Winter Meetings interview with Andy Green

Winter Meetings interview with Andy Green

Q. With this being your first managerial gig, the situation is certainly fluid with the roster, how much anxiety or uneasy is that? How do you sort of sort through not knowing what the pieces are, or maybe drawing it up on a cocktail napkin what the lineup maybe?

ANDY GREEN: I think you have to be in the moment right now. More than anything, our club is in the midst of a redesign to some degree. Jedd Gyorko traded yesterday for Jon Jay. Jon Jay brings us a veteran presence, a left-handed bat in the outfield, a piece that we desperately needed.

It's hard to put a lineup down when you don't know what pieces are going to be down, but what you do know is you have a general manager in the front office who is incredibly opportunistic, who is going to take every opportunity he can find to make his team better not just in 2016, but 2017 and '18 and beyond.

Clearly the NL West is becoming like the old AL East right now. It's a highly competitive division with moves that are being made throughout. We are going to have to look at ourselves and assess what ways we can be better this year and the future, as well.

Q. You knew the Dbacks were going to be aggressive in the off-season. Are you surprised to any extent of what they have done with the moves?

ANDY GREEN: I think once they cleared my salary off the books, they had enough to go after Zack Greinke. I think ultimately they had positioned themselves to put themselves on the map. They have taken their chances and pushed their chips to the table.

We are going to do everything we possibly can to make it as difficult for them to realize their objectives. I think at this time last year, everybody was -- maybe not this day, but last year in the off-season everybody was looking to us in San Diego to be the team.

Things don't always turn out how you expect. That's why you play the games on the field and not on paper. It's our job as a coaching staff to reach inside each individual person and maximize who they are and create an environment where they played their absolute best and we challenge every single team, every single day, and put as much pressure on the opposition as possible.

Q. You've been on the job now officially for a little over a month or so. Going through the process of relationship-building, how have you gone about doing that with guys that are on the roster?

ANDY GREEN: That's actually been my favorite part. There's a thousand things that have to take place right when you take this job, put your staff together. But my favorite part is sitting across from Tyson Ross having breakfast, finding out who he is as a person and how driven he is, coming in the day after Thanksgiving seeing him dripping in sweat because he's working out and he has a passion to be the best he can be.

Seeing Shields and his intensity, and who he is as a person and how desperately he doesn't want to experience what happened last year in San Diego and how hungry he is to experience what Kansas City experienced. He had a hand in creating that culture there. Spent a few hours with Matt Kemp, just listening to him.

All of these guys have inside of themselves a steadfast desire for this club to be way better than last year. And they have great ideas, things that went wrong last year that they don't want to see happen again this year.

Empowering them to verbalize those ideas and shutting my mouth and listening for awhile, I think these guys have a vision of us being great. Sitting with Will Myers and having lunch with him, of course it was over many corn dogs with Will -- got to work on that diet a little bit there.

Just a great time listening to him and how passionate he is to have a healthy year next year and how good he feels; the expectation that he can show up every single day feeling good physically, knowing what kind of performance follows those good feelings physically.

My favorite part is the relationship building. It's not just those guys. Talked to John Edwards for about half an hour on the phone the other day. Talked to Jon Jay yesterday. It's every day is invested as humanly possible in getting to know these guys on a personal level.

Q. Having some time to be around these guys, have you seen some things?

ANDY GREEN: What we have is -- strength of the team would be those three horses in front of the rotation right now, when you look at Tyson, when you look at James and you look at Andrew and you look at what they bring to the table. That's an obvious strength.

Re-designing our bullpen right now, and we're in the midst of that. The starting rotation, you have Myers and Matt Kemp. And Jon Jay now. Sorting out the shortstop position.

There's some strength behind the dish. I don't know if anybody else has much of a better setup than a young catcher in Austin Hedges who has a capability of being great, and an established veteran in Derek Norris who has already shown the ability to be great. So we have a really nice situation back there.

