The Winter Meetings: Twins New Manager Molitor Talks to Press

Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, now the Minnesota Twins new manager, is experiencing MLB’s Winter Meetings for the first time in his career this year. He had this to say yesterday at his press conference:

Q. First of all, what are your reactions to the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee vote today? Tony finished one vote short, and Jimmy fell two votes shy?
PAUL MOLITOR: I don’t know what my primary reaction would be. I mean, everyone kind of anticipates every year what the Veterans Committees are going to do. I had a chance to be on the Committee last year that selected the three managers in. I know what that process is like. I know that for every candidate there is extensive discussion both for and against. It’s not an easy thing to do.
The hard part is for a guy like Tony, who I know so well, and he’s been so patient through this process of all the times he’s been eligible. And to get this close this particular time, one vote out of 16 potential votes, it’s disappointing in that regard. But I don’t expect it to affect him.
The other guys, obviously there are some great candidates on there as there were last year. But as Jane said today, it just kind of affirms the difficulty of trying to get into Cooperstown.

Q. Is this your first Winter Meetings?
PAUL MOLITOR: Yes, it is.

Q. What are your impressions of the first Winter Meetings?
PAUL MOLITOR: I don’t see it probably the same way you do. Primarily for me, the first 36 hours has been spending a lot of time in the Twins suite, as we discussed last night what our goals were for our time here, reviewing everything from free agents, and Rule 5, to potential club fits for trades and addressing our needs.
We were looking at our roster, and if things happen, our space is limited right now. So there are extensive things that Terry needs to cover with our scouting team and other people that are present. But it’s a bigger thing even than you can imagine once you get here. I haven’t spent a lot of time down here in the lobby with those type of things, but it’s obviously turned into a major production that continues to grow exponentially every year from what I’ve heard.

Q. How much do you think this will benefit you getting the idea of being up close with Terry as they engage teams and agents and things like that?
PAUL MOLITOR: I think you continue to learn about different parts of the job that you’re undertaking. You’d be foolish not to keep your ears open and try to expose self to many things that transpire and the development of an organization and the process of trying to supplement your roster in any way that you possibly can. Looking for upgrades.
So the coaching search was educational, vetting people, going through the process, and out here, down here seeing some of the process involved meeting with agents and potential free agents and hearing what your scouts have to say about just running through all the Rule 5 candidates. These guys have a lot ?? they do a lot of work in their preparation on the players that are out there. I continue to learn about what that’s all about.

Q. Did you have any manager role models that you use?
PAUL MOLITOR: It’s a combination. I don’t think I can actually tell you how many managers I’ve played for. I’d have to think about that and run through and hopefully not miss anybody. But at different stages of your career, managers mean different things. When you’re young, you’re wide open. Whatever you can absorb and sponge, you do.
I was fortunate being around guys like George, and Harvey, and a young Buck Rogers in his first time managing, and then a young guy like Tom Trebelhorn comes in and kind of innovative and a new thinker and you learn from that. And you get to a guy like Cito Gaston who had already proven he could manage a World Series Championship and learn from him about his way of treating men was very impressive.
Then I get to come back and play for a guy like Tom Kelly who probably is as much, if not more than anybody, taught me the intricacies of the game. How to run a game, paying attention to detail, and just things that I hadn’t really thought about even though I played 18 years when I got there. So it’s a combination that you learn from.

Q. Just like Harvard baseball?
PAUL MOLITOR: Well, I had some good tutelage, for sure. Even since I’ve retired I’ve watched guys and how they do it. You have to admire watching Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox and those type people, even in today’s game, with what Bochy has done in San Francisco, I have a lot of respect for a lot of the guys in the game now. I’ll get a chance to pick their brains over the next couple of days. And it’s nice to have relationships where you can be open to learning and guys are willing to share.

Q. When you say (Indiscernible) as being one of the detailed things that you’ve never thought of. Can you give us an example of what that might be?
PAUL MOLITOR: I think it would start with how he ran in Spring Trainings. I don’t think I ever saw a Spring Training that the manager was insistent on stopping every drill that wasn’t run properly. No mistake would go not repeated. It wasn’t a matter of reprimanding or singling people out. It was a matter of making sure we learned how to do things right, whether it was PFP, cutoff and relays, bunt defenses, it was just extraordinary detail to how we prepared for a season.
In game, I was a DH primarily when I was there, and he had an open door for me. So after games I’d see how he would do things, how he’d set up match?ups or bullpen use or days he tried to use a utility player instead of a regular player, and just kind of his philosophy in how he ran his team. I don’t know if that was overly different from a lot of people that I was with. But I do know that he envisioned the end of the game moving forward probably better than anybody I had seen. It wasn’t that I have to get from the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, he could work backwards and put things in place. If that makes sense.
So I’m glad he’s still a friend and a confidante. I’ve had a couple of conversations with him already since I’ve had this job, and I’m looking forward to his experience as someone who can help me out.

Q. How is he feeling?
PAUL MOLITOR: I saw him down at Target Field probably within the last couple of weeks and he’s doing well. It’s a reminder that he’s been through something that he has to be mindful of and how he’s caring for himself, but overall I think he’s doing pretty well.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
PAUL MOLITOR: We’re optimistic about him coming down. He certainly has an invitation and I’d love to have him down there. Hopefully everything goes smoothly and he’ll be down there in Ft. Myers.

