It’s always interesting to watch the reaction when a high-profile athlete blows off the media at a big event. Some will say it reflects a lack of accountability, if not leadership. There’s just one problem with writing or saying something like that. For one thing, there probably is some degree of truth in it. Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s interpreted. Readers and listeners respond with outrage. They remind us we’re all clowns. They tell us athletes aren’t obligated to speak to us. They want us to leave ’em alone, and they’re not nice about it.
Okay, here’s a little story from the Super Bowl.
The Patriots showed up for the big game a couple years back having been accused of spying on opponent practices. As usual, Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave us almost nothing.
He could do that because he spoke in a more controlled setting, and if he refused to touch the topic with any kind of depth, the questions would soon move to other areas.
After all, hundreds of reporters had hundreds of stories to write, and they didn’t all deal with Spygate. Unfortunately, the players were in a tougher spot.
They were scattered around inside a tent, and during the hour-long media session, they were all asked about Spygate multiple times. Finally, linebacker Mike Vrabel came close to losing his cool.
“We have to answer questions about this stuff because no one else will,” he said. “But we didn’t have anything to do with that.”
Was this fair? Did Belichick think things through before he decided to stick his players with the topic? Maybe they would have been stuck with it anyway.
That’s the way I feel about Miguel Cabrera blowing off the media. Unless he had a family emergency, it’s part of being a good teammate to stand there and be accountable for an 0-3 deficit. That truly is leadership.
With Cabrera out of the room, Prince Fielder and Alex Avila and even younger players like Quintin Berry are hit with wave after wave of questions. It’s not fair, but the questions are going to be asked of whoever is willing to answer them.
That’s our role. That’s what consumers of news demand. If they’re interested in the Tigers—and their interest is what pays the salaries—they’re going to want to know why Cabrera popped out with the bases loaded and why two of the best offensive players in baseball have struggled on baseball’s biggest stage.
Some franchises take this kind of thing more seriously than others. When Albert Pujols didn’t talk to the media after a World Series game last year, it became such a big deal that Pujols made sure to make himself available after every game.
When Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were stars with the Astros, they were available after every game, win or lose. Once when a young pitcher declined to speak with reporters, veteran players read him the riot act the next day. He got it from Biggio and Russ Springer, and also from GM Tim Purpura and manager Phil Garner.
Drayton McLane owned the Astros, and he demanded that everyone in the organization be as available as he was. Which he always was. I’ve had a handful of returned calls that began with, “Sorry, it took me so long to get back to you. I’m in Warsaw.”
Tex Schramm demanded the same thing of his players and coaches when he ran the Dallas Cowboys. I once asked a player if he had a couple of minutes, and he was still upset about something I’d written a couple of weeks earlier.
“I have no choice,” he said.
I’ve always thought every sports team should have Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson do a seminar on public relations. They understood that one can shape his own narrative and that it only takes a couple of minutes a day.
Once upon a time, talking to the media was the only way to communicate with fans. Social media has changed the rules. Still, though, huge numbers of fans depend on news-gathering organizations for their information.
Some athletes are less comfortable than others. When I covered the Washington Redskins, I had a good relationship with wide receiver Art Monk.
But he was so cautious about giving interviews—and very cautious about who he talked to—that I’d have to meet him in a secluded place behind the locker room. For whatever reason, he trusted me to get the story right.
The Tigers are an easy team to cover. Their manager, Jim Leyland, is a dream to cover. He’s available and brutally honest. His obvious decency comes through in pretty much every interview.
Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and plenty of others make themselves available, good or bad. Until Game 3, Cabrera had done the same thing.
It’s obviously his right to talk or not talk. But he’s an important player in this World Series. He’s a big reason why the Tigers are here, and he might be a big reason they don’t win.
If he doesn’t talk in the regular season, only the beat writers who cover the team will know. But during the World Series, the swarms of reporters will descend on players who really have no place being a spokesman for their team.
In a big event like the World Series, small things can become big things. In the end, it’s not that big a deal. For one day, it was a story.