There's a lot to like, but more than anything what I hear in those guys is their desire to see what happened last year change, and that's what I like. I think as a manager, you have to capitalize on the desires of your player, and that's what we're going to try to do.

Q. Did you get a sense from your conversations with those guys that there was an extreme sense of despair or disappointment in the way last year shook out?

ANDY GREEN: I'd stop short of despair for sure. I'd say those guys were greatly frustrated with the level of expectation they had going into the season with and the unmet level of expectation at the end of the season.

They went through a lot of transition. They went through a lot of change. You have a managerial change in the middle of the season, you have a whole new collection of guys that haven't been around each other and now they are together for the first time.

They didn't probably gel the way they would have liked, and that's part of the listening process for me is hearing what struggles each person went through. I think, for me, cultivating a culture where everybody looks internally to what they can do to help the people externally, looking inside yourself as Matt Kemp and James Shields and saying how do I connect with Travis Jankowski and Cory Spangenberg, how do we draw out of them what's inside of them, how do we create an environment where these guys build each other up instead of be frustrated.

Once you have frustration inside yourself, you're not a person invested in anybody else. For us to be great, we have to create an unbelievable culture where we actually look out for each other and really build each other up.

Q. You've had great success at the Minor League level. How do you translate the experience that you have as a winner to the Major League level?

ANDY GREEN: I think managing is about leadership and leadership is about relationships and it's connecting with people. People have different struggles at different levels in their life, but if you have the capacity to read people and recognize what exists inside of them and create an environment where you draw it out of them, I think that's true at any level or any job, whether it's running a Fortune 500 company or a Major League Baseball club.

Leadership is leadership. What you learn in the Minor Leagues, you get to labor in relative anonymity, where nobody knows who you are or necessarily cares who you are, but what you learn there is relationships and how you value people. As a manager, if you exist to serve them instead of be served, you foster an environment where everybody's skills are on display and it's not necessarily about yourself.

Some people might think it's about Minor League experience, it's about Major League experience. Leadership translates to any job, anyplace, and that's what I spent my time trying to cultivate myself so I have something of substance to give the guys.

Q. Being in the room with A.J., the front office, seeing some of the moves, what do you think the composition of the roster is shifting towards?

ANDY GREEN: We have substantially more versatile than the team had last year. You throw Jon Jay into the mix and what he brings to the table and Cory Spangenberg and Travis Jankowski, there's a speed element there, there's still the power element in Will Myers and Matt Kemp.

I think it's shaping up as a more well-rounded club, especially defensively. We clearly have to plug that hole at short stop. We haven't been amiss talking about that. We need to plug that spot, and we are working actively to do that.

I think once that hole is plugged, we're going to be a much more athletic club, and I think that brand of baseball is very appealing to me because when you have raw athleticism and speed, you have the capacity to put pressure on the defense in a lot of different ways.

We are probably lining up that way more than the sit back and hit the ball out of the ballpark every single time, which from an outside perspective, how the team was structured last year.

Q. How do you keep both of your catchers happy given Norris cringes at the idea of never being out of the lineup; and this year, strikes, throwing out base runners, and yet with a young catcher that needs to play, how do you find a balance with those guys?

ANDY GREEN: I think that's a great question. With Derek Norris, you alluded to it, his improvement in the framing metric was also unprecedented from early in the season when they placed an emphasis on it and started talking about it and how well he did from a receiving perspective late and he was near the top of the league in runners caught stealing.

I personally don't want any player who ever wants to come out of the lineup, but I want to have them learn to respect what I have to do to cultivate an environment where everybody's attributes are maximized.

I think that comes with consistent communication. It comes with same thing I've said to just about everybody else, nobody is going to play 162. That's almost unheard of anymore. I think Manny Machado is the only guy that did that last year.

You come into the season, 162 is not happening. For a catcher, what's his best amount of games to play. We have to talk through that. Probably not 140. Like where he was at last year, that's probably the best recipe for him playing that many games. The wear and tear at the end of the season -- so we are going to talk through that.

