Russ and I have been dancing around another secret. There have been several guess, some good, some serious, some silly, and frankly we really didn't do a very good job of veiling what we've been attempting to keep quiet. [Note from Russ: The picture in the Rockpile didn't give it away?]
That said, I'm proud to introduce our first player interview: Rockies 2B Clint Barmes.
Clint was kind enough to take some time out of his evening with his family and have a telephone conversation with me. Clint presented himself as a very friendly, talkative individual, and as Patrick Saunders says in his farewell address, Clint is a very down-to-earth individual who is very honest and up-front about his game and how his baseball career has transpired to this point. It was a pleasure to speak with him and to gain some insight into the game of one of the team's hardest-working players.
With that, click past the jump for Purple Row's interview with Clint Barmes.
[Note from RMN: This interview took place on Wednesday, Jan. 13, and the following day Clint's $3M contract was announced.]RMN: To start things off, can you describe an offseason day in the life of Clint Barmes?
Clint: Well, the way my offseason starts... the last few years, I've usually taken a few weeks off where I do nothing. Just give my body a chance to recover and spend as much time with my family I can. From Spring Training up and through the season, the time that we're away and the time that baseball takes away from the family...it's nice to either go hide in the mountains or just get away and spend some time with family. After that time, about 3 weeks, I start easing into weightlifting and try to get a solid base of strength back. After the first of the year, I get into the swing of all the baseball stuff, and also working out and running, and really pushing to get in shape for the season. Once I start back up, after the time off, I usually go into the stadium - I live downtown, so I work out of the stadium with a few of the players - I'm usually in there 8-noon, 5 days a week, weekends off. That's pretty much the involvement of baseball in my workouts during the offseason, that's how it is for me, personally. All the other downtime is pretty much spent with my family and any other different things I need to get done. Through an offseason, I always like to do at least 1 or 2 camps. Sometimes I do more. I've spoke and other things in that way with kids in my hometown and also with kids in high schools out here as well. I find things to do to stay involved in baseball to fill up some time. The offseason isn't as exactly as most people think it is, but I do get the chance to be with my family pretty much every day during the offseason, and that's very important to me.
RMN: It's good to hear that you're able to create a kind of balance and regular schedule - if I'm hearing this right.
Clint: It is a busy schedule, for the most part. At this point in my life, with all that's gone on, it's good to be busy.
RMN: Now, we saw in the Denver Post that Jeff Francis is getting some rehab work done at Coors. He's pitching up on the upper-level concourse. Do you find yourself using unusual parts of Coors Field regularly?
Clint: I'm not to that point yet. I still throw indoors, in the cage. I'm not to the point of throwing long-toss, really throwing. Obviously Jeff has been really rehabbing and working to get his arm strength back, and I believe it IS there, and now he's just making sure that it stays there. This month, I'll definitely start doing stuff in that way. Hopefully we'll get out on the field, when the temperature is nicer anyway. I know there's some snow on the field still, and it makes it hard to get on it and throw. There are a lot of place on the concourse, wherever, at Coors that are nice, you can get outside, stretch it out. For the most part, I'm indoors full-time in the weight room, and we have the batting cage. There's plenty of indoor room to run - whether it's the suite level in the halls...it's pretty empty there right now. We have plenty of room to get everything done that we need.
RMN: How many players work out at Coors during the offseason? Is it typically just Rockies players, or do you find a lot of other clubs' players working out there as well?
Clint: For legal purposes, you have to be a Rockies player and under contract with the Rockies to work and go through the weight room, just in case something happens. You never know. So it's all Rockies players that go in there. We have a handful of minor league players that come in. They usually get in and get their work done before the big league guys come in, and so the schedule works. I show up at 8AM, and the guys are already in there, halfway through their workout before I show up, so it works out. We've got our minor league strength coach and our big league strength coach in there working together and running guys through workouts. The minor league guys have their own business - we use the same facilities, but they have a different scheduled time to come in and get their stuff done.
RMN: That makes sense.
Clint: In the past, we've had a few more guys that show up. Right now, there's only been like 4 or 5 of us working out at the stadium at the big league level.
RMN: Do you find during the offseason in Denver, more of the big league club shows up, or are they off in their own hometowns?
