ESPN MLB analysts John Kruk and Ozzie Guillen spoke with members of the media yesterday ahead of next week’s Gillette Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game Monday and Tuesday, July 14th and 15th. Kruk will join host Chris Berman and reporters Buster Olney and Pedro Gomez for coverage of the game. Guillen will join Ernesto Jerez, Luis Alfredo Alvarez, and Guillermo Celis on ESPN Deportes’ coverage of the All-Star Game. The following is the transcript of Thursday’s conference call held with the media in which Kruk and Guillen discussed a number of topics. Those topics included the pair’s own thoughts on the game, their former MLB careers and more. More information on the ESPN family of networks’ coverage of this year’s Gillette Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game is available online now at http://espn.go.com/mlb.
Q. You both were All-Stars as players. What are your earliest memories of the Home Run Derby, what’s the first one you can remember watching?
OZZIE GUILLEN: Mine was in Toronto and Cecil Fielder – seeing him hit that jumbotron. In that time, not that many people were hitting balls that far. I think that’s my earliest memory.
JOHN KRUK: Mine was the same. That was 1991, I believe, in Toronto. And I think Cal Ripken, Jr. hit like nine million home runs that day, from what I remember. It seemed like he just got on a groove and rode it.
Q. How has it grown since then, in your eyes, compared to what it was 25 years ago?
OZZIE GUILLEN: Well, to me I think the coverage is a lot better now. There’s more promotion and more marketing. And I think the players pick their own – you know, the players that want to be with the team. They have enough time to pick the guys. In the past, we just picked guys out of the clubhouse and said do you want to be in it. They say yes and they go for it. I think now it’s a bigger deal and better deal than it was in the past.
JOHN KRUK: I agree with Ozzie, because I think now with the captains, it’s harder to say no to Jose Bautista or Troy Tulowitzki who call you and say: ‘Hey, do you want to be part of this Home Run Derby?’ It’s hard to tell a fellow player no.
And I remember in 1991, like Cal and Ozzie mentioned Cecil Fielder – two big guys. And you look at these guys now, these guys are huge.
I mean, Cespedes and Stanton – you’re talking about Mark Trumbo last year. I don’t think people understand because everyone’s big now. I don’t think they understand just how huge these guys are.
OZZIE GUILLEN: I feel right now it’s easier, too, because people don’t realize how tired you can get with that many swings. And I think the competition – people are more into it.
I think the players are more into it. A lot of players like to be involved. In the past, you’d see a lot of I don’t know if I can do it because I’m going to lose my swing or I don’t like it because I don’t know how my swing is going to be for the start of the second half.
But right now, it’s a big deal. And I think when you compete, now with interleague games, now you compete against the American League and National League, I think it’s more interesting for fans and everybody, period.
Q. One of the guys who is not so hugely built in this competition is the hometown guy, Brian Dozier. How does a guy like that hit 16 home runs this year?
OZZIE GUILLEN: Well, it’s very impressive and I’m very surprised. I think they are built around pitching and manufacturing runs. Now how does this kid hit that many home runs in that park? It’s not easy to hit that many home runs in that park.
That’s pretty impressive. And very pleasing. I think this kid brings a lot to the team because they don’t have that much power because Morneau is out of there. Mauer is not hitting that many home runs.
Q John, any thoughts on Dozier, probably one of the littlest guys you’ll see in the Derby Monday night?
JOHN KRUK: Trust me, I think it’s smart for Jose Bautista to have a Twin. I think you remember a couple of years ago in Arizona when Prince Fielder didn’t pick Justin Upton to be in it and Prince got booed. Every time he stepped up to the plate he got booed.
And in Kansas City, I don’t think there was a Royal. He didn’t pick a Royals player and Robinson Cano got booed two years ago in Kansas City, I guess it was. And he got booed because he didn’t pick – I think Billy Butler was the All-Star that year and he didn’t pick Billy Butler to be in the Home Run Derby. Jose Bautista has been around long enough. He understands.
Dozier is the type of guy, he’s smaller, and I think what’s going to make it tough for him is, like Ozzie said, it’s a big ballpark and he doesn’t have just the pure power that guys like Cespedes and Bautista and Stanton and Tulowitzki have. To me, it seems like he’ll exert more energy to hit home runs.
If he gets in the second round, you might see him tire out a little bit. But, believe me, he’s going to be the fans’ favorite, of course, and I would love to see him get as deep as he can and even win it if he can.
Q. Ozzie, you managed a lot of games at Target Field. I’m just wondering if a part of you wonders how this is going to play out given that it’s such a pitchers’ ballpark?