Hunter Pence began the 2010 season with a .289 career batting average. As he began his fourth Major League season, big things were expected of him. Only it didn’t start that way. On May 8, 2010, his average dropped all the way to .214. He got three hits the next night, and when I approached him, he handed me an easy column. I’m paraphrasing the quotes from memory, but this essentially is what he told me:
“I read a book on relaxation, the importance of being relaxed, over the winter. It made a lot of sense, and I thought I’d try it. But I found out that I can’t play relaxed.
“I’ve played this game one way my whole life. I’ve got to swing hard and play angry. That’s what got me here, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
In other words, relaxation is for others. Pence went on a three-week tear in which he batted .358 and looked better than he ever had. I’ve thought about that conversation a lot the last few years, especially in recent weeks as he has become something of a motivational hero for the San Francisco Giants. It was his pep talk before Game 3 of the NLDS that many Giants have said inspired them and helped them win three in a row against the Reds.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy noticed Pence when he managed the 2011 All-Star Game that included Pence, then a member of the Astros. First, Pence was bigger and stronger than he thought. Second, he was impressed with Pence’s enthusiasm and how the other All-Stars seemed to like him and enjoy being around him.
When Pence’s name came up in trade discussions later that season, Bochy endorsed the idea of adding him to the Giants. The Giants ended up getting Carlos Beltran, and it wasn’t until this season that Bochy finally got the chance to manage Pence.
“Well, I had a pretty good impression of him watching him on the other side, what he was about (when Pence played for the Astros and Phillies),” Bochy said. “But until you get to know a guy a little bit and I can’t say I got to know him well in the All-Star Game, but I watched him and met him and talked to him, and inside the clubhouse he made a couple comments. So I knew that he was all-out, full-throttle, as we call him, a guy that he’s going to lay it all on the line out there for you. Since we’ve acquired him, he’s been all that. Whether it’s been good or bad, this guy doesn’t let up. He doesn’t let one at-bat, two at-bats, whatever, affect him. He’s going to go out there and still do all he can to help you win a ballgame.”
Sure, the Cardinals are disappointed this morning. Fans. Ownership. Etc. That’s a good thing. This franchise has set the bar high, so when a season ends short of a World Series, it falls short of expectations. In a day or two, though, everyone will have a chance to take a deep breath and put this season in perspective.
That’s when they might realize how successful it has been. This was a transition year for the Cardinals. They did not have Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter. Yet the Cardinals still ended up in Game 7 of the NLCS.
Along the way, a new generation of Cardinals emerged. Allen Craig and Lance Lynn are at the top of this list. Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Matt Carpenter all played their way onto the radar screen. Going forward, they all figure into the picture at some level, either as players or trade assets.
It’s impossible to look at the 2012 Cardinals not be optimistic about 2013. The Cardinals proved that good organizations endure, and they have one of the best, beginning with owner Bill DeWitt, Jr., general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny.
Everything came undone in the NLCS, especially the starting pitching. Mozeliak’s toughest questions going forward are what he can reasonably expect from Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. If they’re still capable of pitching at a high level, the Cardinals are in great shape for 2013.
With those guys leading the way, Matheny can fill in behind them and allow the young guys to compete for jobs and to grow and fail and grow in a reasonable way. There are questions up and down the roster, but if Carpenter and Wainwright can still be productive, things almost certainly will fall into place.
Offensively, the question is who’ll play shortstop. After that, it’s a matter of figuring out who plays where. With Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran in the middle of the lineup, the Cardinals should have enough offense.
It’s always tempting to evaluate the Cardinals on what we’ve just seen. In this one series, they had problems in almost every area. Still, they were one victory away from a second straight World Series.
On the day, Pujols bolted for the Angels last December, I’m guessing Mozeliak would have been thrilled to know his team got back to Game 7 of the NLCS. It would have spoken volumes about the state of the organization, the depth of the farm system and the winning attitude in the clubhouse.
Every general manager begins a season with the assumption that his best players will be productive, and that’s probably the thing that carried the Detroit Tigers through some tough times this season. Even though they didn’t get above .500 for good until the 85th game of the season, even though they didn’t finally pass the White Sox for good until the 155th, the Tigers were good enough to stay close. And they were good enough because of their best guys.
