Friday, May 08, 2009

The Tim Salmon Interview

For a longer background, refer to this post. Long story short, Tim Salmon is helping to promote a test drive event for the Can-Am Spyder Roadster, which will take place tomorrow, Saturday, May 9th at Angel Stadium. You can test drive the vehicle, and Tim will be present for pictures and autographs.

As part of the promotional efforts, a few Angels bloggers were given the opportunity to individually interview Tim for about 15-20 minutes. We conducted the interview yesterday over the phone. Here is the full transcription (it's kinda long for this template, so beware). I should also just put the disclaimer here. I am NOT a professional journalist. My intention was not to ask penetrating or controversial questions. My goal was to ask the types of questions that I thought Angels fans would enjoy. When I write about the Angels, it's from a fan's perspective, and it's written for other fans. So to the extent that I don't live up to your expectations as a journalist, well, sorry. Also, for more Tim, see this interview at SoCal Sports Hub. The questions about slow starts and the 2009 Angels were mine (we shared info).

The Interview

Seitz: Great to talk to you. I’ve been a long time fan of the Angels going back to the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, so I was there for the entirety of your career watching and enjoying what you guys brought to the team. First off a couple of baseball questions, I wasn’t planning this, but I have to ask your reaction to the whole Manny Ramirez thing.

Tim Salmon: Pretty shocking, and as the hours go by, it becomes even more and more. I just did the Fox interview and they were saying something about the female hormone treatment which basically according to Jose Canseco is a masking agent for steroid use or something like that. I don't know all the details. When you first hear something like that you're shocked and you give them the benefit of the doubt and then the more that comes out, the more you go "oh no, we've got another A-Rod situation on our hands here."

Seitz: Especially considering it doesn't sound like they're going to appeal. the first excuse sounded like it was a mistake, but you figure if that was the case there would be some further action on their part, and it doesn't sound like there's going to be.

Tim Salmon: I know and that's usually a sign that there's something beneath the surface there. I just think for the game of baseball we just need to jump this hurdle and get it over with. Unfortunately there are still enough of these guys out there that it's going to keep coming back at different times. On one hand it's sad because you'd like to move on with the game and know that what we've got in place is the right thing and the game will survive and get better for it, and then these things just kind of pull it back.

Seitz: You played under a number of different managers with the Angels; Buck Rodgers, Marcel Lacheman, Terry Collins... What it is about Scioscia that gives him the staying power where other guys seem to wear out their welcome.

Tim Salmon: Scioscia has a unique style in that he's very personable, he's really interested in building team chemistry I think the coaching staff that he brings along with him really cultivates that in the clubhouse I think he's been blessed by the fact that the whole philosophy up and down the organization is on the same page. We have a minor league system that is being developed with great scouting. We're a factory of young talent so you don't necessarily need to go buy your way to a championship. You can fill it with players who are helping us get there with the young superstar of the team like a John Lackey. The building from within philosophy is really helping him because he's able to reload and keep himself on the winning end of things and I think as long as you're a winning manager, that's going to give you the most staying power. But I think it's his philosophy and his personality, the way he goes about dealing with people and managing the game. The managing part of the game, that's the part that maybe those who don't know him don't realize that he's such a student of the game, such a smart manager, never unprepared, very well organized in every aspect of the game. So I think organizationally speaking, he's the CEO and he's a phenomenal CEO. he handles every aspect of the game from top to bottom.

Seitz: Along those same lines, you've played for three different ownership groups. The Autry's were beloved by most Angels fans. Disney brought a world championship. But the success under Arte Moreno has been phenomenal both on the field and in the stands. What have you noticed under Moreno that seems to sustain the success?

