First: No, I am not up at the time this appears on the front page. The only way I'd be up at 3:45 am ET would be if the Rockies were playing in a 23-inning game (some day, I tell you, some day). Anyway, the marketing campaign for TBS Hot Corner on MLB.com has been asking bloggers to help promote what they're doing. There are possibilities of prizes and interviews and other exciting stuff. They've already distributed a Q&A with Buck Martinez and a transcript of a conference call with some of their analysts. You'll get the Rockies-related bits in a little bit. You can find TBS Hot Corner on MLB.com here and the TBS Hot Corner Blog here.
First up, quotes from the 2009 TBS MLB Postseason Conference Call:
[Cal] Ripken, notorious for changing his batting stance, on Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki: "He’s come back really strong (this season). He’s one of those guys that provides leadership and is very productive. When he’s going well, (the Rockies) feed off of him. His big value is that he’s a thinker and he knows what’s going on. He knows what to do in every situation and that’s an intangible value that comes with being the center of that team that they benefit from. He’s gotten back to where he was a couple of years ago and I’m really proud that he did it with a different (batting) stance."
[Dennis] Eckersley on Rockies closer Huston Street: "He’s got such a quiet confidence and great character. He left Oakland (Athletics) and turned into what he always wanted to be. What I like about him is that he’s got great control, he can paint with his fastball and more than anything, he’s got guts. He wants the big stage. That was a steal for Colorado to get a kid like that."
[Ron] Darling on Rockies starting pitcher Ubaldo Jiménez being one of the best young pitchers in MLB: "He’s one of those guys along with (Tim) Lincecum, (Matt) Cain and (Adam) Wainwright that are going to be the next generation of great pitchers."
And just because Darling's answer above doesn't say all that much:
Darling on the confidence level of the Dodgers and the Cardinals heading into the Posteason: "The Dodgers can’t be feeling too good about themselves. They were supposed to run away and clinch the (NL West) in mid-September. They over-used their bullpen and it’s coming back to haunt them. The only (NL) team that’s feeling good about themselves is the Cardinals. They have played steady baseball and turned it on with the additions of (Matt) Holliday and (John) Smoltz. They felt like they were a good team and then they got better.
If you want more of the conference call, I'll post it in the comments. After the jump you'll find the entire Buck Martinez Q&A (unfortunately, I forgot to send in any questions about the Rockies).
Q&A with Buck Martinez
Are the Phillies better off going with a committee approach to the bullpen and simply playing matchups, or for the sake of team morale/stability/etc., must Charlie Manuel anoint a "closer?" Or should they take an Ozzie Guillen 2005 approach, and just throw the starters' arms off? (The Good Phight)
Martinez: "I think they are better throwing by committee now, and they have included Brad Lidge in that committee. But the danger is if you anoint someone other than Lidge and he fails, then you have created an atmosphere of panic. I think Charlie has done the right thing by going with closer by committee, you can always say he has the hot hand and that’s what I’m doing. I still think that Lidge could come back at some point whether it’s the last week of the season or the playoffs and he could be that hot hand that they go to."
Martinez: "I think they are capable of beating anyone at anytime. The one thing that Verlander has and we saw him do it before is the ability to ratchet it up at the end. He is a tremendous competitor; he has been down this road before. He still has a tremendous delivery and keeps his velocity until late in the game. I think he’s capable of shutting down anybody including the Yankees. As far as Edwin Jackson he has had kind of a disappointing second half but not because of his pitching but he hasn’t had the run support that he would like. Obviously not the wins he would like and he has some postseason experience. The real wild card in this is Rick Porcello. He has been terrific and it’s really kind of interesting how the contrast of Porcello and Joba Chamberlain and how their respective teams have handled them differently. Chamberlain had a good start last time out but his second half has been rough while Porcello, Jim Leyland handled him very much the way he handled Verlander in 2006, shutting down for 16 days and every time they would get him extra rest they would. He’s got a great curveball, terrific sinker and gets more groundball outs than anybody, should have to go into Yankee Stadium. That being said I know we know how good the Yankees are but I think the front three of the Tigers are well suited to match up against the Yanks."
What are the advantages or disadvantages of using a 3-man rotation in the playoffs versus a 4-man rotation? (Talking Chop)
Martinez: "Well it depends on if you have four! If you don’t have four good ones then you go to a three man, I think that’s the thing you need to consider. I think they are going to go with their hottest hand and if you don’t have the luxury of having those three off days in a five game series you’re probably going to have to go with four. I think that plays well into the Angels hands and Red Sox as well. Probably the Cardinals are best suited for three, they have a terrific three. And it really depends on your team and your makeup."