Q. Can you talk about the approach of the voice you want to put into the clubhouse?
PAUL MOLITOR: Well, I will say that any time you try to address that as a new manager, you have to be respectful of where you’re coming from and where your team’s coming from.
Our team has had four very difficult years being around the club on a full?time basis last year. I can’t say that it’s about the fact that the manager didn’t have respect for the team or guys didn’t want to play. It wasn’t any of that. We have not quite figured out with the new core of players that we have on how to get over the hump and win more. We have guys that play hard, play nine, they play the whole season, they don’t quit, all those good things.
But that being said, it was different for me after ten years being out of the Major Leagues to be in an environment of a Major League clubhouse and see the things that go on there. Now some of it is just the change in culture and devices, and things that people like to spend their time. It’s become a lot more individualistic and not as blended. I don’t see a lot of coherent behavior among players, maybe a card game here and there. But somehow I think we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance there. Guys knowing what their purpose of being at the ballpark is. Definitely, you want to have fun and do certain things. But I would like to stir that up just a little bit if I can.
The players clubhouse is their clubhouse. We like leadership from within. We’re excited about what Torii Hunter might bring, but we also have developing leaders that have already been there. Some of our young guys that are starting to get established have left their mark. I think the combination of that is going to provide for hopefully guys that can have fun, but they know how to channel that energy when they walk down to the field.

Q. How will you stir that up? Are you going to plant seeds and hope things happen organically from it?
PAUL MOLITOR: I think that you have to challenge guys to want to do the right thing. I don’t like enforcing things. I would like to think that as men who if they’re committed to winning and trying to change the direction that we’re going, that they’re going to want to maybe understand that some things might be in order to try differently and how they handle their time when they’re at work. So whether I’m going to have to enforce some boundaries there?? again, “enforce” may be the wrong word, but establish certain criteria about things. I’m getting some input from other people that we’ve talked about it, and my coaching staff and we’ll try to have a good plan in place once we get to Spring Training.

Q. When are you going to start planning for spring?
PAUL MOLITOR: I already have. With all the things that are going on with Spring Training and getting your arms around Spring Training is going to be challenging. I think we’re only going to have 64 people right now and just try to understand that we have a field plan that’s been successful for the most part.
But obviously, as manager, we have certain things that I feel we are going to adjust, whether it’s how we have pick?offs or bunt defenses or whatever, cut?off and relays, you might do things differently. Whatever you want to do, you have to do it early because then I think the players will understand we’re doing something different. And the reason we’re doing it is because we want to be different and better.
But I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. I’ve had meetings with some of our staff already, we’ll continue to do that between now and Spring Training.

Q. What is your view and metrics and how they affect things?
PAUL MOLITOR: I’m learning more about Sabermetrics all the time. Obviously, as a coach last year, I was exposed to them at a deeper level than I had been as a Minor League player development person. I’m going to try to learn what I think is valuable in assessing who plays, lineups, all those type of things. But I’m going to hopefully have enough confidence in myself to have a feel for players, and flow, and season, and momentum where I can trust some of that too. But I think with all the things that are out there, you can overwhelm yourself. But obviously some of it makes sense, and it’s proven to be successful in how managers integrate it into their system both defensively and offensively.

Q. Do you have an overall view of the image you want to project to the players?
PAUL MOLITOR: I don’t know. I hate to say I want them to be?? I don’t want the players to try to be like me because I want guys to be who they are. But I think that I’m going to be more internal than external. I think I like the idea of calmness, regardless of circumstance.
At the same time, having an intensity and obvious look about you. I have a tendency for people to say you didn’t like to laugh very much when you played. I was happy inside, but I was just serious. People say you have to have fun when you play the game. Well, winning was fun. Everything else, yeah, you can have fun, but that’s the most fun. So, yeah. I like calm. Calm is good for me.

Q. Over the years had Toronto ever gauged your interest in management?
PAUL MOLITOR: Obviously closer to post playing days. There were some transitions up there in Toronto and I still had more connections than I did as the years past by. There were some discussions. I remember interviewing at one particular juncture. I think I decided that due to personal interests and situations at that time that it wasn’t the right fit for me. But obviously I have great memories of my three years there, but it’s never come really close to happening.

Q. You were on the phone with Torii a few times leading up to hoping to recruit him and it worked out. Do you envision making more calls like this? Have you already had a chance to talk to some guys you guys are trying to sign as free agents?
PAUL MOLITOR: You know, Torii was an obvious one for me to try to get in touch with personally because of the fact that I played with him briefly. I coached him. Have a relationship. So it made sense in that particular situation.
As other players potentially, as we get closer to hopefully maybe signing another whatever it might be, pitcher, and there is a need for me to talk to that player, I’d be happy to try to give him my perspective of not only what he would be to that team and how he would fit, and whether it’s about family or whether about how he’s going to be used or whether it’s about culture. But that hasn’t happened since I’ve been here yet. But I wouldn’t mind if it did because that would be a good sign that we maybe have a chance to do something.

Q. Are you under the impression from Terry that they’ll implore you to make that call once it gets close?
PAUL MOLITOR: You know, not necessarily yet. I think that from what I’ve seen the first day and a half here, we’ve obviously had a lot of meetings with a lot of agents about a lot of people. When we start floating offers and people know that we’re serious, then it might get to that point, but it hasn’t yet.

Q. Sabermetrics show that Torii has regressed quite a bit?
PAUL MOLITOR: That’s what everybody keeps telling me.

Q. Your overall outfield defense hasn’t been that great the last few years. You have a big ballpark. How concerned are you about that whole issue?
PAUL MOLITOR: My reaction to Torii’s Sabermetrics declining considerably in the past few years, that doesn’t concern me. I haven’t seen Torii on a day?to?day basis. I saw him 18 to 19 games last year, and I can’t think of one ball that he didn’t catch that I thought he should catch that I can’t think of throwing to the wrong base or missing a cutoff man. I saw him make some nice plays and I saw him geek some runners when he made the runner think he was going to catch the ball, and I saw him play in communication with the center fielder. I saw a lot of good things.
Now you can measure range and all those things, but I’ll take his experience and knowledge and throw him out there with a couple of young outfielders and take my chances with no hesitancy what so ever. Yeah, he’s 39. He’s not 29. We all get that, but I’m confident about what he’s going to bring to our team from many different areas including not being concerned about his defense.

