Notes from Turner Sports 2015 Sunday MLB on TBS Media Conference Call

Notes from today’s media conference call, featuring Ripken, Darling and 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee Pedro Martinez:

Ripken on the season’s most interesting storylines: “The Minnesota Twins are the big surprise.  I don’t think anyone expected them to play as well as they’ve played.  [Rookie Manager] Paul Molitor has done a fantastic job and seems like exactly what they needed.  They’re back again, they are always a good story as a small market team making good baseball decisions and baseball evaluations, putting a team together that’s competitive, similar to the Rays.  They will be fun to watch and see if they can keep it going in the second half.  The Oakland A’s are good, and you scratch your head and wonder why they aren’t winning.  The answer there is how important the defensive execution is in one run games and putting yourself in a position to win and developing momentum through their defense.  They are a good club, and it will be interesting to see what happens with them, if they make moves.  Billy Beane is always entertaining to try and predict [what he will do].  It will be fun to see their direction in the second half.”

Martinez on the season’s biggest surprise: “I was very sarcastic about them, so I have to tip my hat to the Houston Astros.  I kept saying no, no, they’re going to land.  I was the same way about the Mets, they wouldn’t hold on.  Both teams have really surprised me with how they’ve played and how consistent they are.  It’s no coincidence that probably the best pitcher in baseball is one of the Houston Astros [left-hander Dallas Keuchel]. I was sarcastic about them but they proved me wrong in the first half and now I have to believe the second half they will keep on playing baseball the way they have.”

Darling on the first half’s standout performers: “Josh Donaldson having an MVP year, he’s become one of my favorites to watch because of his grit and determination and Toronto is better for it…[Houston’s] Carlos Correa…is one of the brightest shortstop prospects we’ve seen in quite some time…We’re talking [a talent level] like the Mike Trouts and Bryce Harpers and Manny Machados.  The future of the game has some great young stars in it.”


Darling on the All-Star Final Vote candidates: “I’m lucky enough to watch [Mets closer Jeurys] Familia every day and he’s had an amazing year.  I think it’s going to be difficult for him to garner enough votes to beat out [Dodgers’ ace Clayton] Kershaw or [Rockies’ shortstop Troy] Tulowitzki.  He didn’t get the closer job until Mejia was suspended, and once he got it, he’s been as good as anyone in baseball.  He has seven saves of more than an inning, which is unheard of. He’s gone above and beyond and I’d like to see him rewarded because of that.  I’ll stick up for [Yankees’ outfielder Brett] Gardner in the American League, I hope he [wins the vote].  They’ve both been their team MVPs and it would be nice if they were rewarded for that.”

Ripken on the Final Vote: “Mine are more sentimental choices.  I know that the game matters for home field advantage in the World Series and if I’m in the manager’s seat I’d look at the make-up of the club and add a specialty piece.  I can’t imagine the way that Clayton Kershaw’s pitched the last few years [penalizing him for] looking a little bit human this year…I would vote for him and his body of work.  Brian Dozier from Minnesota, I really enjoy watching him play and compete.  He jumps out at me, but it’s not to slight anyone else on the list.”

Martinez on the Final Vote: “I have to agree with Ron on Familia because, when you look at the numbers, you don’t really stop to think of the importance he has had for the Mets.  The Mets had [reliever] Bobby Parnell go down, then [closer] Jenrry Mejia came up and got suspended.  If Familia wasn’t there, where would the Mets be, regardless of [Matt] Harvey and [Jacob] deGrom and those guys?  The kid has done an outstanding job and because of the importance of what he means to the team and how steady he has been, I think he deserves a chance.  On the other side, Dozier has done some unbelievable things for the Minnesota Twins and probably the biggest reason they are having the success they are having this year is because of what he does.”


Martinez on his upcoming Hall of Fame induction: “I’ve always been a fan of expressing what I feel at the time.  I had a draft of things and people I wanted to mention that I couldn’t have forgotten that have influenced me and my career and my life.  Things I wanted to say to the fan bases, but I’ll be speaking from my heart.  I’m anxious to see what it’s going to be like.  For Latinos and Dominicans, it’s not every day you get a Hall of Famer.  It’s been 32 years for a Dominican.  It’s really important to acknowledge that and maybe a lot of Dominicans will show up in Cooperstown.  We are different, we are loud, we have drums and merengue and I’m interested in seeing those things.  I did not know [the preparation] was going to be so much work.”