OZZIE GUILLEN: I expect a very good game. I know the offense is very strong but I believe both sides have great pitching staffs. Both sides are playing pretty big and I expect a pretty close game. And I expect the managers will make a lot of little plays, bunting and hit-and-run, because this ballpark is very tough to score some runs. And on top of that you put the pitching staff in both leagues together, expect a pretty close game.
Q. I should have clarified. How do you think the Derby is going to play out there? Seems like it’s especially hard to hit home runs between the alleys.
OZZIE GUILLEN: When you see Stanton and Cespedes, they could hit it out to the moon, if they have to. Like Kruk said, those guys are so big and so strong right now – any ballpark, those guys are going to put on a show. They’re strong enough.
I think it’s going to be a good show for the fans because that’s what the fans and everybody wants to see – a lot of home runs, and I don’t think the ballpark, no matter how big or how the ball carries [matters]. I think they’re going to put on an unbelievable show.
JOHN KRUK: These guys hit the ball so far. Is it a little tougher to hit it there than it would be, say, in Arizona a couple of years ago or some other ballparks that are smaller? But these guys, at batting practice they make most ballparks look like a Little League field. Ozzie was a witness to Giancarlo Stanton taking batting practice. It’s one of the most impressive things you’ll ever see.
OZZIE GUILLEN: Remember the Home Run Derby in [Citi Field] in New York. That ballpark is a pretty decent size. And Cespedes just put on a show there. I expect the same way this year. I think the Mets ballpark last year was bigger, and obviously this year they shrink a little bit. But you hit it in the Mets ballpark, you can hit it anywhere because that ball does not carry at all in New York.
Q. Ozzie, you obviously got a chance to manage Giancarlo [Stanton] in the 2012 season the first time he made the All-Star team and you got to watch him every single day hit those home runs. I remember you telling us you thought that one day one of those balls he hit might kill somebody. What’s impressed you the most about him over the last two years and this season in particular as you’ve seen him grow as a player?
OZZIE GUILLEN: First of all, he’s matured a lot. He’s learning how to hit. And besides that, I think it’s not that he’s better, I think he has a little bit more potential now than when I was managing him.
This kid is still learning the process about strike zone and all that. But this kid is so powerful. Even when he make a mistake hitting, he still hits it hard and that’s all that counts. He’s just a pure strong hitter. One of my favorite guys.
And when you see this kid take batting practice, he takes his bat. He goes about the game the right way. You’re pretty pleased with the way he plays the game and the way he goes about his business.
And I said it before, I keep saying it, I didn’t see anybody in the game when I was playing, coaching or managing hit the ball harder than Giancarlo. And when I say he will kill a third baseman, a coach, you can add a shortstop there too because this man is very dangerous. Giancarlo’s bat is very, very fast.
JOHN KRUK: He might not kill a left fielder but he’s liable to hurt one pretty good.
OZZIE GUILLEN: I’ve seen him hit the ball in Cleveland, when I was managing and Asdrubal Cabrera was playing shortstop. He almost put him out in Lake Erie with how hard he hit it. He tried to catch it. He couldn’t even jump – the ball was hitting the wall before he was landing down on his feet.
And I love this kid. But meanwhile, he’s an amazing power hitter. He learned how to strike out a lot less. He’s not chasing that many bad pitches like he used to. And little by little, he’s going to become one of the superstars in the game.
Q. John, you obviously played this game, been around it so long. Who does he remind you most of and what do you think, he’s only a couple of years away from becoming a free agent. If the Marlins don’t trade him first. What do you think teams would give up to have Giancarlo Stanton?
JOHN KRUK: Wow. First of all, he reminds me of no one. I’ve never seen anyone hit – the only one who comes close as a right-handed hitter in my time – Gary Sheffield comes to mind, the guy who just would – he hit the ball so hard. But he’s not as big as Giancarlo.
I mean Giancarlo, he’s a tight end. He looks like Tony Gonzalez. He’s built like Tony Gonzalez. He’s just a huge man. And what it would take to get him – I mean, well, what it’s going to take probably would be a number one starter and I don’t think teams are willing to give up a number one starter for a right fielder.
But that’s what it would take. It’s not going to take someone’s number three and a Minor League prospect. It’s going to take a number one. Hypothetically, if the Dodgers called and said all their outfielders got hurt again and we need an outfielder and they wanted to trade Giancarlo, it would have to take someone like a Greinke, not a Kershaw, but a Greinke and a top prospect or two to get someone like him.