Clint: Most guys that don't live in Denver have their own places where they work out in the offseason. Whether that's with another ballplayer or a college facility, they all have ways getting their work in. Pretty much everybody's on their own, and the nice thing about living in Denver is that the stadium is always open to us, and everything we need to do is at the stadium. It works out very well for us. We have our big league strength coach who I work with during the season - it's nice to be able to work with him as well the offseason, and we're on the same page pretty much all year round. There are guys who will come in and show up here and there through the offseason, but for the most part, there's just a small group that's there consistently.
RMN: Let me jump to the actual Rockies Club then. We know the front office stresses having a positive clubhouse. How would you say it's affected your experience with the Rockies Organization?
Clint: You know, it's been great, every year that I've played in this organization. From the year I got drafted, every team I've played on, they've found ways of bringing good character guys in, and that's shown. Every year that I've shown up to Spring Training, all the new guys that have come in have been really great teammates. Pretty much all the teams I've been on in the big leagues...there's been a great core of guys who've played together for a long time. Everybody that comes in fits in, and the chemistry has been really good. It makes it a lot more fun for the players to show up every day and go out and battle and really play for one another. The Rockies have done a good job of bringing players like that in.
RMN: It's great to hear that coming from someone actually inside the clubhouse, and to know that it's not just a front office mantra. Since you've been drafted it's been a clubhouse, let me shift gears back down to AAA. How would you say AAA contrasts to the majors from a player's standpoint, especially from someone who knows the Major Leagues might be in store again soon?
Clint: At that level, it's tough. You have young guys that are trying to get to the big leagues and you have guys who have been to the big leagues and have had some time and are trying to get back. It's a league that stands out in itself as far as all the other minor leagues, as it's obviously the closest you're going to get to the big leagues, and it's a big jump from AA and making adjustments, because pitchers are smarter. They're pitching to hitters as opposed to just throwing, and you really learn what it's like to have a game plan and a good approach on a day-to-day basis. Once you make that jump to the big leagues, now you're talking... it's probably an even bigger jump to go from AAA to the big leagues. AAA is a great league to get you prepared, but when you get the opportunities and you're in the limelight and you're out there competing in front of as many people as you do, you have to bring it and show up every day. There's a lot of stress involved and a lot of things that can wear on a player that you might not have in AAA. Those are things you have to battle and try to work through. The guys that do a good job of doing that are the guys that stick. That's what they would say is one of the hard things to do, to stick in the big leagues. It's hard enough to get here, but it's even harder to stay.
RMN: Along those lines, you obviously spent ‘05 and ‘06 in the bigs, and then ‘07 was kind of a rehab - well, not rehab, but kind of a ...well, whatever you'd want to call ‘07-
Clint: Rebuilding. A Rebuilding year for me. I was trying to find my swing again.
RMN: What would you say you focused on the most? Would you say it was just finding your swing?
Clint: You know, after the ‘05 season, there was always doubt in my defense. They always said I'd be fine hitting, but they didn't know I could play every day at a position and be solid as a defender. It was funny, because the ‘06 season came along, and I struggled hitting, but I had a solid - one of my best - my best defensive year to that point, and my defense has continued to get better every year. It's been a battle to find consistency in my swing. After the '06 season, spending time in AAA as much time as I did, it definitely allowed me to relax and work on some things I needed to work on and figure some things out, and I believe I did. I'm still learning, I'm still trying to get better, and I know there's a lot of room for improvement, but that's baseball. I guess the day I quit getting better then it'd probably be about that time to hang ‘em up.
RMN: How difficult was it to transition from SS to 2B, especially at the MLB level?
Clint: Actually, it felt pretty easy for me. I got to the point where defensively I felt very confident and very comfortable at the SS side, and honestly I believe that if you can play SS you can play pretty much anywhere on the field. Playing a little bit of 3B, I didn't feel like I had many issues there. Making the move from SS to 2B, it's still playing up the middle, I enjoyed learning and working on the turns at 2B, and I feel like I picked that up pretty quick. As far as standing on the other side of the diamond and at a little bit different angle, once I got over that (which didn't take long), I felt very comfortable and confident over there as well.
RMN: You mentioned the turn. Just talk about the double play for a moment. In '07, Kaz Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki seemed to have a great double play combination, and when you came up and took over the 2B job, it seemed like the double play hadn't missed a step. How do you and Tulowitzki work out that transition so smoothly?