Q. What about your overall uphill defense and the importance of it in the ballpark?
PAUL MOLITOR: The reason it’s been a little shady is we’ve had people out there that aren’t particularly good outfielders. You know, if Aaron Hicks was your everyday center fielder the last couple of years it looks like he might be coming out of the Spring Training two years ago, it would have solved a lot of your problems defensively, because we feel he’s good out there.
Unfortunately, when you’re putting players that don’t run particularly well or have had a lot of specious playing outfield with the speed of the Major League game, it’s not going to be always good. We’ve had to make an infielder into a center fielder, we’ve had people like Chris Parmalee, and Chris Colabello and Josh Willingham, and all these guys that are professional players, but you wouldn’t call them your upper?echelon outfielders. We’ve had to put that together. We had to put guys like Jason Bartlett and Nunez and Escobar. I mean, different circumstances have caused us to put people out there that hasn’t always been pretty.
The more we can stabilize that, Hunter playing X?amount of games in right field, and we’ll see how centerfield unfolds because nobody wants to hand anybody a job at this juncture, and then we have the adjustment to left field. I think he’s starting to understand that hitting the ball over the fence isn’t the only thing that’s important about being a Major League player. So these are some of the things that we’re going to try to stress, and I think because we have better athletes, more consistency with positioning, hopefully that defensive outfield play will improve.

Q. Is Danny Santana coming to Spring Training as an outfielder or infielder or you don’t know yet?
PAUL MOLITOR: I would say today that Danny Santana’s coming as an infielder.

Q. The fact that he’s skipping winter ball, coming off a year where he played so little shortstop, is there any chance that changes? Would you like to see him get a little winter ball time at short? He played so much center last year?
PAUL MOLITOR: That doesn’t bother me. I saw him play enough down the stretch. He’s got some games. I’ve seen him play enough in the past. You go to Spring Training as an infielder and do all the reps that we do the first 35 days before Opening Day, it shouldn’t be an issue. Now will it be a hundred percent? I won’t say that because you can get yourself in the box, but that’s how I’m going into Spring Training.
I just have to say this. Escobar, when he came in and what he did for us last year when he couldn’t hold the job. To hit .280 and hit 40 doubles and play as consistently as he did, I’d be a fool to say that that’s not valued. I’m just trying to think of big picture here and maybe see what is the best thing and how he’s going to fit in if that move happens. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.

Q. Have you had any contact with Escobar or Santana about that?
PAUL MOLITOR: I have not at this point.

Q. How much better defensively can Arcia be? It seems he tries to make plays he has no business trying to make. If he would just play within his abilities?
PAUL MOLITOR: I watched how Scottie worked with him last year in the outfield, and they’ll go out there in right field and Scottie will hit balls in corner and say this ball is a double. Your objective is not to play it into a triple. During the game someone will hit it down the line and he’ll try to slide and stop the ball before it gets into the corner and it turns a double into a triple.
Some of it is just controlling. We talk about having control of your emotions in the batter’s box, on the bases, on the mound, in the outfield and making the play. I think he’s an emotional guy that sometimes situations and things get away from him. Part of that is your judgment on when to try to make a play and when not to try to make a play. We all know there is a time to dive for a ball and a time when okay we’ll give up the single, but I can’t let this guy get a triple. But he’s learning that. He works at it. I think like you said earlier, he wants to be more than just a slugger.
He’s young. He’s 23 years old, I believe. So we’re just trying to make him into more of a ballplayer and not to make a cliché out of that, but there are a lot of things. He needs to run the bases better. I think I got his attention the second half last year about that. We all know he’s working on his hitting, and he hit 20 home runs. I don’t know how many at?bats he had last year, but it was pretty good overall. We don’t want him striking out 33%, and we’ll be patient with that guy. He’s got a chance to be pretty good.

Q. In terms of missing bats, pitching staff, where are you on the importance of that? Or are you more a strikeout?to?walk?ratio guy even if a guy doesn’t have a strikeout inning?
PAUL MOLITOR: Yeah, I’ve watched what worked for this team in the 2000s. It was criticized a lot because it didn’t play well in the postseason. When you walk less people than anybody else in baseball over a long season, it’s probably to your advantage. But if you’re not striking people out, then there is always a converse side to the argument. I know that we’ve begun to stockpile some velocity in our system. Realizing that when we watch postseason teams, they have it, and when we play against a lot of teams, they have it. We have one guy throw one pitch at 97 last year. I saw that one time.
I like velocity. I think it increases the margin of error with your pitches and all those good things. But, yeah, the bottom line, I’d like people to get people out. So I’m going to look at anything that works. If we can figure out a way to do that, I know our guys offensively, you face some of these teams with what they bring out of that bullpen, it gets to be tough at?bats day after day. I know that I’d like to be able to do that to some other team at some point.
But strikeouts are good. The game is gone from 17%, I think, to 20% in the last, I don’t know how many years. But striking out at a rate of 1 out of 5, and I think that’s the highest rate in history. So we’d like to get in on that a little bit on the pitching side, and maybe we’d like to figure out how to not be vulnerable to it at an offensive side.

Q. I guess to get in on that, you have to get a few more walks from your staff. You’ve pitched yourself in and out of trouble these days?
PAUL MOLITOR: Yeah, unless you feel used. He’s not an extraordinarily high?rate strikeout guy, but when walks for as low as they are, you create an historical season like he did.