OZZIE GUILLEN: I think whoever it is that is going to make a trade, I think whoever gets traded to the Marlins has to play in the Big Leagues right away. They have to be on the Big League roster helping the team play every day.
And I just imagine that kid – I’m not saying they shouldn’t trade him to New York or whatever, just making a point. If this kid played in New York or Boston or Texas, I mean, he will be healthier and he will produce more because you aren’t chasing balls in Marlins Park, which is so huge. Obviously you get tired and sore.
He can make a mistake and still hit the ball 500 feet. To make, like John said, to make a trade, I don’t think right now anybody is prepared to offer any trade to the Marlins because the management, they can get a lot of good things for him.
I don’t know. I just saw the Marlins’ front office talk about that. They’re not going to move them. But I think Giancarlo is going to be a very, very good product to make a good trade.
Q. I’m curious about the players who weren’t voted in. Are there names that jump out at you immediately and specifically in the National League, the storyline for Justin Morneau going back to Minnesota would be a fun one. But do you think he’s actually deserving of going?
OZZIE GUILLEN: Of course, yes. I was checking his numbers, and if I was the manager, I would have taken him. I thought he looked good. I think the numbers are there. I think he’d be awesome and great for baseball.
I think Minnesota fans, they are very grateful and very pleased with what Morneau did there. I’m surprised they didn’t take him. But that’s a part of the game, every year somebody is out there not playing that should be playing, because it’s hard to make the All-Star team. But I know we won’t hesitate to pick this kid and go there because I know it’s going to be fun for everybody around Major League Baseball.
JOHN KRUK: I agree. Even though the All-Star Game is for home field advantage in the World Series, it’s still to me a game for the fans.
And I think having Justin Morneau – look, if he had 30 RBIs was hitting .240, sentiment goes out the window, he doesn’t deserve it. But he deserves to be there. And the fact it’s going to be, like Ozzie said, back in Minnesota where he was beloved, it’s just a great story.
And how great would it be if he came up in a key situation in the 8th or 9th inning and got a big hit or hit a home run to help win the game? The fans, even though most of them are probably going to be rooting for the American League because it’s an American League city, I can’t imagine him not getting a standing ovation and being adored like he should be because of the great things he did in Minnesota.
Q. Ozzie, quick question. As a Chicago guy, what do you think of where the Cubs are at in their rebuilding process, given that you have Samardzija traded away, but you have Starling back in All-Star form and Rizzo possibly joining him as another 24-year old All-Star.
OZZIE GUILLEN: Well, I hope Rizzo makes it. I think Rizzo has unbelievable numbers. He deserves to be there. He’s hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 49 RBIs with a team that doesn’t produce that much. That’s the key.
I think the Cubs are doing the right thing right now. This trade has been great for everyone, especially for Samardzija. Samardzija, every day when he pitches, all of the media in Chicago ask: When do you think you are going to get traded? How are you going to get traded?
I think all the draining and all the stuff out of this kid’s mind now is he’s got to concentrate to help the Oakland A’s. Now I think the Cubs are showing people they are trying to make a good young team for the future. I think that was a big step for everyone. And I think that they’re making the right steps.
Q. Who are you most looking forward to seeing hit in the Home Run Derby?
JOHN KRUK: I believe we have the same answer: Giancarlo Stanton.
OZZIE GUILLEN: I don’t want to know how many Giancarlo is going to hit, I want to know how far he’s going to hit one. That’s what I’m waiting for.
JOHN KRUK: I’d like to see Nelson Cruz jump in this thing, too, because I’ve had different managers around the American League tell me that at some point in his career he’s going to hit one of the farthest home runs – he’s going to hit the farthest home run in the history of baseball. But have him and Stanton go at it, I think that would be just fun to watch. But if he’s not in, it’s Stanton.
OZZIE GUILLEN: I’m not saying it’s great for baseball when Cruz is in the Home Run Derby after the issue he had in the past. He can show people he can do that when he is clean. And I think it’s good for him and good for baseball to have that kid proving to people you don’t have to do stupid things or the things you’re not supposed to do to play well in this game.
Q. Both of you mentioned how tiring this event can be. Just one of your thoughts on the new format this year, seven outs instead of ten, and the top home run hitters from each league, the first round get a bye until the semifinals. How do you think that’s going to impact things?
JOHN KRUK: I think you’re going to have fresher guys, even though it’s only possibly three less swings. But I think you’re going to have fresher guys going into the second and third rounds of this thing.
I mean, you saw last year a couple of guys, they just wore themselves out. And I think the Home Run Derby that I remember the most, remember well is the Josh Hamilton in Yankee Stadium when he hit 9,000 home runs in the first round.