But I love the fact that Derek Norris wants to be on the field every day. And I know Austin Hedges wants to be on the field every day. This roster is not set. We don't know how it's going to play and we don't know how many games each of those guys are going to play.

As we look through the rest of these winter meetings and the off-season, I know the roster composition will change. But what we want to cultivate is an environment where every guy has the best year possible.

Q. You have some flexibility with Drew Pomeranz and Brandon Maurer as far as maybe they can start or going to the bullpen. Is there any direction for both those guys?

ANDY GREEN: I think we definitely have that flexibility. I think once we get a better hold on what our roster is going to look like, those decisions become a lot clearer. Both of them have pitched in both capacities. Both of them have been more successful out of the bullpen than a starting role.

Pomeranz, when I talk to him on the phone: Start me, relieve me. I'm here to help the Padres win. Which is an unbelievable attitude to have. Brandon in Seattle was very young as a starter. You look at his Minor League track record, his dominance in Jackson in AA, he was a tremendous starter there. And his early returns at the Major League level were not great in that role, where last year it was sensational out of the bullpen.

But there's a history of guys that have gone to the bullpen and come back to the rotation and reestablished themselves as actually great starters.

All those possibilities are on the table. I'm not going to be one that ever backs myself into a corner and say what we're going to do, especially here in December when we've got months to play out before we make those determinations.

Q. Are we maybe not talking enough about defense, especially with the way this team was put together last year, there was maybe a small level of acceptance that the Padres were willing to deal with some defensive warts given that there would be some upside on the offensive end? In Arizona, you were at the forefront of leading the shifting movement for a team that led the Major Leagues in defensive saves by a wide margin. How much will that be on your mind as we move forward and how much of that is a conversation upstairs?

ANDY GREEN: I think it's a big part of it, getting more athletic and defensive oriented, it's necessary. You win games in two ways, run prevention and run creation, and each one is important. You have to be able to keep runs off the board. The club last year gave up more unearned runs than anybody in baseball.

So we have to figure out what happens psychologically once an error occurred that caused us to give up more unearned runs than anybody in baseball. If the pitching staff doesn't end up trusting the defense, what does that do psychologically to pitching to contact, to pitching in the zone. As a club I think set the record for strikeouts last year and was at the top of the league in walks.

We want to foster an environment where pitchers have full confidence in defense so they are in an environment where they are going to be great.

I'm a defense-oriented guy, I'm a pressure on the defense guy, and defense is paramount for us to be great.

Q. A manager told me late this season that he rarely has to make, quote/unquote, gut decisions because most scenarios are gone over with the staff before the game. Where do you think that you'll fit in that way?

ANDY GREEN: That's an interesting comment. I have historically managed games in my head before they happened, but rarely do they transpire how you manage them in your head. I think there is always that point in time where you have to trust your instincts, but your instinct a lot of time has a lot to do with the information you've taken into consideration prior to the game. It shapes your instincts, and whether it's a gut decision or a head decision, that's where each person determines in his own mind.

But there are times I know as a manager in the past, you feel things in your innermost being and you have to trust that instinct, even if it necessarily defies the numbers.

And I'm probably as analytically inclined as anybody in the game. I'm probably inclined to evaluate each situation based on the numbers. But at the end of the day I want to trust the guy standing on the mound, even if it defies the numbers. I want to have belief in his capacity to rise to the situation. And there's times every season where you throw the numbers out the door and you trust who that man is on the mound and you leave him out there to navigate a difficult and dicey situation.

I think that's instincts and feel, and I guess in time you guys will question those instincts and feel.

Q. Does that also answer the question of where you stand on the third time through the order, pitcher numbers?

ANDY GREEN: I think there's a lot to factor in. Sitting right here in December and talking about if I'm going to allow a starter to go through the order the third time, I need to know the state of my bullpen. I need to know the health of my bullpen. I need to know the health of my starter. I need to know how far we've pushed him in the past and how hard it's been over the last inning or two.