Q. Have you had a chance to have any conversations with number 7? Are you going into next year trying to figure out how to get him to be the guy that everybody thinks he should be?
PAUL MOLITOR: Yeah, we’ve talked about some since I’ve gotten (Indiscernible). Joe’s an integral part of what we’re trying to do and where we’re going to go. Talked to Tom Brunansky. He’s here the last couple days. I’ve had contact with Joe. I’ve seen him a couple times, but we haven’t had our actual cup of coffee, sandwich, something to get together. Because I do want to?? I value a lot about what he has to say about our team. What he thinks of everything from the environment and how we coach and all these kind of things. He’s got those kind of credentials that I’ve got to respect where he’s at with his career.
But I also want to offer him my opinion on heading into the second half of a career. He’s into what? Year 11 coming up. So he has a 20?year career, which would be fantastic. He’s past that point. So there are things that players need to do, and I think he knows that. He’s a smart guy, and just to give you my opinion on things. Now the last part about that long answer, if you play a long time and you have an impeccable track record and career, when are you allowed to have a bad year? How much of this is an aberration, how much is a trend? I know those are things that you have to respect when you talk about making two drastic adjustments.
So I think Joe will figure it out. I don’t have any doubt at 31 years old he’s got a lot of tremendous offensive seasons left, and I know he wants to win. That is the one thing. MVP, three batting titles. He’s got a lot of things going. But he’s missing that one big prize still. I think that’s going to drive him here in the second half of his career.

Q. Some players play better in their 30s than their 20s.
PAUL MOLITOR: Funny how that happens.

Q. Do you want Joe to be more vocal considering his credentials or knowing that he’s just a quiet guy and he can’t force it?
PAUL MOLITOR: No. No, I think people will always debate. Can you demand a player because of either compensation or accomplishments to be somebody that he’s not. I think people like to watch Joe. They see how he prepares, and he’s going to be who he is. Joe gets his two cents in here and there to the right people at the right time. It’s just kind of behind the scenes normally, but I have no problem with how he handles that.

MLB Winter Meetings: Ned Yost Interview

Fresh on the heels of a franchise-reviving run to the World Series, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost spoke at the baseball winter meetings yesterday.

Q. What have you thought about what your front office has done so far?
NED YOST: Working very hard. I told our front office last year in these very Winter Meetings, let’s find a way to get us to 90 wins. And they got us to 100. So it’s kind of the same mandate this year. Find a way to do it.
But they’ve worked extremely hard. Dayton, you know, as hard as he works during the summer, it’s twice as hard now trying to put a team together and trying to fill certain holes that we need filled. And they’ve been nonstop working on it.

Q. What’s the process kind of like when you’re here at this point in time and your team has less guys on it than you did last year when you concluded and looking forward with uncertainty with what goes on?
NED YOST: We don’t have uncertainty, we know we’ll fill those holes. And we’ve got a number of different guys that we’re identifying in terms of right field, identifying a bat if we decide to go the DH route. And identifying starting pitching that we want to try to attempt to either sign via the free agent market or via trade.
Right now we’ve gone over half the clubs, we look at every club. We look at every player and determine if there’s a match. We try to decide, Okay, if it’s going to be a trade situation, who are we willing to give up, who do we think that they want and try to have all that information in our head before we talk to the club. It’s like a ballgame. When we sit down before a baseball game as a coaching staff we try to go over the game in our head so when something develops we have a pretty good idea what we’re going to do.

Q. With that many people you have in the bullpen and those you sign and expect to come back, would it be possible to get enough work for those guys or does somebody have to go?
NED YOST: No, no, it’s actually the perfect scenario, which it was two years ago. You know, last year having three guys to fill three innings is fine on a day basis. When you start pushing them two and three days, that’s when it starts to get hairy, especially during the season.
So you have another quality arm down there, like Hochevar, then you can mix and match if Herrera needs a day off you don’t miss a beat, if Wade needs a day off, you don’t miss a beat, if Hoch needs a day off, you don’t miss a beat. Three, it kind of taxed us some last year. The year before when we had Kelvin, we had Hoch, we had Wade and we had Holly, there was a real nice flow to it.
So you look at our bullpen, and I don’t think that there’s been a bullpen as dynamic as ours has been in terms of, you know, your back end three or four since Cincinnati had Randy Myers and Norm Charlton. They were just lights out, same as our crew.

Q. Hoch had some incentives in his deal for starting. Do you have any plans to stretch him out at all?
NED YOST: Right now, we put ?? we take into account everything. We’re not saying that, no, because that may be an option for him. Right now we bring him in as a starter and it might be less tax on his arm. But those decisions will all be made in spring training.

Q. You’re projecting forward, you think he’ll be a late inning?
NED YOST: Pretty much. But again, I’m not discounting him not being a starter. I felt really, really good when we were able to sign Hoch because I went out a number of times during the postseason and watched him throw. Golly, can you get on the mound right now? Man, I feel like I can.
So I was really, really encouraged by watching him with his throwing program.

Q. Who are some of the guys you feel like internally might be able to help you in right field or at DH?
NED YOST: Right now, you know, we’ve got different scenarios, you can platoon Paulo Orlando and Peguero. Both of those guys came up last year. Paulo had a tremendous year in Triple?A.
Again, I really like the idea of a floating DH. I can’t catch Sal 150 games again. I can’t, I’ll kill the kid. The problem when you’re locked into a DH, you don’t want Sal’s bat out of that lineup. And there’s days where it would be beneficial for Omar to DH, because his bat is good, Gordy to DH, Hos to DH, Cain could DH.
We’re talking about getting another bat. If we can get one, fine, if we can’t, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Because I think that the revolving DH will pay benefits to everybody on the field.

