What has Sabathia done over the past few years or over the past 12 months that has allowed him to become a much better pitcher and take him to the next level?
I think when you look back to the middle of '05 is when he really transitioned into the pitcher that you see today. But obviously he's continued to improve in the last couple of years right on top of that. But he made some adjustments to his game mentally, physically, fundamentally, emotionally, the whole nine yards. I mean, this is a guy that is a true No. 1, he's a leader of our pitching staff. You look at the consistency to which he handles himself and the toughness that he shows, obviously along with his ability, you've got an outstanding young man on the mound there.
A lot has been talked about pitching and hitting with both clubs. How about the fielding? How would you assess your club's fielding and what do you know about the Red Sox' fielding?
I can only speak for our club. Our guys are focused, they're relaxed, they've had a very consistent year. They know what they need to do to win ballgames. We're a club that needs to get it done with all areas of our club, and different individuals within those areas, they've got a certain responsibility that goes along with that.
Our guys, they're a close group. They care about each other. They understand what it means to be a good teammate and respecting the game is important, and that's the way they handle themselves. Boston won 96 games, we won 96 games, and here we are. So I think it's a great match up.
What's made you a good fit for this club? It's a young team, you just getting an extension this year. What is it about your personality or your style of managing? What's made you a good fit with these guys?
My first year here was in '03 and a lot of these kids I was with in the minor leagues at that time, or prior to that point in time. I think Mark Shapiro and I have similar values just in regard to what we were looking to accomplish and how we wanted to do it. It was something we wanted to instill throughout this organization, not just at the big league level, just in regard to how things are handled and what we're all about.
Ultimately it's about winning at the big league level. We had enough respect for the game to understand it was going to take some time to do that, and it did, and it does. You've got bumps and bruises along the way, but ultimately you still come out and you play the way you're supposed to play day in and day out, and let the results take care of themselves.
We've got a group in there now that we've got guys that are taking on leadership roles, core guys that have been here that understand everything that we've gone through the last four or five years. And then the veterans we brought in in the off season, as well as Lofton and Gomez and some of the guys we brought in during the season, and you couple that with the young players that have come up and really contributed and done a good job, and I think you've got a nice blend.
These guys, they take care of themselves.
They police themselves. They I think derive a great deal of confidence from one another, and toughness, as well.
Can you talk about Trot Nixon's role for your ballclub?
Well, Trot has really served in a leadership capacity for us from day one. I think it started in spring training. He was a tremendous influence on our ballclub early on in the year and has continued to be that influence. Even when we went with Gutierrez and started playing him a little bit more and the trade with Lofton, he still stood the course.
He's a great competitor, as everybody up here understands. You know, he understands what this time of year is all about, as do a few of our other guys, and I think that was important for us to acquire. And that's why in the off season we did bring in people that had postseason experience and understood what it meant to play in October, no different than bringing in Kenny Lofton during the middle of the season. Obviously we can talk about outstanding players on the field, but the intangibles and the toughness and the consistency which they bring to the yard every day is extremely important to us.
Going back to Sabathia, can you be specific on like one or two major adjustments that he made that really helped him as a pitcher?
Well, I think he developed a routine for himself which was something that he stuck with, and that's really been a big part of his game. But I also think that just the rhythm and tempo and the pace to which he goes out there and pitches has been a big part of it, too. I mean, obviously there's some fundamental things and other things that he's worked through, but he's just a young man that's grown up on the field at the Major League level. He's 26 years old, he's been playing for seven years. It's incredible what he's accomplished in such a short period of time. And to be a leader on top of that and to show the strength and consistency he does with his personality, it's something I have a great deal of respect for.
A lot of this focus is on the players, as it should be, but there has to be the guy who kind of runs the show, the leader. What do you bring to the table with this club? And how are you a better manager now than when you first began here?
You go through so many different experiences over the course of a week, a month, much less years. You try to learn from every experience. I've probably learned more from these guys than they have from me, and I think that that's the way it should be as a manager. When things are going rough, you should get out front and take the hit, and when they're going good, you should stay the hell out of the way. It's all about the players. These are the guys that are doing it. They understand what it takes to go out there and play the way they're supposed to play, and give themselves every opportunity to win the ballgame. And just focus on what they can control and be there for each other and take care of each other and play the game the way it's supposed to be played.
Every now and again a manager has to give some direction, but ultimately it's about these guys.
What is your overall impression of Daisuke Matsuzaka? He's had kind of mixed results against on your team.
Well, he's an outstanding pitcher, a complete pitcher, well rounded, different facets of his game, throws the ball where he wants to. I mean, he's obviously a great competitor, as well.
I mean, from our standpoint -- for me that's about three week away for me right now. I'm so focused on what we need to do here initially. We'll do more work on him as we get closer.
You didn't beat the Yankees during the season; beat them in the series. The Red Sox beat you during the season. What happens in the postseason that makes the season irrelevant?
You start over. I mean, you start over. So many points in time over the course of a season where a ballclub evolves or changes or gets better, but ultimately once you get down to the end, that's the team that you are.
You know, as we moved into the postseason here we understood exactly where we were, and our guys do a good job of separating, whether it be from day to day or from certain situations or series that we've gone through before and learn from it, and we go out and play. That's why you play 162 games. That's the real grind. That's the ultimate grind is the battle of the fittest and who's going to be there in the end. Then once you get to the playoffs you continue to take it day by day and just a little bit longer season than you do during the season, whether it be a five game series or a seven game series like we have here, and you just go out and play. You go out and play your game and let the results take care of themselves. Our guys have pretty good focus when it comes to doing that.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.