That’s one of the first things Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski pointed out Thursday night after his team had won the American League pennant for the second time in seven seasons. Miguel Cabrera won the American League Triple Crown. Justin Verlander led the AL in innings and strikeouts.
Prince Fielder put up tremendous numbers: .313 batting average, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, .940 OPS.
Wait, there’s more. In the second half of the season, Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer were all top five in the American League in ERA.
The Tigers had some injuries, and they ultimately made changes at second base and in the outfield. But their stars kept them competitive and have gotten them within four victories of their first World Series victory in 28 years.
Instead of benching A-Rod and Granderson, how about putting the best players in the Yankees’ lineup and seeing how it plays out?
I can’t get rid of this nagging feeling that Joe Girardi is going to regret benching Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson during this postseason. They’re three of the reasons the Yankees have overcome so many injuries to get all the way to the American League Championship Series.
That’s the thing that can’t be forgotten. If Brian Cashman and Girardi had known they wouldn’t have Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez for all or part of the 2012 season, they would have wondered how ugly thing would have gotten.
With a lot of the top talent in the minor league system either injured or performing poorly, the Yankees ran out of good options. Still, they had the best record in the American League with 95 victories, and they eliminated the Orioles in a terrific division series. Now they’ve hit a wall.
Despite a 2.25 staff ERA, the Yankees are a game away from being eliminated. They’re hitting .182 in the first three games of the ALCS against the Tigers and have scored five runs in three games. Girardi benched Rodriguez and Swisher for Game 3, then sat down Rodriguez and Granderson for Game 4.
As Cashman said, there wasn’t much risk that the starting lineup Girardi settled on would do worse than one with his regulars. Still, I couldn’t have brought myself to do it.
Even though A-Rod’s postseason numbers against right-handed pitching are stunningly bad—0 for 18, 12 strikeouts—I would have written his name in there and prayed for a turnaround. Obviously, Girardi has seen enough to believe no turnaround is coming.
Also, Cashman pointed out that A-Rod’s problems with right-handed pitching didn’t begin this month. For the season, he’s hitting .256 with a .717 OPS against right-handers and .308 with a .924 OPS against left-handers.
I’m among the people A-Rod convinced in Spring Training that he was still capable of doing great things even after a tough 2011 season. But it didn’t happen.
There were flashes of the old A-Rod, but never any consistency. By month, he hit .244 in April, .314 in May, .232 in June, .315 in July, .261 in September and now .130 in the postseason.
When asked about the long-term impact on A-Rod’s future with the club—he has five years and $114 million remaining on his contract—Girardi and Cashman said they’re only worried about winning this one game. That’s the right answer, and it’s a gutsy move to bench him. Whether it’s the right move or not is one of those issues Girardi might think about long into the off-season.
In all these cases, Girardi is choosing players who would appear to be in the twilight of their careers (Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez). They were never close to being the players that the benched players were. In the end, there’s no right answer. Girardi will be judged on the bottom line.
Justin Verlander was the pitching star of the 2004 draft, but Phil Hughes and others were close behind
Phil Hughes gets the ball tonight as the Yankees try to get back in this ALCS. Pitchers usually say they’re not really facing the opposing pitcher, but it would be tough for Hughes to say that tonight since the other guy is Justin Verlander. At the moment, he’s the best in the game, and if he’s on top of his game, Hughes has little margin for error.
Seeing how the Yankees are hitting .192 in the postseason, he probably has little margin for error anyway. Theirs is a slump that extends up and down the lineup with Alex Rodriguez (.130), Robinson Cano (.163), Curtis Granderson (.115), Nick Swisher (.154), Russell Martin (.192) and Eric Chavez (0 for 11) all hitting under .200.
Meanwhile, Detroit starters haven’t allowed an earned run in week, a streak of 28 2/3 innings or 27 2/3 innings, depending on you figure partial innings. Four straight Detroit starters–Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Verlander–haven’t allowed an earned run.
Verlander and Hughes were taken in the 2004 draft, which has turned into a bounty of front line pitching. Verlander was the No. 2 overall pick that year, but there was plenty of quality right behind him: Homer Bailey (7), Jered Weaver (12), Hughes (23), Gio Gonzalez (38) and Huston Street (40).