Q. Do you have to flat out give Sal some days off, period, resist the temptation to just he’s going to catch or he’s going to DH?
NED YOST: There will be times where I’ll give him a day off. But Sal is a force offensively. He’s a Gold Glove catcher, two time Gold Glove catcher. But his bat is a very productive bat. And at times last year we struggled offensively, it’s hard to take that bat out of the lineup.
I’m going to look back and I see, Okay, Gordy had a good year last year. Do I think he could be more productive offensively? Yes. I think Hos and Mous are going to be more productive offensively. Cain had a phenomenal year. I look for him to continue that. I look for Sal to have a better year offensively. I think our offense is going to be better just with what we have in?house. But there’s times where you’ll identify that maybe a tough Sunday day where you give them the absolute whole day off. These kids like to play.

Q. Is there an ideal number of games you would want Sal ?? I know the answer is 62 ??
NED YOST: No, that’s not an ideal. I don’t have an ideal number.
Probably what I’ll do, because again the temptation to play Salvador every single day is great. Probably what we’ll do right out of Spring Training is assign four starters to him and one to somebody else. At least every four days he’s getting a DH day or a day off. And I think that’s probably best case, works out best for everybody involved.

Q. I know you’re trying to win every year. Are you looking forward to having that official target on your back for 14 other teams in the American League?
NED YOST: Oh, yeah. I was really excited about the way that our kids stood up during the playoffs. And I got ?? we’ve talked about for years about taking their game to the next level, and what it feels like and the intensity and the focus and the whole mindset of taking their game to the next level. And they took their game to the next level during the playoffs.
For them to experience that, to understand it, feel it, know what it feels like, you know, it’s a great experience. Because now you know. Take your game to the next level. What does that mean? Now they know. They took their game to the next level.
Their mindset was so singular in winning the game. There was no ?? at times guys would be struggling and I’ve got to get my average back up, I’ve got to do this, and it was more trying to work on individual goals than team goals. Once the playoffs started that was gone, everything was about winning this game. Finding a way to win the game. I don’t care what it takes, a walk, a hit, a stolen base, if you’ve got to pinch?hit for me, that’s fine. And they understood it. And they embraced it and they were extremely successful doing it.
So with that experience I’m really excited to see what they can accomplish next year.

Q. Do you feel like the wear and tear on Sal affected his hitting in the second half?
NED YOST: Yeah, I do. I do. I think we kind of wore him down little bit. Because I know that Sal is a tremendous offensive performer. He got to where I felt like he felt like his bat was getting a little slope. He’d have to start his swing earlier, which resulted to more swings out of the zone. I think a lot of that was my fault.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Shields’ status in the club, free agency?
NED YOST: Yeah, we’ve talked about a number of different guys, free agent guys. And a number of different guys that maybe we could make deals for.
I think James and some of the top guys, they’re waiting for one of the big boys, Lester or Scherzer, to make a deal, set the market and go from there.
You always hold out hope, does it look like we’re going to be able to get him back, I think somebody is going to be able to outbid us for him. But he was tremendous when he was with us for two years. He came in and helped change the mindset in our locker room and with our organization. And he’s a special guy.

Q. Lester tell you where he’s going?
NED YOST: No, Jon has been ?? I only talked to Jon one time. And he’s been so busy going to here from there to there to here that his schedule is busier than mine.

Q. Last year with Peguero, he got two games, really. Did you do a spot where you couldn’t experiment?
NED YOST: There was no time. There was no time. There was no time for that in September when those guys came up. We were battling Detroit for the division. And the experimenting and giving a guy an opportunity to see what he can do for next year, wasn’t the right time to do it.

Q. He’s the sort of guy that you probably have to get an extended look to sort of see?
NED YOST: You’re right. Those types of guys, you know, through an extended Triple?A season last year, this kid did a great job. Hit 30 home runs. Yeah, it was Triple?A, but he has that kind of power. If you want to give him a look, you’ve got to give him a fair look. You can’t just throw him out there for two weeks and if he struggles, bag him. That’s not going to work.
So, yeah, he’s a guy if you decide to go in that direction, he needs a fair opportunity.

Q. Looking at the division, do you feel like the Tigers are still your chief competition there for the top spot?
NED YOST: No, I don’t. I feel like the Tigers are top competition. But I think Cleveland is going to be very, very tough. We went into Cleveland the last week of the season and we had that makeup game and that put them two games out of the Wild Card. And we lose another one of those games and they’re right there in that Wild Card mix with us. Luckily we came back and won the next couple of games and put them to four and almost got them eliminated.
But that was a very tense time for us, because they were coming, they were playing hard. But Cleveland is very tough. I think that Minnesota did a great job, I think Torii Hunter is going to help them, they have a new manager in Paul, who is going to be terrific. I think the division is going to be wide open again.

Q. What was it with the Tigers, what makes them so tough?
NED YOST: I don’t know, they struggled against us the year before, what was that? I don’t know. We played really, really well against them the year before. And last year we really struggled against them. We just could not get any type of momentum against them, and don’t really know why. We played some pretty good games. Got blown out of some games. But it’s funny how it changes from year to year.

Q. Do you have to approach Spring Training with your core guys any differently now that they’ve had success?

Q. Do you approach it any different?
NED YOST: No, we don’t crack of whip. Our guys have never shown a propensity to come in lazy. I think the country saw it during this playoff run, the life and the energy that these guys have and how much they enjoy playing with each other.
And Spring Training, in all my springs with this group it’s always been like that. They have a lot of energy. They have a lot of life. They get on the field. They practice the right way, they practice hard, they stay focused. We don’t leave them out for nine hours doing drills. We go out and get our work done and we come in.
I don’t have any concern about these guys showing up ready to go.

Q. When you lose a guy like Shields, 220?some?odd innings, back?to?back years, allowing the bullpen to rest. When you’re making an addition to the rotation, do you look for Duffy or Ventura?
NED YOST: I don’t look to fill that spot. Duffy and Ventura are going to be fantastic for us. Guthrie and Vargy, Guthrie had a tremendous September and tremendous postseason. And Vargy struggled a little bit, three starts in September, but up to that point he was dynamite for us. I think the combination of that. And you don’t know who is going to pop up. Zimmer shows up healthy, his stuff is right on line with Ventura’s. You just don’t know what Finnegan is going to do, what Hoch is going to do, and that’s without getting another arm, which we plan to do.
You just have to get there and see how it all plays out.