I think there's an innumerable amount of things you factor in. Each single day, one of those things screams louder than the other one and you listen to that at that point in time. That's an innate feel for the game that I hope I display, and I think it's a conversation with Mark McGwire and Darren Balsley and understanding what they see and kind of collaboratively attacking the game.

I can't say the days I'll let them go through a third time, but there will be plenty of times I do and plenty of times I don't.

Q. How important is the third baseman in your roster?

ANDY GREEN: We have Solarte and Cory Spangenberg who have history at that position and guys that we trust at that position right now. We are predominately looking for a shortstop at this point in time. Got to kind of anchor our defense. When that guy comes, I think we'll get a better idea of what our infield is going to look like.

Q. Have you seen Matsuda play from Japan?

ANDY GREEN: I have. I've seen video of him, and obviously he had over 30 home runs last year, brings an enormous amount of energy, plays sensational defense at third base. I've heard nothing but tremendous things about him and who he is.

Q. He's also a relatively unknown product. He's not somebody you can reach out to and talk and find out what he's like at this stage.

ANDY GREEN: I need to brush up on my Japanese. It's been a long time since I've been over there. I've heard great things about him.

Q. Do you think he could be one of the candidates for shortstop?

ANDY GREEN: Matsuda? I don't think we necessarily view him as a shortstop, but that doesn't necessarily eliminate him from being in contention to be a part of our club going forward. I don't necessarily make those discussions ultimately, but I've watched him and I think as an organization we value who he is and we see the upside in him and we know the history there and the winning player that he's been for Fukuoka.

Q. When you came here, you understood the reputation A.J. Preller had given the whirlwind of events we saw that happened last December. And you've now been privy to what goes on in that room, the multitude of meetings that A.J. likes to have, the long discussions, what has your impression been of him over the last six weeks or so?

ANDY GREEN: I've been incredibly impressed by his willingness to listen. I think great leadership is about drawing things out of your people, and he fosters an environment where every single person in that room's opinion is valued and heard.

I think you end up with the best ideas that way. Everybody has a green light to verbalize what they believe and what their conventions are. You never know where the best idea is going to come from. And he's that type of guy, and I share that conviction. I didn't know he necessarily had that when I was interviewing.

But I love the discussions. I love the relentless pursuit of creating the best team for the San Diego fans for 2016 and onward. He doesn't stop. He's relentless. And I think as an organization, we're incredibly lucky to have him at the helm.

Q. How many hours of sleep does he typically get?

ANDY GREEN: I cash my chips in way before him, so I don't know when he turns in finally.

Q. Did you notice coming from a hitter-friendly park, did you notice it playing a little differently with some of the fence changes, just looking at some of the numbers?

ANDY GREEN: I think in 2004 and 2005 when I first played through Petco, it played huge. That's just the way it was. A lot's changed. The video is up. I think the balls were flying last year, and I don't think it was necessarily a pitcher-friendly environment. I don't know when that changed, but my perspective was the ball gets out of Petco now, and that's not necessarily how I felt in 2004 when I first came through.

Q. How do you know that's either -- a lot of home runs last year given up by the pitching staff, and consequently on the other side as well. How do you know, at least on the Padre end, it's not so much a result of what the pitchers were doing or the absence of certain atmospheric conditions that we've grown to appreciate over time, the marine layer outside the ballpark; how do you go about dissecting that?

ANDY GREEN: I think more than anything else, we are going to look at our roster and our players and try to put them in a position to succeed. Some of the externals, we can't figure out at this point in time, how the ballpark is going to play going forward, because it has played big in certain years and played small, like last year, like you said about the marine layer.

We have El Niño, so we probably have somebody in analytics studying how that will affect us in the coming season. But I'll look at the information, though.