Clint: Well it's easy to play up the middle with a guy like Tulowitzki and what he brings, his abilities and talents...it's pretty impressive at his age for him to do what he does. He's just a great athlete, and he makes a lot of things look really easy which definitely makes my job a lot easier as well. I get to the bag, and for the most part, he gives it to me quick, he gives it to me in an area I can get it and get rid of it. I know what, for the most part, what he's capable of doing, what he wants to do on certain balls up the middle and in the hole. We really play as much together as we did this past season...we just communicated very well together. We were on the same page for the most part with hitters and the plate and situations, and that's something we take a lot of pride in, making sure that one of us covers the bag, and we're never out of place for the most part. There's hitters he'd move me on, and let me know they're more of a pull hitter and I need to take a few more steps. Covering the bag, we work well together that way, and it works both ways. It's a lot of fun, and hopefully I can play with him up the middle for a few more years.
RMN: Well, I hope to see it as well. Now when you talk about positioning, covering the bag, communication: Do you position yourself differently based on who's on the mound, whether it's Aaron Cook with his hard sinker, or Jorge De La Rosa with a bit more Strikeout and Flyball tendencies, or do you play it mostly based on the batter?
Clint: The pitcher is a big part of it. Pitcher and hitter.
RMN: Coming into the 2010 season, what are you doing to prepare? What do you feel you already excel at and what do you feel you need to work on to succeed in 2010?
Clint: Obviously the hitting side of it. My average was down this year, my On-Base percentage... I am an aggressive hitter. I've always been an aggressive hitter. Learning the strike zone, and for the most part, just being a little bit more selective are things I can definitely work on and I realize that. Defensively, there's a lot of things...just pretty much staying up on being prepared every day. Positioning myself, positioning is a huge deal for me. Learning hitters, learning our staff, our new pitchers that are coming in or whatever the case may be there. Getting the work in groundball wise. I feel solid defensively where I'm at, and now it's just the battle of being prepared on a daily basis, going out there and knowing who's on the mound, who's at the plate. I guess that's the best I can give you at this point. There are a lot of things I'm sure I could use the work on, but I've been working a lot this offseason on my hitting and just looking over what I need to work on that way. It's been a good offseason and I'm definitely excited to get into Spring Training and start it up again.
RMN: We're excited to see it. You talk about the amount of work you put into defense -and I'm going to veer away from this in a second - but I'll tell you this: coming from an analyst's standpoint, it's showing. I happen to be one of the more statistically minded guys on Purple Row. I tend to write the articles with the really advanced stuff. Most of the major defensive fielding metrics rate you as a top-level defender at both 2B and SS, whether that be UZR or RZR or whatever we're looking at. Do you or anyone else in the clubhouse follow the advanced statistics, and what's your take on them in general?
Clint: Honestly, I haven't followed them. I don't know if anyone else does. I can tell you that I've not talked with any other fielders about anything that way. So I couldn't tell you stats on anything defensively other than how many errors I make in a year, to be honest with you.
RMN: What about the offensive side of the statistical spectrum?
Clint: The offensive ones?
RMN: Yeah, batting statistics. Mostly, with statistics becoming the new wave, we're wondering if players follow them. We read an article about Max Scherzer, former pitcher with Arizona now with Detroit, saying that his goal is to be a 4-win pitcher. Not like pitching Wins, obviously, but it's something different...he's worth so many pitching runs, which translates into wins. Things along those lines.
RMN: Do you touch on the more advanced stuff or-
Clint: Honestly, I don't. This is just me, personally, I don't know if guys really do. I know that I haven't talked to any of my teammates about anything like that. I would prefer not to even know what my stats are, hitting-wise. It's hard to play in any stadium when they have all of our numbers, pretty much, on the big screen Every time we go up to hit. It's hard not to look up at some point and see where you're at or whatever. I've always been a guy that's tried to stay out of the stats. Without looking and knowing exactly what the stats are as the season goes on, guys have a pretty good idea where they're at for the most part. There's no need to really look, if you know what I mean. My opinion, just the type of player I am, I'd rather stay out of that stuff. I try not to get involved in that, it just adds more pressure for me to do well, or try to do better, or whatever the case may be. If I'm prepared, and I feel comfortable...I work out before the game starts, either BP getting my groundballs, early work hitting in the cage, and trying to find a swing I feel comfortable taking into the game. For me, all that stuff's more important for me mentally to prepare for a game. If I feel I am prepared and ready, that's the best.