Q. You alluded to this briefly, for as much as everybody is talking about the bat that you’re going to add, how much is really about the internal guys you already have, them leading the way more so than this savior bat coming in?
NED YOST: We’re not looking for a savior bat. We’re looking for a productive bat that’s going to help us. With our bullpen, our mindset is just have the lead or be tied off the fifth inning, and we feel like we’ve got a real strong chance to win that baseball game. If we can get a productive bat to go with the bats we’ve got, we’ll be in good shape.

Q. Will it be funny to readjust to regular baseball? The managers in the postseason, you’re out in the third inning?
NED YOST: Yeah, it’s a different way. And that’s why it was so fun, I think, and so exhilarating because you were doing things you’d never done before. I never thought about bringing Kelvin in in the fourth inning. But that’s what you have to do. When it’s winner take all, do or die, and you’re planning to advance in the playoffs, you push guys.
But I think we did a great job last year of setting up our roles. We’ve got Jason Frasor coming back. And he fills that really big role, that fifth, sixth inning role. Louie Coleman is going to have a great bounce?back year, Timmy Collins is going to have a great bounce?back year. We feel like we’re going to have enough depth and quality down in that bullpen to get Kelvin back to his one?inning stints, and Wade and Hoch, if he’s a reliever, make it work until we get back to the playoffs.

Q. Your guys have shown they can get anybody out. You mentioned Tim. Any concern that you’re too right?handed heavy in the bullpen?
NED YOST: No, because our righties all had to do a good job of getting lefties out. All of our righties we have power. Louie Coleman, even though he’s a drop?down right?hander, he’s always been very successful in getting lefties out for the most part. Frasor has a nice changeup and a cutter that he bears in on their hands.
I’ve gone years, especially in Milwaukee, two years or maybe three years where we didn’t even have a left?handed reliever. If they’ve got your righties that have power and pitches to get lefties out, it’s not a concern at all.

Q. Six weeks or so that you’ve had time to reflect on the postseason. When you look back at it, what did you learn the most from that experience, just personally?
NED YOST: I don’t know. I think I learned to be a little more flexible. There were times ?? first of all, I feel like I’ve got the best coaching staff in all of baseball and really, for me, really started to take advantage of it in September. And there were times when Wak would come up in a game and suggest something, and I’d say, I’m not going to do that. I’m not doing that. Are you crazy? I’d look at him, and turn to Pedro, and say, Would you do this? And Pedro would say, Yes, I’d do that. I’m not doing that. And I’d go, Let’s do it. And I’ve never been like that before. I really used my coaches and their experience and their intuition and knowledge, and it paid off huge. It paid off huge for the entire organization.
So to be a little more flexible to listen to quality baseball people, a little more, I think I learned how successful we could be when you do that. But I go back, even six weeks after, through the whole playoff process, and there’s ?? I keep thinking is there anything that I would do different throughout that whole process and there’s not.
We had the right situation in Game 5 that we wanted with bases loaded, Finnegan facing Sandoval, and gets a base hit. So they win Game 5. We blow them out in Game 6. I had the matchup I wanted with Herrera and Morris. And it didn’t work out. He fisted one into right field for a base hit that put them up 3?2. And Hos comes up and hits a ball up the middle and Panik makes a phenomenal play. That would be first and third with nobody out with the meat of our order coming up. If any one of those things happened or not happened, we would have won a world championship. That’s how close we came. I don’t kick myself over that.
To come as close as we did to winning a world championship, the slimmest of margins, one run in Game 7. I kept thinking after a week or ten days I’ll be able to reflect back and feel really good about it. But five, six weeks and hasn’t happened. Still that hole of we were that close to winning a World Championship, which was our ultimate goal to bring the World Championship back to Kansas City and we didn’t accomplish it. That goal moves on to next year.

Q. Do you think that it might be a little difficult at the start to get past that when the group reconvenes?
NED YOST: No, our guys are going to be foaming at the mouth ready to go. They want it, too. So I think that they’re going to show up with that taste in their mouth that they want to get that extra run.

Q. Last year you mentioned we need that James Shields of the offense, that leader inside the clubhouse. Did that player emerge in October or does that search still waiting?
NED YOST: No. I mean, obviously I think they all stepped ?? you look at what Mous did. Mous was that guy in October. Mous ended up breaking the franchise record for postseason home runs. Everybody stepped their game up. And it just got to a point where they just ?? they put together great at?bats. But they were relaxed at?bats. They weren’t: I’ve got to add 20 points to my average at?bats. I need to get on first base so that something can happen.
With our pitching, we didn’t have to score a bunch of runs. You go back and look at the playoffs, 13 innings in the Wild Card game. And the first two games in Anaheim went extra innings. And then played an easier game for Game 3 to win that series. And then extra inning game in Baltimore. And I can’t even remember Game 2, and then Game 3 and Game4 were 2?1 ballgames. We scored enough to win because our pitching and our defense was so dynamic.
So you kind of put it all together, that’s all that really matters and that’s all that counts.

Q. More so to the leadership average. Do you have that guy?
NED YOST: These kids, the experience that they gain, you know, with Hosmer, with Mous, our Latin contingent guys, between Omar, Salvador, Esky are all calming influences for those guys. And you all saw Ventura, he’s as cool and calm as can be no matter what.
So, yeah, I don’t think we have any issues in terms of leadership in that locker room offensively. We’ve got a bunch of guys that I trust and count on to be really, really good.

