Earlier today, ESPN held its MLB start-of-season media conference call with Baseball Tonight analysts, World Series Champions Mark Teixeira and John Farrell. Teixeira, who won the World Series in 2009 as a member of the New York Yankees, enters his second season as an ESPN analyst. Farrell, who as the Boston Red Sox manager led the 2013 Club to the World Series, is starting his first season with ESPN. To listen to the audio from today’s call: ESPN.com/ESPNRadio.
Both will regularly appear on Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet leading into Sunday Night Baseball this season. Teixeira and Farrell addressed media questions about the start of the baseball season and their ESPN roles. Here is the transcript below:
John, what do you hope to bring to the telecasts, and how are you preparing for this role?
JOHN FARRELL: Yeah, I hope to bring certainly manager’s perspective. So in-game decisions that might be going on in the moment or review of what might have taken place on a game that we’re providing some analysis of, either just recently completed or going into. I think that is a unique position given the set of experiences in Boston and Toronto leading up to this.
But, in preparation for it, this has been a lot of reading and studying on the changes around the game, changes around individual clubs, and just being as versed as possible in advance of the first outing.
Q. John, it can be a tough role, certainly, for a player or manager, coach who gets in a role now where he might have to, nationally criticize someone who is a friend or teammate or somebody he played with or knows pretty well. Do you think that will be a difficult transition to make for you?
JOHN FARRELL: I don’t. And, I think in the light of fairness and calling the game for what it is, I think there are ways to be objective, to be candid, without being personal. I am looking forward to that challenge. It will be the first time in this position to take on that role, to highlight certain things that have or have not taken place inside the lines.
But to be objective, to be fair, that is the goal to add something to the telecast.
Q. As you are aware, playing for space is not as easy as many people think it is. How important is Greg Bird’s health and success this year both defensively for the Yankees and also in terms of providing some lineup balance with all those righties?
MARK TEIXEIRA: Yeah, I think Greg Bird has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career. We saw in the playoffs last year, when he’s healthy, he is lethal. Especially that balance he provides with a left-handed bat at Yankee Stadium is really important.
I don’t think the Yankees are going to be hurt by missing a few games as many teams could be. Neil Walker was brought on to be maybe that super utility guy. He’s got plenty of experience in the Big Leagues and in big markets. What I saw from him at first base in Tampa when I was down there a few days, he would be fine to handle that job for a few days. You have Tyler Austin who is having success in the Minor Leagues and the Big Leagues that can handle it.
I think the biggest question is if this becomes a problem for the rest of the season or the rest of his career, then you’re really missing out on a really important talent and an important bat in that line up. So I think all Yankee fans are holding their breath right now.
Q. Wanted to follow up on the previous question, and you kind of touched on it there. How much of a concern should this be for the Yankees, just that this is similar to what he dealt with last year, and obviously a lot different than what he dealt with the year before. But with Greg constantly having these injuries that seemed to be nagging and really affecting his career so far?
MARK TEIXEIRA: Yeah, that’s a great point. I would be very concerned. Unfortunately, when you have one injury, you can kind of brush it aside, even two. But when things keep popping up, when things become an issue, it seems, over and over again, you do start worrying. We’re not talking about a 35-year-old at the end of his career; you expect those things from older players. This is a guy who has just started his career, 300 at-bats in the Big Leagues.
So you do worry maybe he’s either the most unlucky player in baseball, or there is something physically that he’s not able to heal as well as some players. I’ve seen it throughout my career. Guys who work their tail off and they’re in shape and they try everything they can, but they just seem to get hurt over and over again.
You see it more and more with pitchers than position players. But, again, I hope that’s not the case with Greg. But the Yankees should be concerned here.
Q. I know you have somewhat of a relationship with him and saw him in Tampa. He had a healthy spring up until this. Do you have any sense that he was concerned or had anything weighing on him? Because the stats weren’t great this spring, but did you get a sense he felt good before this latest here?
