Winter Meetings interview with Walt Weiss

Winter Meetings interview with Walt Weiss

Q. As you've experienced, has the reality that you're the manager now set in since you've been at these meetings? What has the experience been like?

WALT WEISS: Well, the last few weeks have been pretty fast. Yeah, this is a good opportunity to come in. We've got our whole staff here. We've had some been able to spend some good time together. You know, it's been it's been great to be around these guys. I've worked with all of them when I was involved in the organization in the past, so it's good to get together, catch up and start to look forward about some of the things we're trying to do as a club. I got a chance to slow things down here, but the reality is there, and I feel good about it. I feel good about our club and our staff, and it's been a good time for us these last couple days.

Q. You've got a couple of veteran guys on that staff in Tom Reynolds and Rene Lachemann. How are they going to work? Would they be also advisors in addition to coaches for you?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, sure. I don't know if you know but I haven't done this before (laughter), so I want as many managers around me as possible. So I'm going to have to lean on some guys and figure things out along the way. But I'm not afraid of that, and it helps to have guys like Latch and TR around me who not only have been around the game for a real long time, but in TR's case he's been a bench coach in our park for the last several years. And Latch is a dinosaur, man, so he's seen about everything. Nothing is going to sneak up on him. To have a couple guys like that around is really, really going to be good for me to lean on.

Q. Having talked to the staff and then Gideon in there, what do you feel like your needs are as you try to address them here? Do you look at it as starting pitcher? What do you want to try to address?

WALT WEISS: Well, you know, you've got to pitch to win, and I like our young arms. I like the fact that we're going to open up 2013 a lot healthier, I think, on the mound than we were in 2012, so that makes us better right out of the gate. And we've got some young, interesting power arms on that staff that need to take the next step. Heck, you're always looking to improve yourself. I like where we're at right now, but you're always looking to get better. If something makes sense and it's a fit, then you listen. You know what I mean? But I like where we start the season on the mound and in the bullpen. I think our bullpen is setting up pretty well, and you know how important that is in Coors Field. You've got to pass the ball around that pen every once in a while out there. I like the guys we've got. But heck, you're always looking to improve your club.

Q. After last season with the different pitching plans and the changes that went on, four man rotation, pitch limits, what kind of expectation are you setting for your pitchers this year?

WALT WEISS: Just that we compete and take our best shot to be honest with you. That's the bottom line. The bottom line is winning games. You can't get caught up in having pretty stats necessarily as a pitcher in our park. The bottom line is you've got to be winning games, and we've got to compete to do that. We've got to be tough to do that. So that's really I'm looking at it in a broad sense. That's what we're looking at from our pitchers, starters and relievers.

Q. You've talked to me before about the importance of your guy outlasting the other guy. Do you still believe that in terms of a starter, in terms of measuring how you win in your place?

WALT WEISS: Well, I think that's got to be a mentality you take the mound with. You've got to be smart, too, about how we handle the staff. And it's even more important at our place where you've got to balance the innings between your starters and relievers and not let either one get overworked. So we're trying to come up with an approach, the way we attack, the way we play. The bottom line is you've got to make pitches; I don't care where you're playing. There's some things that got to be points of emphasis for us on the mound like it is for everybody in the game. I think it's even more important because of where we play that we do the things that are necessary to win games.

Q. This summer Joe Maddon told me that he won't necessarily do something just because it's been done for the last 100 years, and he was referring primarily to the sacrifice. How are you going to approach those kinds of things, maybe going against the grain?

WALT WEISS: I don't know about specifically what I would do, but like I said, you keep things real simple if you just focus on winning games, and whatever it takes to do that, that's what we're going to try to do. We've got a lot of smart guys that are around me, guys with a lot of experience that have seen a lot of games at Coors Field. We've got to win there, and we've got to win on the road, too. You've got to execute the game, regardless of where you're at, and if there's some things we've got to do unconventionally, if that gives us our best shot, that's what we'll do.

Q. Will data play much of a role in that?

WALT WEISS: Sure, that's one of the things you factor in. You said data?

Q. Data.

WALT WEISS: Yeah, that's a factor. You know, for me I want information so that I can make good decisions, and I've got guys around me that can help me with that. We've got information or data, like you were saying, that can help you with that. But again, I'm not real smart. I try to keep it black and white. I try to keep it simple and try to win a game that night.