Bill Butler (14) and Stephen Drew (15) also went early in that draft.
Verlander was in the Major Leagues a little more than a year after he was drafted and began the evolution into Best Pitcher in The Game status. He threw 100 mph and had an array of quality secondary pitches. He was a workhorse, too, pitching 200 innings in his second full Major League season and doing it every season since. He led the Major Leagues in innings and strikeouts the last two years and is a serious candidate for a second straight Cy Young Award.
Since going 11-17 in 2008, he’s 78-31 with a 2.95 ERA. He’s averaging 238 innings and 244 strikeouts in those four seasons, and even though he’s still just 29 years old, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he has never seen a better pitcher in terms of focus and tunnel vision regarding getting his work done.
After the Tigers suffered that ninth-inning meltdown in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, Verlander got the ball and stopped the Oakland momentum with a complete-game shutout, a 122-pitch, 11-strikeout masterpiece.
Hughes is three years younger than Verlander and has had a bumpier ride. At his best—and he has been at this best several times this season—he’s dominant, with a power fastball and very good slider. Down the stretch, he came up big in a couple of critical games for the Yankees. With C.C. Sabathia pitching Game 4, the Yankees could dramatically change this ALCS if Hughes wins tonight.
The Astros had missed the playoffs for a couple of years and appeared to be going nowhere when GM Gerry Hunsicker began trying to pry Carlos Beltran away from the Kansas City Royals in the summer of 2004. Those Astros appeared to be loaded. They had Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent all playing at a high level. They had a terrific defensive presence at short (Adam Everett) and catcher (Brad Ausmus) and a gifted young third baseman (Morgan Ensberg). Roy Oswalt won 20 games that summer and Roger Clemens took home his seventh Cy Young Award. Brad Lidge was virtually unhittable at the back of the bullpen.
When Hunsicker would sit down and look at his club, he had a tough time coming up with a reason it was languishing near the bottom of the National League Central. So he did three things: On June 24, he acquired Beltran for catcher John Buck and reliever Octavio Dotel. When that didn’t immediately turn the club around, he fired manager Jimy Williams and hired Phil Garner.
And then he made a move no one thought much about, and it goes to show you how these things sometimes work out. On August 29, reliever Dan Wheeler was summoned from the bullpen in his first appearance since being acquired from the New York Mets. He promptly hit Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee.
Benches emptied, and a slumbering club took off. Looking back on it, every single player said the fight in Chicago was the catalyst got the Astros going. They’re not sure why it happened, or how. The Astros were 66-63 when the day began. They went 25-7 the rest of the way and nailed down a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season.
And then came the playoffs.
In beating Atlanta in the first round and losing to the Cardinals in a seven-game NLCS, Carlos Beltran played about the best two weeks of baseball you’ve ever seen.
Garner shifted him to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, between Biggio and Bagwell. In 12 games, he went 20 for 46 (.435) with three doubles, eight home runs, nine walks and 14 RBIs. He had plenty of talent around him, so it wouldn’t be fair to say he carried the Astros, but his performance was stunningly good.
It was the first time a lot of baseball fans had heard of Carlos Beltran. He was a mere 27 years old, and it looked like he was on his way to becoming baseball’s next great player. He signed a $119-million contract with the Mets that winter, but was never as good as he’d been that October in Houston.
Still, when the Cardinals lost Albert Pujols last winter, GM John Mozeliak quickly signed Beltran, believing that if could stay healthy he’d be a very productive player. That he has been, and with the Cardinals back in the playoffs, Beltran is showing some of his old October magic.
He’s 35 now, but appears to have been reenergized by the opportunity to play for the Cardinals and with guys like Matt Holliday, David Freese, etc. The Cardinals surprised a lot of people by getting past the Nationals in the NLDS and surprised some more by beating the Giants in Game 1 of the NLCS. Maybe the Cardinals are a surprise, but to those of us who’ve seen Carlos Beltran at his best, that part of the story is no surprise.