MARK TEIXEIRA: I didn’t get a sense anything was physically wrong. But he was definitely grinding at the plate, as a lot of players do early in spring. In Spring Training there are some ugly numbers out there from good players. I had plenty of springs I hit under .200 and maybe one home run. Then you get into the groove of a season and everything’s fine.
So to me, Birdie was just kind of grinding over his at-bats and trying to get his timing. I did not get any sense that it was physical.
Q. If you guys could both comment on this, John, first, for you, I think you know what I’m going to ask. Were you surprised that you were let go by the Red Sox, and were you also surprised by the Yankees letting Joe Girardi go? And Mark, if you could comment on both as well.
JOHN FARRELL: You know, this has been a unique off-season in many ways, whether it’s been managerial changes, the free-agency situation, and we find ourselves still on the outside looking in. If you finished in first place last year, you were twice as likely as to be fired as if you finished in last place. So from that perspective, yeah, a little bit surprised a change was made. But I do know Dave came in and he inherited me.
So he felt like there was a change that was needed because we made quick exits the two years consecutive going into the postseason. So the expectation as it is every year, whether it’s New York or Boston, L.A., Chicago, to go deep into the October run, we didn’t do it.
So I think as the season wore on, and as we got down to the final weeks, maybe there was a little bit of a gut feeling like, you know what, this might be taking place, and it did.
So I wish Alex Cora and everybody all the best there going forward.
MARK TEIXEIRA: Yeah, I agree with John. This is a completely different ballgame nowadays. When I first came up in the early 2000s, the front office was never in the locker room or the clubhouse. There were not analytical folks throwing papers in your face every day. It was, you know, quote/unquote, old school. The manager kind of ran the show. That’s not the case anymore.
When you have a front office that has a philosophy or wants to put together their group of guys, sometimes managers get pushed out. Not because of anything that they’ve done, but because the front office has put together a system in place and sometimes they want their own guy in there.
I think in the Yankees’ perspective, Joe had a great run there, and everyone respected Joe. Everyone liked Joe. But with the young crew that was coming up, the baby bombers, if you will, I think Joe’s intensity was a little much for guys.
I think that the front office noticed that when young talent comes up, you want to play loose. You want to have fun. Maybe they just wanted a new fresh face in there, a fresh voice, and Aaron Boone was that fresh voice.
I don’t think it is an indictment on Joe Girardi as manager. I think it’s just the clubhouse culture that the Yankees wanted.
Q. I’d like both of your perspectives on the Chicago Cubs for this season, where you see them standing now a year removed from their World Series Championship, and some analysis on players and management there?
JOHN FARRELL: Obviously, this is a team that’s probably got the inside track on winning the division once again. Another year of development with a core group. As much as Mark talked about the young players in New York coming together, when you look at Chicago, all of a sudden this is the third consecutive year they’ve got probably five or six everyday players that are in the lineup day in and day out.
Joe Maddon does a great job of always making in season adjustments and tweaking his message to the team or the make-up of that given team.
But to me it comes down to this, and he’s going to be a guy that’s leading them off in the rotation. If Jon Lester can bounce back to, I think, a year performance somewhere between the last two, he will certainly lead that staff.
Jake Arrieta’s going to be a huge loss to them, but they’re going to find ways to make up those innings there. To me Jon Lester and Hendricks are two guys that will lead the way for them.
MARK TEIXEIRA: Yeah, I agree, I think this team’s going to be really good. I think you see a little bit of that World Series hangover last year. But by the end of the season, they were still right there in the NLCS, and had a chance to go into the World Series again.
I think you’re going to see better seasons from Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist. Those guys did not perform up to their capability. I think you’re going to have a pitching staff that’s going to be a little bit better rested because they didn’t throw so many innings late in the season. So I would not be surprised if this team gets back to the World Series.