Q. You spent four years with the Rockies as a player, three in Coors Field. What challenge does that present and how does that inform your managing?

WALT WEISS: Well, I think first of all, it's I think that the best home field advantage in all of baseball, we've got to exploit that. That's got to be part of who we are. There's some unique challenges to playing there, but the advantages are also pretty unique, and that's the thing we're going to focus on. There's been a lot of research on recovery rate at altitude and those things are factors. And again, you use all the information you have to make good decisions. But we're going to focus more on the advantages we have playing there and not and be smart about the challenges, but let's exploit the things that we can take advantage of.

Q. Did you feel specifically that the ballpark affected you in terms of the recovery and that sort of thing as a player?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think my first year there was an eye opener, my first year in Denver. Again, I wasn't real smart about the way I I went as hard as I could for as long as I could, and I did that in my pregame and all that stuff. Those are things that we have more information on that we need to be smarter about playing at altitude. Yeah, first year it was a bit of a grind for me there, come late in the season you feel it. So we've got to be a little bit smarter about how we handle that.

Q. Do you think that that sort of thing is something you would want to convey to the new players or is that something the other players should be doing?

WALT WEISS: Well, I think it's my responsibility to convey any message to any new player. But especially when the players kind of police themselves and take care of some of the things you don't have to say. That's what we're trying to get to. But no, it's my responsibility to convey any message that needs to be conveyed.

Q. At what point in your playing career did you realize, hey, I want to manage one day, I can be a manager?

WALT WEISS: It's tough to say. I mean, I think as I got later in my career, my last few years in Atlanta, and you become a part time player and you start to see the game from a different perspective. Certainly at that point when you're sitting on the bench half the time or more, you start to look at the game a little bit differently. For me, at that point in my career, I got to look at Bobby Cox and see how he did things. At the same time early in my career when I wasn't necessarily didn't have that perspective, I got to learn the game under Tony, so I was real fortunate to have those guys at the beginning and the end of my career and had a couple pretty good guys in the middle, too, with Baylor and Rene Lachemann, who's with us now. But to answer your question, I think later in my career is when you start looking at the game that way, through the eyes of a manager. But it's not like I wasn't sitting at home chasing a manager's job, if that's what you were asking. You know, it was I'm really excited about this opportunity. But I thought I'd get back in the game at some point. Didn't know when or how. But yeah, didn't necessarily think I was going to be jump back in after being out for four years and jump back in as a manager. But I'm excited about it.

Q. Last couple years several teams have done this, Matheny, Ventura, guys have had success. What do you need to be successful jumping in like this like you have?

WALT WEISS: Well, yeah, I think Robin and Mike certainly knocked down some walls for someone like me. What do we need to have success? I think the bottom line is you're trying to lead men. And for me, I think we've got to try to create an environment where we respect each other and we trust each other, and then you've got a chance at something special. If you're just counting on running your talent out there, it's a tough league. It's tough to win just doing that. So we've got to create an environment that's different not necessarily different but special. And you do that by developing relationships and caring for one another and earning the respect of each other. For me that's more important than the Xs and Os right now.

Q. What about the resources you need in terms of you want certain kind of coaches, guys that have been through this before and that you can look over and say, think with me here?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, that's a security blanket for me, having a guy like Tommy Reynolds sitting right next to me who's been the bench coach there for the last couple years under Jim, and Latch, who I go way back with, those guys not only those guys, but we've got a good staff. We brought in Dante, who's going to, I think, have an impact with our club. Stu Cole, the guy who has been grinding as a third base coach. He's been grinding away in the Minor Leagues in our system, been a loyal guy. It's great to see him get this opportunity. And our pitching coaches are very familiar with our guys. They've been in the organization for a while. So no, we set up pretty well. I really like our staff.

Q. It seems like you guys are getting this opportunity are all ex players, and sometimes that carries a little more credibility instantly because you've played.

WALT WEISS: Yeah, you know, for a minute, I think you may start out with some credibility, but you've got to maintain that. You've got to earn it daily, or it's fleeting if you don't take care of it. It's nice to have that on day one, and I don't know if that'll be the case, but I won't take that for granted. But that's something that you've got to earn, you've got to keep earning.