Tim Salmon: Arte is probably what Mr. Autry was in his younger years. He's a passionate owner who wants to win and has the resources to make it happen, to bring in the necessary pieces of the puzzle. He's a great owner to play for because he's an owner who wants to win and he wants to win it all and there's no sidestepping that, and I think every player out there will tell you, you know in the organization what their objective is. There's a lot of years when they want to win and be competitive, but they don't want to do what they have to do to win the World Series, paying for the free agent or making the deal at the deadline, or making the commitment to something. Players know that, and over the course of my career I saw that too at times. When Mr. Autry was at the end of his career and we went through a rebuilding phase, with young players, that gave me an opportunity, but you knew there wasn't going to be that commitment to win a world championship. We were going to do the best we could with what we had, but sometimes it takes more than that, and you need resources. The Disney thing, we felt more like a stepchild. We were part of a bigger organization more corporate. there wasn't a lot of love necessarily. You have your GM, but beyond that, you didn't know where it ended. Nonetheless, we were able to bring in the right pieces. Stoneman and Scioscia came in towards the tail end of that ownership and that was the beginning of our success. They brought in the gameplan and it happened on their clock, so they get the credit for it. But without a doubt, Arte is the owner that every player in the country would love to play for. He's committed to winning and he just asks what you need, and if you can justify it and show how it's going to make a difference, he'll do it and there's nothing better than to be playing for an owner like that.

Seitz: The Angels history prior to 2002 is not necessarily something that a lot of new owners would embrace. But Arte seems to go out of his way to reach back to that era and reach out to former players. As a former player yourself, have you noticed those efforts.

Tim Salmon: Arte is about building a legacy and connections with the past and making the organization more than just what it is today. It's about bringing in the story behind it and what's brought on success from the past. And I see that. You see guys like Grich and Finley and Don Baylor and Rod Carew. You see these guys around the ballpark more. Why? Arte's out there asking them to come back, and that was something that was never presented to those guys in that way. Arte makes you feel wanted. But the one thing you need to know about Arte is that he's a very loyal guy, and his all of the crew that he brought along to help reorganize the Angels are all his frat buddies. So he's very loyal and very family oriented, and it shows. He's just brought that to the Angels. We have so many Dodger influences with Scioscia and some of the coaches, but I think the combination of the two, they're creating that with this organization. You're part of a family and legacy that isn't just about the time you were here playing. It's about more than that. He's done a great job of bringing all that back and doing the alumni stuff and as a young player, to come up and see these guys and think "I'm part of something bigger than just me." There's a sense of responsibility to the family so to speak.

Seitz: One thing that's taken place under Mike Scioscia is that the Angels have been focused on putting the ball in play, taking the extra base and aggressive base running, but you were always a very patient hitter drawing 90 walks per season, you always hit for a lot of power. When they came in, did you notice a change in philosophy? Did they try to change the way that you approached the game at all?

Tim Salmon: They did, there was a philosophy change. It took a couple years to kinda buy into it and see it in action. Whatever you want to call it. Everybody wants to call it the national league style, but more than that, Scioscia didn't call it that, and it may resemble that in some ways, but it comes down to playing the game right and understanding why the game is played that way and understanding the bigger picture. Scioscia was so much of a big picture guy. He always talked about the big picture, but at the same time, he could narrow it down the nuts and bolts of one pitch at a time, one at bat a time, and his whole philosophy, whether it's hitting and running, or moving runners, we're talking about being aggressive and not being station to station and not relying on a certain part of the lineup to win games, but really having nine guys who know how to play the game and all of the different variances to help you be successful, and there's not a greater example of that than 2002. We'd been beating our heads against the wall. In 2000 we had four guys hit over 30 home runs. We had all the power and offense you thought you needed, but for some reason, we couldn't get past Oakland who had the great pitching. Why is that? You gotta find a way to beat that good pitching and maybe sacrifice a bit of a home run swing to do what's right, whether it's taking pitches and working counts or moving the runner over and hitting and running and taking it upon ourselves that there isn't anyone on the team bigger than the team, to do whatever the situation calls for, and that was something that guys like Ersty and Eckstein and those guys set the table early on and said "anything that it takes to do the job". You would find yourself in the course of the year with a runner and second and no outs, and yeah I'm the clean up hitter, but the situation calls for this guy to get to third base. OK, cut the swing down and get him over. Give the RBI to the next guy. And I think what it comes down to is you end up learning how to play unselfishly. As much as we want to say it's a team game, at the end of the day, guys are always interested in what they hit, how many hits did they get, how many RBIs. Everybody's looking at their personal stats, and I think Scioscia really cultivates a mindset that as a team we're greater as a whole than we are as individuals, and that's why we won in 2002. We were able to scrap together two or three runs off the Zitos and the Mulders and the Hudsons where we couldn't do that in years earlier.