But Justin Morneau won the Home Run Derby and no one knows it or no one remembers that, but they just remember what Josh did, but Josh looked like to me got a little fatigued at the end. And you have to remember, too, the more home runs you hit, the more the pitcher who you’re bringing in, he gets fatigued too. And that could be an issue.
OZZIE GUILLEN: I think it’s great to cut it down, not just because a [swing] or two or like John said, I agree with John 100 percent, but for the fans, too. I mean, the Home Run Derby, the fans get into it. I think in the past they made it too long and people just, I mean I know the kids are excited. But I think for the fans and the media and everybody working the Home Run Derby and people watching on TV, it’s better because the quicker they do the stuff, the people get into it more and don’t just have to sit there, waiting, waiting, to see the same guys swing 30,000 times. I think it was a brilliant idea for MLB to cut it down and make it quicker.
Q. I’m based here in Detroit where, of course, the big news this week was Miguel Cabrera pulling out of the Home Run Derby saying he didn’t want to mess with his swing anymore. My question for both of you, and I’ll ask Ozzie first because he’s the former manager here and John second, as he’s been around the event forever. But, Ozzie, do you put any stock in the idea that a player can mess up their swing doing the Home Run Derby, was that something that you were really concerned about when you were managing?
OZZIE GUILLEN: Not really. If my players want to do it, just do it. I was concerned about my pitching, not the hitting. But I hear about a lot of guys, they don’t like to do it. And I heard from a good friend of mine Bobby Abreu, that was his excuse.
Bobby, he hit like 50 some home runs in Detroit. All of a sudden after that he just went blank. He went down to the tank. And maybe that can cause that.
I remember Frank Thomas told, a teammate, they went through the same stuff. They don’t like to do it because they think about the swing.
But I think for the Home Run Derby to when the games start, it’s like three or four days. I don’t know why it would screw up your swing.
But I respect it. I think maybe Miggy just wanted to relax. He’s been through a lot of issues physically the last few years dealing with some injuries and I think that’s why Miggy said he wanted to kick back and watch. I know he maybe wanted to be there. But I think it’s not going to play with his swing, I think he’s just tired and deserves and needs a lot of rest.
JOHN KRUK: And we were just in Detroit Sunday doing a game and Brad Ausmus said he’d love to find a day to give Miguel a day off to give him a rest.
But then when Victor [Martinez] got hurt he couldn’t give Miguel the time off because Victor. He needed that bat in the middle of the lineup without Victor there.
And so he had to continue playing him. And so I think this is more, believe me, when you participate in the workout, you seem to get a lot of swings. And you don’t take batting practice too often when there’s 40, 50,000 people in the stands. So it’s a different form of batting practice. You’re oohing and ahhing the fans with hitting the balls as far as you can hit them.
I remember the ’93 All-Star Game, the left-handed hitters, Bonds and all that, they were trying to hit it off the warehouse outside of Camden Yards. That’s not your normal batting practice.
I think what Miguel is doing is coming off the abdominal surgery or groin surgery, whatever, I think taking away from the Home Run Derby, he’s basically going to get two or three days of rest before they have to play on Friday and it’s going to help him the second half.
Q. John, the Cincinnati Reds have a couple of guys making their All-Star debuts with Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier and Cueto Thinking back to your first time in a MLB All-Star Game, what’s your favorite memory from your first appearance there?
JOHN KRUK: Man, well, the first one I made was in Toronto in ’91 and I didn’t play. Scheduling snafu or something. But I mean what I remember is walking in the clubhouse the first time. And you see the Bonds of the world and Tony Gwynn, who I played with. It wasn’t that big a deal to see Tony, but you see Tony Gwynn who has won nine million batting titles and Barry Bonds, the best all-around player in baseball – just thinking how do I fit in with this group?
And that was what was the most impressive thing to me was just walking in that clubhouse for the first time and thinking what the heck am I doing here. And then some guy came around, they roped it off, and the guy came around and shook everyone’s hands and I said who in the heck is this guy. I didn’t understand it was the Prime Minister of Canada. So that was embarrassing.
But that’s what I remember is the clubhouse, just walking in there thinking I shouldn’t be here. But then I made a couple more and I thought, well, maybe I do. I don’t know. But it was impressive to see all those guys in one clubhouse.
Q. Anytime you have an All-Star Game, there’s always the debate of who were the snubs from each team. But the Cincinnati Reds have a guy in Alfredo Simon, who was originally supposed to be a reliever for the Reds coming in but he’s been beyond impressive at this point. He ended up starting at the beginning of the season replacing Latos. But heading into the All-Star Game, he’s not on the roster. He’s leading NL in wins, tied for the best record in baseball right now. Should he be on the National League roster?
