baker said. "I think it's good for the game. We've got some young guys coming into the game. They make their mark and earn their way this year and the next few years.
"It does appear there's a changing of the guard when you have guys like Marcus Giles, young guys in our league like (Rafael) Furcal and (Edgar) Renteria. You see Albert Pujols starting. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and Shawn Chacon. It's healthy. The fans recognize that and I think the players and the coaches and the managers who did the voting recognize that, too."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.