Q. Have you talked at all with Helton, and what's your feeling on where he stands, and do you expect him back?

WALT WEISS: I do. You know, I do expect him back. When I saw him, he looked great.

Q. Was that recently?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, a couple, three weeks ago. But I told him, I said, man, you're going to be one of those guys, you'll be able to hit a ball in the gap when you're 52, so don't tell me you can't hit anymore; I know better. But no, I think he's going to mean a lot to our club this year, just because he who he is and what he's done and all those things. He's one of those unique guys. He's a great, great pro.

Q. What is your expectation of Tulo coming off what is clearly his most disappointing season because of the injury? Have you talked with Troy and is there any way to talk about keeping him on the field?

WALT WEISS: No, I get it. The thing with Tulo is whatever it takes to keep him on the field, that's what we've got to do, because that's our best shot. When we talk about taking our best shot, that gives us our best shot with him at shortstop. He's a difference maker. He's a game changer. We'll handle that accordingly. We've got to be honest with each other, and we've got to take care of him and keep him on the field because he's a special guy. But no, it's the way he plays the game and how hard he plays the game and his style of play where he does a lot of things off balance and trying to finish plays, I mean, it's a very demanding position he's playing and where we're playing at. That's part of being that's part of trying to be smarter as a club.

Q. So when you go into it, do you go into it with a plan, he'll sit X number of games a month or whatever, or do you let him go and keep an eye on him?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, I think you've got to play it by ear. Like I said, we've got to be honest with each other. When he needs a break but no, I wouldn't want to set up a schedule for him because the game will dictate what we need to do. But that's certainly an awareness that we have with a guy like Tulo that plays like he does.

Q. Do you think because you've literally gone through it and played hurt and played that you might have a keener sense of when he's trying to hedge his bet?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, we'll be a bit of kindred spirits there. I think it does help that I have some perspective, not only playing the position but playing the position there.

Q. That helps, too, okay.

WALT WEISS: I think maybe that may give me a little bit of credibility with him.

Q. When you take over a team that's 68 and 94, there are a couple of different things you see when you evaluate the roster. It could be, gee, we're going to have to make a lot of changes to win or we actually have people that maybe they can get more experience. In other words, do you have enough talent right now?

WALT WEISS: Yeah, I think we do. Again, we've got to and everybody can sit here everybody in the league can sit here and say this, we've got to keep guys on the field. But I do, I like our talent, particularly offensively. I think we've got some guys that can really do some damage, particularly in the middle of our lineup, and young guys I think Dexter Fowler turned the corner last year, a kid like Josh Rutledge is exciting. I think we're very athletic, particularly up the middle. Rosario has got a chance to be a star in this game. You know, with Tulo and Cargo, we've got two legitimate perennial MVP type candidates. Cuddyer is a great pro and has been a productive player for a long time. I mean, hopefully Helton, he's a presence. I don't care how old he is and how much time he missed, he's a presence in our lineup. And third base will be a spot that guys will be competing for time over there. But I do, I like our club.

Q. As you look at the way the team is made up, how do you think it works with some of the different offensive changes you might want to make at Coors Field, sort of a reemphasis on stolen bases or sacrifices or something like that?

WALT WEISS: Well, I mean, I think bottom line is regardless of where we play, we've got to play the game hard and play the game right. I think there's some things about playing in Coors Field that, again, we need to exploit, and I think we have the club to do that. Like I said, we're very athletic. There's some impact in that lineup. There's some speed. We're going to try to do everything, man. We're going to try to come at you. I think we have the personnel to do that.

Q. So do you expect to be no more reluctant to steal a base at Coors than

WALT WEISS: Well, if it's, of course, within reason, but if it's available, yeah, we're going to try to steal bases.

Q. Do you see some of your your successful teams in the mid '90s where there was kind of a bump of three, four starters and great bullpen and you could shrug, do you see some similarities with that group?

WALT WEISS: I do.