Orioles and Nationals finish wildly successful seasons, and the W-L record is just the beginning of what went right
This might just be the beginning of something instead of an ending. The Nationals and Orioles both appear poised for long-term success thanks to gifted Major League rosters and a solid number of young players who could push for jobs in 2012. That’s part of the good news during a season in which both teams vaulted into contention.
But the really spectacular headline is that Baltimore and Washington are excited about Major League Baseball. Even though the ballparks are a mere 38 miles apart, the two franchises drew almost 4.5 million, a 21-percent increase over last season.
Both teams are disappointed that their seasons ended on Friday. Both had dreamed of bigger things, especially the Nationals who had the best record in the Major Leagues.
That said,winning is a process. Young players have to deal with the grind of a regular season plus the inning-by-inning pressure of a playoff series. Given the large number of young guys on the Major League rosters, both teams have a chance to get better in the years ahead.
The Yankees are the most bottom-line organization in all of professional sports. The Yankees do not have transition years. The Yankees do not make progress in a season. The Yankees do not fret about the future. And the Yankees most certainly don’t have two-, three- or five years plans.
When the Yankees win the World Series, they’ve had a good season. When they do not, they’ve had an unacceptable season. When they have an unacceptable season, people are held accountable. That is, they either lose their jobs or come up with a really good explanation for why they should not lose their jobs.
George Steinbrenner demanded this attitude. Randy Levine and Brian Cashman understand it. Joe Girardi gets it, too. So do Derek Jeter and Andy Pettite.
In that way, the Yankees have a really simple organization. They do not evaluate themselves by tickets sold or revenue streams or television ratings or any of that other stuff. Everything begins with winning, and from there, revenues, attendance, ratings, merchandise sales, flow.
Everyone who works for the Yankees understands this. The Yankees have the most resources, and they do not apologize for this. Yes, they make a lot of money. But their deal is winning.
This is has been an unbelievably tough season for the Yankees on many levels. No Mariano Rivera. No Brett Gardner. No Michael Pineda. No Andy Pettitte for two months. Still, the Yankees won 95 games and finished with the best record in the American League. No excuses, remember?
So when Yankees manager Joe Girardi benched Alex Rodriguez for Game 5 of a deciding ALDS contest against the Orioles, he was sending a loud, clear message about the Yankees. He may never have had a tougher call. I’m not sure I would have made it, or even recommended it to him.
Regardless of what A-Rod has done in this series, he’s married to the Yankees for five more years (and $114 million). To embarrass him now could open a wound that’s tough to close.
On the other hand, it’s about winning. A-Rod has not had a productive season, and he has not had a productive ALDS. He’s hitting .125. There’s an argument to be made about his presence in the lineup, but it’s obvious the Orioles don’t see it that way. They are not pitching around A-Rod. They are pitching to A-Rod.
The Yankees are playing to keep their season alive today, and Girardi did not want Rodriguez in his lineup. He has the numbers and the scouting reports to back him up. He probably also has A-Rod’s immediate confidence factor.
In doing this, Girardi is telling his players that it’s only about winning, and that if some feelings get hurt, then some feelings get hurt. Again, this is a tough, tough call because clubhouses have structures, and managers typically do not tamper with those structures.
But Girardi believes that leaving A-Rod in the lineup would punish his players, coaches, bosses and Yankees fans everywhere. He’s not worrying about long-term impact or any of that stuff. He’s only worried about today. He’s to be commended for that because there are a lot of managers who wouldn’t have had the guts to do it.
All he’s worried about is winning. All the Yankees every worry about is winning. However this season ends, he can look everyone who cares about the Yankees in the eye and tell ’em he did everything he could. He can tell them he cared more about winning than about feelings.
This may end up being a defining moment in Girardi’s managerial career. First, he made the tough call to pull A-Rod for a pinch hitter. Then he benched him.
I’m guessing fans will appreciate his willingness to make a tough call. If A-Rod handles it with class, he, too, can grow in the hearts and minds of Yankee fans. He can let them know that he also only cares about winning. That’s the Yankee way.