Ripken on his memories of facing 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson: “I’m thankful I was a right-handed hitter.  As tall as he was, it felt like he reached halfway to home plate before he delivered the ball.  His velocity was really high and there was a shortened time when you could see the ball.  I couldn’t imagine hanging in with his three-quarter delivery [as a left-handed hitter].  He was as tough as anyone, tough competitor, his velocity was maintained all game…Randy was an early two-pitch guy, he didn’t need to change up.  His slider was the speed of everybody else’s fastball.  I guess the best compliment you can pay is that I always liked to see the papers and see that he pitched the day before he was coming to town…It was not an easy day when you were facing Randy.”


Ripken on the value of winning a championship when weighing free agency decisions: “I think there’s a lot of considerations when you think about your career that don’t always revolve around money.  It’s where you want to play.  I played in my hometown and we went through some major rebuilding processes.  Even through those, I wanted to stay here and get through those and back to the World Series.  There are a lot of considerations, the money being what it is, you have choices in how much you make.  Sometimes people say, ‘How much money is enough?’ It depends on situation and what your needs are.  I applaud people thinking about their life instead of their job just in terms of money.”

Martinez on money as a deciding factor in free agency: “I had to really think of what I was doing and you have to think about the market.  The Players Association is really strong and works together like a wolf pack.  I became a free agent in two years that were a turning point for baseball in terms of the market.  I had to be careful how I chose because it would affect the market.  If I take a pay cut, from there on, everything else goes down.  Thank God I never was in a position where I had to take a big chunk of money off my salary to go somewhere.  The ring I got in 2004 is priceless to me.  It doesn’t matter what you give me, how much money, I would take my ring.”


Martinez on the development of Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer: “I’ve seen him develop the last few years and it seems like he’s growing in front of our eyes.  Each time you see him, something is improving.  I’m extremely proud that he’s following my footsteps and somehow I’ve influenced his talent.  I’m really proud he’s looking up to me as someone to emulate.  He has no ceiling for improvement.  But I don’t know how the Rays do it.  It seems like every year they have a special rookie that comes up and becomes that mega-star.  I hope they keep Archer for a long time because that kid is really special.  His strength, durability and mechanics are getting better.  I see a determination in him that I don’t see every day when it comes to pitching.”

Darling on Archer as a student of the game: “I think there’s thousands and thousands of kids that emulate Pedro and what he’s done.  The thing I love about Archer is that in this day and age where everyone has to act the same, the great thing that separated Pedro from a lot of pitchers was his passion for the game, and Archer has the same.  He’s a free spirit, has great passion, he stomps around the mound and is a great competitor.  Sometimes he wears his heart on his sleeve, but so be it, I love to see that instead of everyone playing everything close to the vest.  He’s a fun watch and baseball is an entertaining game and there’s none more entertaining than Mr. Archer.”


Ripken on Alex Rodriguez’s first half: “I think all of us could agree that what Alex has done in the first half has surprised us.  He’s been nothing short of amazing.  I kind of think that the All-Star team isn’t always based on someone’s first half performance.  A lot of times you’ll pick your All-Stars because they are All-Stars for their career.  Based on his first half numbers, he’s very deserving.”


Ripken on his impressions of the Baltimore Orioles: “They’ve been hit with the injury bug and somehow they find a player to contribute and get them to where they need to be.  You know how good Buck Showalter is as a manager at finding different talent and handling the bullpen.  Zach Britton and Darren O’Day as All-Stars, it’s really indicative of how great they’ve been at the back end of the bullpen.  Their numbers are extraordinary.  I think a lot of people were concerned that they lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in the off-season, where was the offense going to come from…They are in a particularly good position now having weathered some of the injuries with Matt Wieters and Jonathan Schoop back.  I think they’re positioned pretty well and I’m not surprised about four All-Stars, they’ve got a good ball club.”


Ripken on Chicago Cubs’ group of talented young infielders: “I kind of laugh because everyone was a shortstop at one point in their life…I think it’s a really good problem to have.  Kris Bryant has continued to amaze.  I haven’t gotten to watch him in person closely yet but I’d like to soon.  He’s a big guy, seems to be under control at all times.  His approach and the way that he takes it in stride are amazing to me.  They are all really, really talented players.  You have to find a mix and match to get them to all play together.  I think all teams would be lucky to have those choices.”


Ripken on his memories of playing with Martinez in the 1999 All-Star Game: “The whole All-Star Game in Boston, there’s a lot of really great memorable moments from that experience.  Very rarely do you get pumped up and psyched at the All-Star Game, especially if you’ve had a few under your belt, but the adrenaline was flowing really good.  It was fun to be on that side of it.  I’m glad I wasn’t trying to face Pedro.  It was a much more fun environment and there was this great excitability different than the other All-Star Games.  It was fun to be part of that.”


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