Q. What about Aoki, are you having him back?
NED YOST: We’re still talking to his agent. This time of year there’s a lot of big numbers being thrown around, you know? So we’re just trying to filter through it and see what works for us. We would love to have him back.

Q. Aoki is not a big outfielder, but if you lose him what would you lose?
NED YOST: Aoki, he’s a guy, very special with his ability, doesn’t strikeout, he’s a cut and slasher like nobody I’ve ever seen. You put a fastball down and away, he’s going to drill it through the 6th hole, you throw him a fastball in, he’s going to pull it ?? his hands and his hand?eye coordination are as good as anybody I’ve ever seen. You hear the phrase “hit it where it’s pitched.” He literally does it. Literally does it. Every year he’s close to leading the league in infield hits. He finds a way to get on and battle. He’s a good offensive player, struggled a little bit in the first half of the season. He’s such an information?oriented guy that he was just really learning the league and learning the new pitchers in the second half, especially in the September, he was unbelievable how good he was offensively. And defensively he’s a very solid performer in right field. But when you’ve got Dyson and Cain that you can put out there, that’s a huge upgrade over anybody.

Q. You showed this year that you don’t need to score big runs to go far. Do you see things ever going back toward the offense? Now you have a bullpen that you can lock down the game. It seems like everything is going toward defense here in recent years. Is there any way to get it back the other way?
NED YOST: For our team?

Q. Any team, really.
NED YOST: Some teams just have different philosophies. Some guys they want to get guys that have power and can drive the ball out of the ballpark. Our ballpark is big, it’s hard to hit it out of the ballpark. Dave did a good job of making our stadium become a home field advantage for us. The ability to manufacture runs and hold down the opposition. I would like to see our team go a little more offensive, but not at the sake of losing defense or athleticism, because that’s a big part of our game.

Q. How do you balance that? You have Cain and Gordon who can cover the whole outfield pretty much. When you’re trying to fill that right field start?
NED YOST: Still, we need a bat, but the thing that we got is Dys, too, we have the ability to ?? the object is to be tied or ahead the sixth inning on, then you can put your best defense out there. It’s not as necessary to have a Gold Glove out there, but it’s preferable. Because when you have to defend for Dys, or when you defend Dys, you run that base running bullet that you have in the 8th or 9th inning, that can pinch run for Sal or whoever to steal that base, to either get to Holly or win the ballgame.

NED YOST: Well, I mean you cutting him already?

Q. Are you cutting him already?
NED YOST: No, he’ll be in Spring Training. I’ll miss him until Spring Training comes, then I’ll be glad to see him. He may come back and all of a sudden hit .400 in Spring Training. We’ll see. Who knows? I’m not cutting him this early.

Q. Speaking of pinch running, what was your thought of Billy heading out to Oakland?
NED YOST: I was kind of hoping that we would be able to find a way to keep Billy with us. And I thought probably it would, but when I heard Oakland’s number, Billy’s got to go. That’s great for family. That’s great for him to be able to sign a three?year deal at 10 million a year. I was really happy for him.

Q. You expecting Finnegan to be in Spring Training?
NED YOST: We’re going to stretch him out in Spring Training and see what we’ve got, go from there. It’s easier to stretch a guy out to see what you’ve got, back him down if you want to put him in your pen, exactly where he’s going to start, I don’t know. We’ll find out what we see. He’s going to be a good one for a long time. He’s got tremendous poise, tremendous stuff, and what an addition to our club in September when he came up.

Q. On a little different topic, you got to see all those years in Atlanta what kind of pitcher John Smoltz is, he’s on the Hall of Fame ballot, crowded ballot, any doubt in your mind ??
NED YOST: ?? when are they announcing that?

Q. January 6th.
NED YOST: Oh, really? He’s going to make it, no doubt. He’s fantastic, yes. The years that he had and the stuff that he did, not only as a starter but as a reliever, no, he’s a no doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer for me.

Q. There’s been such a drop in offense in the last decade or so. You see a team like yourself, how do you rationalize what’s going on here, do you think this is a cyclical thing, or the game is going to stay this way?
NED YOST: I think this is the way the game is. I think this is the way the game was. This is the way the game got away from it, and now it’s back to where the game is. I think offense is down, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think that’s the way the game is. I think we’re going to get back to manufacturing more runs, more speed and athleticism to manufacture runs. And you’re still going to have the guys that will drive the ball out of the ballpark. Especially in parks that are home run friendly parks, you’re going to get guys that get more home runs, your Baltimores and Philadelphias, and things like that.
I think it’s back to playing baseball, for the most part, the way baseball was meant to be played.

Q. And just given the way you ran your game, it seems you’re very comfortable where that?
NED YOST: Absolutely. Poll a hundred people in the country and ask them if our style of play was enjoyable. And I think they would say he can, yeah, it’s different. It’s old time baseball. But it was different because we haven’t seen it. We haven’t seen speed and athleticism and daring base running, and guys trying to create havoc and taking chances and getting big singles that were the bang, bang plays. That’s exciting baseball. And I think that the country loved it. And I just think that it’s a fun style. I love it. Do I like the three run homer? Yeah. I’ll take the three run homer anytime someone wants to jump up and give me one. We’ve got to find other ways to get it done.

Q. It seemed like the game got so far into the power aspect for so long, I guess to some degree it still is there. But when a team wins like you guys do, that runs it’s offense like you do.
NED YOST: Well, it’s a different world that we live in today, you know. It’s a different ?? the players are different than when I came up. There’s more the social media, the Internet, all the stuff that Andy is tweeting, all this stuff that goes with being a baseball player today, right? And it’s the same way. I mean I don’t know why fans got away from liking the bunt. And all of a sudden the numbers come in. But a lot of times the numbers don’t really take into account the human element of the game. And there’s a place for it, don’t get me wrong. We look at numbers all the time.
But a lot of times people will scream and yell at me for bunting, but I guarantee you of the bunts that we put on, a third of them I put on and two?thirds the guys were bunting on their own, trying to find ways to bin a ballgame. Because they wanted to win a ballgame. They wanted to get that runner to the next base so that somebody could drive in. A, B, C baseball. A, get on the base, B, move them over, and C, drive them in. Our guys enjoyed playing that style of baseball and it was very successful.