JOHN KRUK: Yeah, I was surprised he was left off. When you’re watching, he’s impressive. When you have Cueto doing such a great job, you know, and making the All-Star team, and then of course you’ve got Frazier and Mesoraco. That’s the issue. Rick Porcello on Sunday wasn’t named to the team and he pitched Sunday night.
He had a chance to have 13 wins before the All-Star break. And on his way to 20-plus wins. And of course he’s in the Fifth Man vote thing.
But it’s so difficult. And Ozzie had to manage one of these. I can’t imagine having to go down a roster and saying, okay, we need this guy, this guy, and this guy. It’s tough. I think it shows you just how great the pitching is in baseball now, when you have a guy who is leading the league in wins who can’t make the All-Star team.
OZZIE GUILLEN: I think just, I’m sure fans know about it, but when you make the All-Star team there are so many issues. You’re not talking about in one month. That takes almost all half of the season to figure out how you’re going to make it. You have phone calls from Major League Baseball, phone calls from the league, phone calls from all kinds of people on how to make the All-Star team.
You’ve got to go with the fans voting. Then you have to pick one in each team and then you have to all of a sudden manage it.
It’s not fun to be the manager on the All-Star Game. It’s not fun because you have so much stuff during the game, before the game, after the game. You don’t really enjoy it.
And on top of that, you have to win. And I think when you pick – I remember not picking one of the pitchers, Curt Schilling. I didn’t pick him. Curt was supposed to be on the team. But I had to pick somebody from Kansas City. I don’t remember the pitcher’s name.
And I had to show up for the pitching. The pitcher was a guy with like five wins and his ERA was like 4.9, and I was criticized about it. But I don’t have anything to do – we had to pick the best team. So many second basemen that year and we had to let Curt Schilling out because so many guys deserved to be there and not too many people make it.
Q. Last year we had that very memorable moment, being able to see Mariano Rivera in his final appearance in the MLB All-Star Game. We’ll get a similar opportunity here with Derek Jeter making his final appearance in the game. Comment a little on what you think his legacy will be, not just with the Yankees, but with baseball as a whole?
OZZIE GUILLEN: It’s my opinion, I don’t think any All-Star Game is going to be like last year about saying bye to a player.
But I think with Mariano, it was in New York. Mariano was perfect because they were winning the game, it was like they planned for that to happen. We don’t know when Derek Jeter is going to come out. We don’t know how many innings he’s going to play. Can he receive a standing ovation after he comes out of the field, after they take him out? Yes.
But I think Mariano Rivera, I don’t think it will happen again in baseball. The legacy, oh, wow, he’s one of my favorite players on the field and off the field. He’s a good looking man. Got a lot of girlfriends. Plays for the right team. Got a lot of money and he’s the captain of the New York Yankees. Almost never got in trouble for anything.
In baseball, you look at the big picture, that’s the real Mr. Perfect in the game. And from the day one to the last game this kid played the game right and people are going to miss him.
But I think the legacy is going to be there just because it’s the rings and he plays for New York. And I think off the field to me, it’s more important because all those girls dream about going out with him. (Chuckling).
JOHN KRUK: Whew. I can’t follow that.
I think that’s going to be the most interesting thing about this All-Star game. We can beat to death the fact that the game means home field advantage in the World Series and things like that. But I think that it is going to be the anticipation of people watching the All-Star game, when are they going to take him out and how are they going to go about doing it.
And I’ve had people in baseball say that, well, he should play the whole game. But then there’s Joe Girardi. You’re in third place or whatever, you’re thinking wait a second, hold on. I don’t want my 40-year old shortstop playing nine innings in an All-Star game when he can get two at bats and get out of there in the 5th and finally get some rest. It’s going to be interesting to see.
I think depending on the score, if it was me, I would take him out in like the 5th or 6th inning after he gets two at bats and not have a shortstop for that inning or for one batter – Derek Jeter is irreplaceable. So for one hitter, we’re not going to have anyone at shortstop and hope the guy is a left-handed pull hitter and doesn’t hit one that way.
OZZIE GUILLEN: I think, too, if I was a manager for him, he’s my first at bat, get a base hit, out of the game, people can see me running on the field.
If I not, I wait for him to get on base. If he’s not, I let him go to shortstop, then call timeout and bring the shortstop from the bench and have him leave the field even without a hit in the game. I think that’s the way they should do it.
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