Should a manager manage differently in the playoffs? If they got to the playoffs with one style, why do we see some managers change their style in the post-season? (Talking Chop)
Martinez: "That’s a great question. You can’t generally change the style of your play because you are restricted by your players. I think what managers do in a five game series is what they want to do to is score first, then win first. Then you have an upper hand. IN a five game series you have a tendency to be a little more aggressive with your pitching and your offense gambling. If you don’t have the sped to change your game, then you can’t manufacture runs. That plagued the cubs that last two years in the postseason. When you get up against the 1s, 2s and 3s in the postseason if you can’t score runs you can’t change your personality in the postseason."
Is how a team finishes the regular season a good indication of how they will do in the playoffs? (Talking Chop)
Martinez: "I really think that teams play competitive baseball at the end of the season. Just looking at the Wild Cards, they have fared well because they have played well ate in the season. When you think about pitchers and you don’t want to be rusty with these bullpens. Most notably, the Red Sox bullpen they have a very powerful bullpen and that serves them wel..."
Is it fair to the balance between the leagues that the All-Star game controls home field advantage in the World Series? (Talking Chop)
Martinez: "No I don’t think so. The league with the best winning percentage in inter-league play would control home field. That way you would have the overall balance of the league in play. Obviously you have an unbalanced number of games that’s why you take the winning percentage. That way to me would determine the home field advantage. The winner of the all-star game dictate which set of rules you would use for interleague play. For instance if National league won the all-star game then the next year they play the National league rules."
Martinez: "It’s going to be a challenge for anyone to come in there after Bobby Cox. I think you have to go outside of the organization. Bring in a fresh mind, bring in someone that’s confident in their abilities, I don’t think going old guard, that would be too similar to Bobby Cox. I think you’d be better off trying to change that pattern, no one is going to have the success or tenure of Cox, its going to be a challenge."
Martinez: "The Pirates are probably the furthest away because they continue to have good players, but they never keep them long enough to enjoy the fruits of their development. If you took a list of the players that have been shipped out of Pittsburgh, over the last couple of years, you’d have a potential all-star team, and certainly would have a contending ball club. But, I think they are furthest away because of their philosophy of continuing to trade away the players. Just look at Nyjer Morgan, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Nate McClouth, Freddie Sanchez, Jack Wilson – you can go on, and on, and on. If they kept all of those guys together, we wouldn’t be talking about ‘how far away,’ it’s just a matter of ‘when’ they would be in the postseason.
Why is Joe Torre so well respected when for the last 9 years his team, often with the highest salary in MLB, has made the playoffs but did not win the World Series? (LA Dodger Talk)
Martinez: "I think Joe’s run in New York when he came in there and they won four World Championships, established his reputation. And if you think about it, that was before they made all of their big signings, and the commitment to those big contracts. I think Joe brought the team together; it was an interesting union of players and managers at the time where Joe, whom had not had a lot of success, came to New York, there were a core of players in place that just were unique. Dare I mention Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. That core, then complemented by Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill and Scott Brosius set the benchmark for work ethic, dedication, and determination. I think Joe benefited from that, but also was responsible for some of that."
Do you think the Dodgers will carry 12 pitchers and if so, who will they be? Who will they carry as subs after the starting 8 position players? (LA Dodger Talk)
Martinez: "I think the Dodgers will carry 12 pitchers because they don’t have dominant starters, they have had to use their bullpen all year long, and they are at the top of innings pitched out of the bullpen. And, the bullpen has faired very well, but you just have to wonder how much they have left going into October. As far as looking at the makeup of their team, I think Joe has a pretty good idea that you are going to have a  on the bench. Jim Thome really is an interesting study because he really hasn’t had much success as a pinch hitter. There is the prospect that you might not carry him in the first two rounds, but if you get to the World Series, use him as a DH in that scenario, and obviously he has had time and success there. He has only hit .214 for the Dodgers, and he hasn’t done much, so he will be an interesting study as to who makes the team. You would think [Mark] Loretta, [Juan] Pierre, and of course [Brad] Ausmus in the backup role would be there, and they would have to carry an additional outfielder too. This is a team that is challenged because their starters haven’t had a lot of success pitching late into the games, and I would imaging that Randy Wolf is probably going to get the Opening [Postseason] Day nod with a lot of question marks behind him."
How long do you think it will take before Andy LaRoche blows past Casey Blake in every offensive category? (LA Dodger Talk)
Martinez: "Obviously they are complaining that Andy isn’t there anymore, I mean when Andy was dispatched to Pittsburgh, he was scuffling and having problems offensively. I think that getting out of the limelight of Los Angeles – so many of those kids grew up together; Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and Andy LaRoche, that there was a lot of pressure on them and they all survived that in Los Angeles. Casey Blake came in to LA at a time where he was an established veteran. He is really the guy that turned around the professional approach of the Dodgers, and it is like comparing apples to oranges. Casey Blake’s career has been different; I don’t know is Adam LaRoche will be a better offensive player, once he gets established, but I think when they brought Casey Blake into LA that it was perfect timing. He was the one that began the turnaround, and changed the attitude in the clubhouse even before Manny Ramirez got there."