There’ll come a day when Jim Leyland is no longer managing a Major League Baseball team, and that’ll be a really sad day on a lot of levels. Leyland treats people the way we’d all like to be treated. He knows the game better than almost anyone. He knows people, too. If you’re lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Jim Leyland, you’ve had yourself a fine day. He’s so simple, so blunt, so honest. I’ll step out of the way and throw out some highlights from Leyland’s news conference before Game 5.
On dealing with a tough defeat…
“And I know this sounds crazy, because we were all a little heartbroken. I wasn’t as upset as everybody was last night and I’ll tell you why. We didn’t walk them. We didn’t hit a batter. We didn’t make an error. We didn’t throw the ball away. We didn’t make a bad fundamental play. They beat us. They earned it. They hit the ball. They stroked the ball off Valverde good last night.
“Were we all a little heartbroken? Sure. But you know what, they earned it. We didn’t kick the ball around. He didn’t walk guys. Nobody made a stupid mistake. That’s the beauty of the game, and they earned it. It hurt, but, you know, it’s one of those that you just tip your hat to them. They got the closer, and you tip your hat to them.”
What’s the mood of your club?
“I would say they’re pretty normal, to be honest with you. I usually don’t go out there a lot in the clubhouse. I think that’s their place, that’s their house. I walk through once in a while. But everybody seems to be pretty normal to me. I’m not really sure what they’re supposed to be doing. They do what they do every other day. They’re getting ready to play Game 5 of a fivegame series.
“I think you find out over the years that I never try to intrude on their privacy, because I think different players get ready for games in different fashions. Some guys listen to music. Some guys maybe meditate. Some guys joke around. Some guys and I like them to all have their own personal touch. So I really never mess with that.”
Did you watch the games today?
“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I watched the games at the hotel. My wife and I watched the first game, the GiantsCincinnati game. Watched the last inning or two out here. And we just watched Werth hit a walkoff. And we’ll probably be out for BP, we’ll watch some of the Yankee game. But, yeah, that’s what we do. And this time of year is pretty exciting. They’re pumped up in Washington right now. It’s been great. So far it’s been a great postseason. What happened in New York last night is mind boggling to me, that blows my mind, that a guy ties it up in the 9th with a homer, and hits the game winner in the 12th. It’s unbelievable. We’re just trying to keep you guys working.”
How do you handle the anxiety of an elimination game?
” Well, I think whatever happens, happens. I think you’re supposed to have anxiety, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s good to keep it in. The heart gets pumping a little bit more obviously. But for me that starts with day one of the season. You know the players are the show. You want the players to be the show. They are the show. You kind of stay in the background, you orchestrate things if you need to orchestrate things. But this stuff belongs to the players.
“But it’s actually harder to sit there I mean, I was only a minor league player, but I can tell you for a fact that it’s harder to sit there and manage.”
Was there some comfort last night in knowing you had Justin Verlander for Game 5?
“I didn’t even think about that. All I thought about last night was that we lost a tough game. Thinking about my lineup today. Thinking about what their lineup is probably going to be. I went back to the hotel, to be honest with you, I slept great.
“I don’t want to sound casual about this kind of stuff, because don’t get me wrong, the game broke our heart. But at the same time you learn over the years that, like I always use the expression, you can’t chew yesterday’s breakfast. The game is over. They beat us. They earned it. They had a great celebration on the field. Game 5 is going to be exciting. It’s going to be loud. This is what we do for a living.”
Who among your starters are accustomed to warming up quickly if you need someone tonight?
“Well, we’re going to have Fister sitting around, probably, for tonight, you’re talking about. But and I don’t want to put this all on one guy, because I don’t mean it that way, but this game will probably be decided with Verlander in the game. I don’t have anybody better than him. And if they get to him that much we’ll probably be in trouble. That’s just common sense. I don’t have anybody signal down to the bullpen no matter who you’re talking about. I don’t have anybody better to bring in than Justin Verlander, unless the pitch count gets way up or he just is totally, totally out of whack.
“But I’m pretty sure this game will be decided by him. I’m not taking him out if they get two runs in the first inning, I’m not taking him out, I can assure you of that because I don’t have anybody better to bring in.”