Q. Do you think you could win that way again in Denver?

WALT WEISS: Ultimately you've got to pitch and catch the ball. But I think because of where we play, again, we could exploit some things in our park, and we have the lineup to do that, like we did back then. But we still have to execute the game, and when you go on the road, it becomes paramount that we execute the game. So it's still baseball. But no, I do, I see some similarities with the clubs in the mid '90s, and that club was pretty unique as far as the thump in that lineup. We might have to spend $300 million to get that again (laughter), but we've got some established guys that are, like I said, big time guys, and we've got some young guys who are exciting.

Q. How is Dante going to impact the offensive philosophy because I think people don't realize how much of a student of hitting he was because they get caught up in the look, the hair? How will he impact your offense philosophically?

WALT WEISS: Well, I told him, I said on the first day, man, you need to bring in your highlight film, man, because these guys are a little younger and they might not remember you. For me Dante, where he was special as a player, one of the best I played with. He was great with two strikes, and he was really, really good with runners in scoring position, because he took his at bats with conviction and he was committed to a plan. A lot of it just came down to his mental approach. You know, I think for the most part that's what makes the difference at this level is mental approach and being able to slow the game down in those high pressure situations and having a plan and being willing to stick to it, and Dante was great at that. If he could let these guys into his mind, that alone will make him an outstanding hitting coach.

Q. He had said that he wasn't sure he was going to take it, although he had an interest in getting back in. You called him. What did you say? What was it that pushed him over?

WALT WEISS: Well, you know, I think he was in a similar situation that I was in the last few years with the family and kids at home that play and are looking to play beyond high school, and he wanted to be a part of that. And he already has with his older son, he's got another one that's a stud, too. But I think that was the biggest factor, and I think the fact that I could empathize with that, with him, and I could relate to it. The bottom line was we both thought it would be pretty cool to be together again. I think Dante was excited about being back in Denver again. He's somewhat of an icon there. I just think it got him real excited to be a part of it again.

Q. When you look back at those teams in the mid '90s, 200 home runs, 200 stolen bases, they really pushed the running game. Do you have the roster to do that? I guess they felt pushing the running game put even more pressure on the pitching and the defense. Do you have the roster to do that?

WALT WEISS: That's what we're going to try to do. We're going to try to do that. We're going to try to be overwhelming offensively. That's the plan. And I think we have the personnel to execute that. Now, of course you've got to be smart about how you do it and when you do it, and you've got to it still comes down to making good decisions, but I do think we have the personnel. I think we're a very athletic club, and I think we've got some guys that are going to hit balls in the gaps and in the seats when you make mistakes. I really like our club offensively and what the potential is there.

Q. You mentioned a few times the importance of pushing your defense. Rosario was rated out as one of the most defensive people in baseball last year. How much of a concern is that?

WALT WEISS: Rosario? You know what, this guy for me is going to be a special guy if he isn't already. He had some struggles defensively last year, but really any kid that you would have been thrown into the fire at his age at that position, there are going to be some challenges there. This kid is a phenomenal athlete. He's going to be a good catcher in this league. He's going to be a good defensive catcher. He can throw with anybody. I don't have a lot of concerns about Rosario to be honest with you even though he struggled some last year as a young catcher. I truly believe this guy is going to be a star, and not only because he hits home runs but because he's got the ability to shut down the running game, too.

Q. Is it just a matter of gaining more experience or are there specific things that you'll work with him on to improve his game?

WALT WEISS: No, he's willing to work and we have coaches willing to work with him. Jerry Weinstein spent a lot of time, one of our extra coaches, spent a lot of time with Wilin, and he's really encouraged about Wilin and where he's headed. He got to spend a week with him this past week in winter ball and was really excited about what he saw. To be honest with you, that's not a big concern. I'd just as soon he let it go out there and let it fly, and he's going to do special things.

Q. When you look at your younger pitchers, is there any one or a few of them that you really see maybe the numbers aren't there yet but these guys are going to be stars?

WALT WEISS: Yeah. I mean, we've got kids like Pomeranz and Friedrich, we've just seen has already had some Major League success. De La Rosa, he's not considered young anymore, but him being healthy is exciting. Nicasio and his story is impressive, but this guy has got an electric arm. Even a kid like Chatwood who's a gritty competitor and has got a good arm. There's some young guys, and I'm leaving some guys out here, but there's some young power arms that yeah, they need some polish like a lot of young pitchers do in this game and this league, sure. But there's enough there to be excited about.