Torre has held James Loney out against most Lefty starters, Loney is also our best defensive 1B option. Because defense is so important during the playoffs, did Torre do the team a disservice by not letting Loney see more left handed pitching? (LA Dodger Talk)
Martinez: "Well, I think the one thing that Joe Torre had on his mind first and foremost was winning. At the time he felt like he was going to put his best lineup on the field. This is a challenge managers have in the postseason: What is your best lineup? And what is your best team? Obviously, pitching and defense are so important in the postseason, the best team, in my estimation, would have James Loney at first base. Now, it is up to Joe Torre to look at the individual matchups and see how he holds his own. Against left-handers, he didn’t do bad, it was just a matter of whether or not they had the confidence to get him in there. But, he did more at-bats this year than he has had in the past, and I think that is important, but I expect him to play everyday in the postseason at first base."
Buck, do players, management or commentators like yourself read blogs i.e. (LA Dodger Talk)
Martinez: "I don’t read blogs because I don’t have time, I don’t think managers have time either. I think you might get a few players reading blogs, but it is not that I don’t respect them, I just don’t have the time to sit there and go over blogs."
Would you include Chad Billingsley in your playoff rotation? (LA Dodger Talk)
Martinez: "He has to be included in your playoff rotation. He has the ability to be a shutdown pitcher in the postseason, but he has battled hamstring problems in the second half, he has battled command problems; in his most recent start he walked five, but what they need to do is just figure out how they are going to sort out this rotation. As I said, Randy Wolf is probably the guy Joe [Torre] thinks has been the most consistent for them. You would likely get him off and running and give him that first start in the postseason. Question marks abound in their rotation. Which Hiroki Kuroda are you going to get? Can [Clayton] Kershaw come back after being on the shelf with a non-pitching shoulder injury, and who are you going to lean on: Padilla or Garland? Padilla has certainly been terrific, but is he going to revert back to what he was with the Texas Rangers, or be that second-half pitcher he was with the Dodgers. A lot of question marks for Joe Torre."
Who had the greatest influence on you as a player? (RotoRob)
Martinez: "The greatest influence on me as a player was probably, Charlie Lau. Charlie Lau was our hitting coach in Kansas City, but he was also my catching instructor. He taught me how to call games, handle pitches and get through that. Certainly, if anybody knows my batting average they could question what he did for my hitting, ‘cause he didn’t do much, but as for calling a game he was terrific and really allowed me to play a long time in the majors because that was my strength."
Who was your idol growing up? (RotoRob)
Martinez: "No question about it, number 24, Willie Mays. He was the best player I saw. He was exciting, he could do everything on the field; I still believe he was the best player to ever play the game. Growing up in Northern California, I remember my first game at Seal Stadium, 1958 in July, I saw the cardinals play the Giants in my first Major League game – Willie Mays has always been my idol, and favorite player."
What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your life? (RotoRob)
Martinez: "1976 after the playoffs I was shot in the eye in a hunting accident. That was after the Royals lost to the Yankees in the ALCS in the bottom of the 9th in game five. I was shot in a hunting accident and had a BB in my eye, and had surgery for a detached retina. There were a lot of doubts as to whether I would ever play again. That was probably the biggest challenge, I would go on an play another 10 years in the majors and it was something we got over, but certainly there was a lot of doubt there for quite a long time."
Did you ever want to quit the game? What was the biggest regret of your playing career? (RotoRob)
Martinez: "I was told I should leave the game on three separate occasions [laughs]. I was actually let go three different times, but the biggest regret I have now is I wish I had my experience now, as a 20 year old, when I came on the scene in 1969. I came up to the Kansas City Royals in ’69 and I wish I knew what I know now then, because I would have approached everything a little bit differently but I don’t have any regrets at all. I was fortunate to play for 17 years, got to manage in the Major Leagues, got to put my son in the game in spring training, and I got a chance to represent my country, Team USA, in 2006 in the World Baseball classic, so I have been a pretty fortunate man."
Martinez: "They can absolutely be competitive. It has nothing to do with anything but developing people in your farm system, getting the right people in place, and spending your dollars wisely. I think any excuse that suggests that you can’t compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox you don’t have to look any further than the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Yeah, it might take you a little magic, and once every three or four years, and you might not be able to do it as consistently as the Yankees and the Red Sox, but you have to get back to your roots. And the roots for the Blue Jays has always been farm development, instruction, fundamentals, speed and defense. They got away from that, and thought that they could hit their way – you can not out slug the Red Sox and the Yankees, you have to out pitch them and you have to out defend them. Of course they can compete in the American League East."