Q. Mark, you were on that ’09 team with the Yankees that had massive expectations. Obviously, you guys found a way to deal with that. How do you think you were able to get through that time? Does this current team face a similar level of expectation?
MARK TEIXEIRA: I think the current team definitely faces those expectations. I think the only difference is the veteran leadership that we had in 2009, and I was kind of a tweener there, I was 29 years old, in the smack middle of my career, so I could relate to the young guys and the old guys. But we had four or five veterans in there that had won multiple championships, and that was really important, I think, for our team.
Just knowing whenever you had a tough game or a tough road trip or in the playoffs when you lost a game, that stay the course. I think the last season, what the Yankees went through will give them a little bit of a boost for this season.
I still think the Astros are the best team in baseball. Obviously in the American League. So while the expectations are high for the Yankees, they still have a little bit of a hill to climb to overtake the Astros.
Q. Okay. I see you felt a little bit different online, because when you guys made that push to get all of these players, I think you included, I think a lot of folks were thinking these guys are the best team in the American League. Do you remember it that way too, Mark?
MARK TEIXEIRA: I do. I remember us thinking we were the best team in the American League. But I also remember the Red Sox were really good that year. And I think the Red Sox beat us eight or nine straight to start the season when we were playing those guys. So the world was falling apart, and the Yankees weren’t as good as everyone thought we were going to be.
But we never stopped believing in ourselves. When you looked at that lineup, at any given day, we had eight or nine All-Stars in that lineup. That’s tough to beat. You add the starting staff with Mariano Rivera at the back end of the bullpen, and we knew how good we were.
Q. John, we’ve asked a version of this question to a lot of current and former managers, but what do you remember about your first opening day? What would you tell that guy if you could go back in time now about how to handle what’s coming? And then the last part of that is a bunch of new managers out there, what are they not going to see coming that’s going to be a tough thing that they’re going to have to learn moving forward?
JOHN FARRELL: Well, let me answer the second one first. There is no way you can predict the challenges that a team’s going to face. There are going to be injuries that crop up that you had no clue on in Spring Training. Aaron’s dealing with the Bird situation, he knows that before the first pitch is thrown in the season. But things are going to be thrown at Alex Cora, Aaron Boone, a number of guys that are — Gabe Kapler in Philadelphia. There are going to be things that come down their way.
A large part will be dealing around injury and how that roster adjustment and the turnover’s going to take place.
I think guys have just put Spring Training behind them, and they look upon their team and they’re envisioning how maybe the characteristic or what that team is going to be known for, they’re trying to shake that through the latter part of Spring Training. So as they go into opening day, there are a thousand thoughts that are running through their mind about what’s upcoming, what they’re trying to get accomplished.
But if there’s a way they can step back and enjoy the first one, it is a special day.
Q. I’m trying to do a story on Chris Archer. He talks a lot about wanting to get to that final level, to be in that Scherzer, Kershaw, elite level, true ace. I know you could have that argument all day long about how many true aces there are. But what defines that for you guys what defines that true ace?
JOHN FARRELL: Oh, I think it’s the starting pitcher that answers the bell in terms of workload, consistent performance. And there’s really the in between starts that has a direct affect on those two. Taking care of your routine. Making sure your preparation both physically and from a mental game planning standpoint is locked solid, locked down solid.
Because I think it’s much more difficult to be able to be that ace and be that lead guy in today’s game with all the technology that is available. So your execution has got to be that much more consistent.
So to me it comes down to paying the price and sacrificing for that mindset or that goal of being a number one guy that can be looked upon with the likes of Scherzer, Sale, Price, CC Sabathia, those guys have done it for years.
But to me, Chris Archer’s got to take that next step and avoid some of those peaks and valleys.
Q. Thank you. Tex, what do you think?
MARK TEIXEIRA: I couldn’t agree more. I think consistency is the number one thing about an ace. Hitters over .162, when you play every single day, you’re going to have lots of ups and downs. If the number three hitter goes 0 for 4 with four strikeouts you can still win.