Seitz: On 2002, most people remember the two home runs you hit against the Yankees in game three, and the two home runs you hit against the Giants in game 2, the big one that ended up winning the game, but one thing that gets lost in the hoopla of game six, with the Spiezio home run and the Erstad home run and the Glaus double was the single that you hit to follow up the Erstad home run. A lot of time TV guys will say that you don't want to hit a home run because it kills the rally, but you restarted the rally right after that home run, and as a fan watching that game who had taken myself through the process where I was ready to deal with the defeat, that was the moment that I really believed that you guys were going to come back and tie the game. You had a guy on base with no one out. Was there a time for you guys in the dugout where you thought "Now we're definitely going to win this game and take it to game 7". Was there a moment where you all felt that?

Tim Salmon:Well when Spiezio hit the home run before that, to break that lead that they had and really spark the crowd, that was the re-energizing that we needed at the time because it was looking kinda like this wasn't going to happen, but I think Spiezio is the one that sparked us and got us going. But the one thing about that year is that my knee was bothering me and they started pinch running for me late in games, and they'd put Alex Ochoa on defense, and Figgy came in to run for me and I believe the next hit...all the sudden you have a base stealer on the bases who can take away the concentration from the pitcher which ends up helping the next hitter and the next hitter and the next hitter, so you're right, I think sometimes ya know, I've never really heard anyone mention anything about the base hit that I had, but in essence, you are right because it allowed us to put in our speedy guy which I think that had a big impact on the way that rally got going that inning, and giving Troy the opportunity to drive in the runs.

Seitz: Because you figure you get within a run, but you're looking at a pretty good bullpen, and you still need to score a run, but all of the sudden you get that leadoff runner on base and it's a whole different ball game, and I think you're right, that next hit was the bloop double by Garret Anderson where Figgins went first to third and I don't know if it had any effect on the way that Barry Bonds approached that ball down the line, but he did struggle with it, and once you had guys on second and third and nobody out you had to figure at the very least you guys were going to tie it.

Tim Salmon: The thing about that team that was awesome, and you hear it, every championship team says the same thing, it's all 25 guys. Every guy on that team played a role. every guy on that team had their day in the limelight during that whole playoff run. You can go up and down that lineup and each guy talk about what they did and that's what's so special, and we looked at the other dugout and they had Barry Bonds over there. They had the same stuff going on but all you ever heard about was Barry. It was Barry's World Series. And we had the mindset of "hey, nobody's bigger than the team", and they might have had that on the other side, but it definitely wasn't portrayed in the media.

Seitz: Tell me about this test drive event that's coming up.

Tim Salmon: Yeah, the Test Drive is Saturday (May 9th) at the ballpark at 12:30. It's an opportunity for everybody to come out and get on one of these Spyder Roadsters and the great thing about it is that you just need your regular driver's license. It's really made for the novice to get an opportunity to get on the street and get the feel of the wind blowing through your hair with all the safety and security of what you might have in a car or a quad, stability wise. It's a great bike and it's going to be a neat event, for everybody to come out. I'm going to be there available for pictures and autographs, but more importantly it's all about a chance to show off this one of a kind product.

Seitz: I know you’ve gotta run to another interview, but thanks for the time, Tim. As a lifelong fan it’s always nice to meet one of you guys, even over the phone.

Tim Salmon: Yeah, you take care and go Angels.

9 comments:

mattwelch said...

Great job, Seitzy!

Anonymous said...

Awesome interview! Thank you so much. Tim's honesty was amazing. It so refreshing to read it.

Great job Seitz!

Cupie

Richard Chen said...

Sounds like you connected a bit, got him thinking with the questions about the game 6 single. Thanks!

Jay Cal said...

Hey great questions. I was at Game 7 and watched Game 6 on TV. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Seitz said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

Richard, I really liked that answer, because I had that game on my TiVo for a long time until it finally died, and when he hit that single, everyone was still going crazy over the home run. But that was a really underrated moment. I've thought about that a lot, and it sounded like it was something even he hadn't thought about very much, so I really liked that answer. As someone who doesn't do this for a living, I got the sense that he thought I asked a good question, which is a nice feeling.

Bucky Fox said...

Cool insight, Seitz. Especially with your post-Spiezio Salmon single notation. The King Fish had to love the point.

Anonymous said...

dude, tell chatty von chatterson to keep his answerss a little more succinct next time.

Seitz said...

Whatever you say, Ty.

Anonymous said...

I hate it when you always know its me.