RMN: I can see how seeing the numbers up on the board would get into one's head. I was just throwing that out there to see what the players' take on the numbers is. Let me shift to a different aspect of your game. You've been rated by several places as an excellent baserunner: taking the extra base, etc, most notably by Sports Illustrated. Is your baserunning aggressiveness and subsequent success something you've focused on in the last year or two, or have you had that skill for a while? Do you think you'll be focusing more on basestealing, or just on aggressive running?
Clint: Both. Ever since I've played the game, I've always tried to take the extra base. You always want to try and take advantage of that, put yourself into scoring position. I've always been a guy - pretty much from little league when I first started all the way up to the big leagues - I've been more of a leadoff, 1 or 2 type hitter. These last few years, since I've played in the big leagues for a consistent amount of time, I've went from the 2 hole to 7-8, somewhere around there, and I just kind of go back and forth depending on how I'm swinging the bat at that point in time. I've always wanted to get on base and score as many runs as I possibly could for my team. I've felt like I have enough speed that I could steal some bases, and every year I go in and I look to try and get 15-20 bags a year. I haven't exactly done that at the big league level yet, but I am still working on that, that's something I try to improve on. More than anything, it's just getting comfortable and trusting in my abilities. I know that our manager and our coaching staff all believe in that, that I can steal some bases and do some things that way on the basepaths. More than anything, it's just trusting it. There's times when I might not be exactly the most comfortable out there leading off and I've gotten thrown out and different things. If I get thrown out a couple of times, I might back off for awhile, and those days start adding up, and it's like "Man, I haven't had an attempt for awhile". It's something I'd like to improve on, for sure.
RMN: The power/speed combination, a good number of stolen bags with the 23 home runs you hit last year would definitely be a pleasant balance to be looking at. So another thing we're wondering about - let me shift away, and move off of the field to contract stuff. Not specifically numbers and figures, but we're wondering how the contract experience goes for the players. There's talk from the Denver Post that the Rockies looking to sign you to maybe a multi-year contract this offseason. How does that affect your preparation for the upcoming season?
Clint: You know, that makes it tough, as a player, for me anyway, because I don't' know much about the business side of it, and so you pick an agent that you trust and believe in, and you listen to their advice and what their experience has shown. For me, personally, I have to trust my agent and what he tells me. I understand that there's a business side of it, and the Rockies are trying to get the player for the best deal that they can get, and the players are trying to get what they believe is fair for them. It gets a little tricky at times, but it's kind of a neat experience to go through. I've tried to stay involved with all that's gone on, whether or not I understand all that IS going on. My agent does a good job of trying to explain everything to me, and at this point I think we're very close to coming to terms and agreeing on a deal. I'm excited to get to that point and go into Spring Training and try to work to get to a World Series.
RMN: It's very exciting for you and your family to know that something is coming together soon. I mentioned the Denver Post a lot during this conversation. How aware are you of the mainstream media in the sense of what they're writing, what they're saying. As a baseball player, how do you handle it when someone comes along and writes - say, "Barmes had a stinking game" and generally behaves like a hatchet man - how does that affect you, how do you handle it?
Clint: Well, honestly, I try to stay out of that stuff. For me, I've never been a guy who reads a lot of the papers and watches a lot of the news. For me, it's best to just stay out of it. A lot of times I'll read stuff that I might not like. But then you have the good articles. If you believe the good, and you want to believe the good...I was told early on, as a rookie, if you believe the good, you have to believe the bad, and it's going to come just as much, if not more. Ever since, I've just stayed out of it. I've really worked to be prepared with what I need to do on a personal note to help my team on a daily basis. Like I said, I try not to get too involved with opinions from writers and different sources that way. I respect what they do, and I'm more than happy to give interviews about any situation or any thing. I've had some easy ones, I've had pretty tough ones that I've had to go through, but that's just what baseball brings, and that's part of the job. For the most part, it's done me really well to just focus on and concentrate on what I can control, and for me, that's just going out and competing every day.
RMN: Well I'm hoping this particular interview has been one of the more easy ones.
Clint: Oh, definitely.
Clint: Well, and hey, I hate to do it to you, but I'm going to have to go here. I have a pretty anxious little one wearing my wife out trying to get to me.
RMN: I understand that you have a family that you get to go spend some time with. In that case, I'll go ahead and wrap it up here. Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to me.
Clint: Oh yeah, no problem. Anytime.