When your ace is on the mound, you can’t have him blowing up games and having duds, because if your team — especially if your team is struggling. If your team is struggling and you have your ace on that mound and he gives up six runs in an inning and a third and you have to go to your bullpen, that’s a deflating experience for the entire team.
So, for me, when you are a consistent guy that every time out or nine out of tenure going out there and giving your team six-plus innings and keeping your team in every single game, that is the true definition of an ace for me.
Q. As a quick follow-up, where does Archer fit on that scale for you?
MARK TEIXEIRA: To me, I think he is in the second level of conversation. He is not — we throw that word ace around way too much. There’s probably 10 to 15 true aces in all of baseball. Every team does not have one. I think the next 10 to 15 guys, I’ll put Chris Archer in that group.
Q. John, can you give your personal scouting report on your son Luke who is now in the Cubs organization?
JOHN FARRELL: You know what, a guy that I think has handled so much change. Four different organizations last year. He was in the transaction turn-style from getting claimed so many times.
But I think someone who has an idea of himself as a pitcher, an improving breaking ball, average velocity. But the versatility to be a swing guy, pitch out of the bullpen or in a starting role and hopefully that opportunity knocks.
But I think a guy that’s starting to come into his own, and more than anything knows what his limitations are as a pitcher.
Q. When I asked about opening day, you said that was a special day. A lot of guys said it was a blur and had a hard time remembering details about it. Others remembered a lot about it. I was wondering what you remembered about your experience standing on that line for the first time on opening day as manager?
JOHN FARRELL: Oh, like I said before, there are a number of things that splash through the days leading up to it and then when you’re announced. I think there’s a culmination of a life long journey, particularly as a post playing career, you go through a coaching role as a pitching coach in my case, and then taking on an opportunity to lead a team. This is Toronto in 2011 in the first year.
But standing on the line, knowing you had a day to share with your family, and the people that have traveled that path with you, it is a fairly surreal moment. But, again, your thoughts probably have to change quickly. As soon as that Anthem is finished and over, your sights certainly set or turn to taking care of the game at hand.
Q. John, what exactly is your role with the Reds, and how did that come about?
JOHN FARRELL: It’s scouting the Reds’ system, and more focused on pitching. This is, I think, a team with a lot of good, young talent, good, young arm strengths that, like every team that is trying to transition young pitchers to the Big Leagues, how you can give some input and make recommendations along the way.
So I reached out to four or five teams with this thought in mind. They were the team that showed the most interest in conversations when I was out visiting my two sons in Arizona earlier in the spring. A chance to sit down with Dick Williams and talk with him about this.
It came to fruition, and just finished ten days with them in Spring Training as of yesterday.
Q. Will you do actual instruction on the field or just advice?
JOHN FARRELL: No, this is a non-uniform position. So, like I said, it’s more evaluation and recommendation from a development plan standpoint, but the focus being at the upper levels. From the young guys that are in Cincinnati, to Louisville, down to Pensacola in the Southern League, so that’s where the focus is.
Q. Do you know what your schedule will be? Is it pretty much what you want it to be or how will that work?
JOHN FARRELL: Yeah, it’s to be coordinated with the pro-scouting department. But likely two cities a month, five days each to see the rotation through and get a feel for those individuals at those various clubs. So it will be two five-day trips during each month.
Q. Mark, now that you’re a TV veteran, how do you think that Alex is going to do in ESPN’s booth this year?
MARK TEIXEIRA: I think Alex is going to do great. We’ve always talked about Alex loving the game of baseball, and really being able to articulate his view of the game and knowing how to talk to people. Alex, I think, has shown his chops on FOX for the last couple years in postseason, and he’ll bring kind of a different type of insight and energy to that booth on Sunday night. I think ESPN’s lucky to have him. -30-