Q. Did you ever get bothered by some of the stuff that seems to be directed not as much at your team, but sometimes at you?
NED YOST: No, no. Again, I’ve been called a dunce, an idiot, everything else. And Andy has come up with all kinds of stuff on Twitter for me, and it just doesn’t bother me. I’m really comfortable with who I am. I know who I am. I’m not the smartest dude on the face of the earth. I never claimed be to. Never professed to be. But I’m really comfortable with who I am. I’m comfortable about my organization. I’m comfortable with my players. So I don’t really pay too much attention.

Ready For the Playoffs: Nick Saban’s Sugar Bowl Press Conference Transcript

Alabama, seeded number one in college football final four tournament, squares off against Ohio St. in the Sugar Bowl with the winner advancing to the finals the next week. Nick Saban discussed his team with the national media on Sunday:

THE MODERATOR: We’re going to start with head coach Nick Saban from the University of Alabama, ranked No. 1 in the college football rankings. Coach, go ahead and make a brief opening statement, and then we’ll open it up to the questions.
COACH SABAN: This is obviously a great opportunity and a real honor for our team to be able to come back to the Sugar Bowl, to be a part of the first?ever playoff system playing against an outstanding, very traditional, a great traditioned program like Ohio State, with a great coach like Urban Meyer.

So this is a real opportunity for us. There’s a great history between Alabama and the Sugar Bowl through the years and all the way back to Coach Bryant. And we’ve been there several times, and we also enjoy New Orleans, and we certainly enjoy the hospitality that the people at the Sugar Bowl offer us.

Q. Just talk about the season. Do you think that Texas A&M game was kind of the turning point to get things rolling? Because you obviously had the talent. Seemed like it just meshed up at that point. And just turned things around for you. And also regarding the UAB situation, is there anything you can do regarding that due to the circumstances?
COACH SABAN: Well, the first part of your question, I really think that our team came together in the Arkansas game. It was a rough day. Bad weather. Arkansas is a very good team. Probably an underrated team.
We were in a real dogfight with them. And made some plays at the end of the game to win the game. And I saw an energy and enthusiasm in our players that I hadn’t really seen before. And I think we really became a team. And I think after that game you saw them play really well against Texas Texas A&M. But I think it was a result of what happened at Arkansas.

I really don’t know what you’re asking me about UAB. I mean, we hate to see any player, coach or anybody else get uprooted by the fact that they discontinue a program. But we also respect the business aspects of what people have to do in terms of making decisions about whether they can afford to have a program from a financial standpoint.

Q. Just want to ask you about your relationship with Urban Meyer, how you describe it and the games that you’ve had in the past?
COACH SABAN: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Urban. And we’ve done some things, the ESPN games and stuff together, and I consider him a good friend and certainly have a tremendous amount of personal respect for the kind of professional he is and the kind of coach he is and the kind of programs he’s had, the great teams that he’s had at Florida.

And I know that we haven’t had much of an opportunity to look at Ohio State yet. But we certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for what their team has accomplished this year and know that they’ll be a very, very well?coached team.

Q. As good as Amari Cooper has been over the years, what specific areas did he improve or hone maybe to have the kind of production he had this year?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think that Amari’s gotten better and better every year because he’s a hard worker and really a prideful guy in terms of his performance. And I just think he’s played with a lot more consistency this year and his focus has been better. He hasn’t let little things bother him, whether it’s a little nagging injury or whatever and has just been kind of a demon every time the game comes in terms of how he competes. And we’ve used him and featured him and he certainly has taken advantage of those opportunities.

Q. How does playing in the SEC prepare you guys for what you’re going to face in this playoff situation?
COACH SABAN: I think that we played a lot of good teams in the SEC and we know there’s a lot of other good teams around the country. And I think that all these teams are conference champions, which means they have really kind of earned their way in wherever they’ve played or whatever conference they’ve played.

And all of them play in outstanding conferences to have a chance to play in this playoff system. So I think the more good teams you play against, obviously the more your players know about how to prepare for good opponents together and we know we’re going to see a really good team in Ohio State in this playoff game.

Q. When Urban Meyer got to Ohio State, some people said that he was going to bring sort of like an SEC?style of play to Ohio State. What do you think that means, when a team place like an SEC team, what does that say to you?
COACH SABAN: Oh, boy, I don’t know. I think you’d be better off asking him what he meant by that. I can’t really speak for him. I don’t really necessarily see a different style here. I just see a great passion with a lot of great programs and a great league that’s very, very competitive and a lot of built?in rivalries. And I coached in the Big Ten. There were a lot of those same things there. So I really don’t know what that necessarily means.

Q. Cardale Jones has only played one game this year for Ohio State. What are the challenges for preparing for a quarterback where there’s only limited film available?
COACH SABAN: Well, obviously he played very, very well when he played. And I think that’s the key thing that a guy has the capabilities to play. Blake started out this season where he hadn’t played in any games and he certainly did a good job of playing and improving, becoming a great leader for his team and making a lot of plays that got his team where they are.

So I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to see him?? everything that he’s capable of doing, but we certainly have a lot of respect for the way he’s played when he’s played.

Q. When asked about the quarterback situation this summer, you always seem to mention Blake Sims. You don’t ever want to talk about Coker. And you mentioned yesterday progressively you’ve been tinkering with tempo. How much better can Blake Sims be now that he’s got 15 Bowl practices and an actual camp?like setting to actually be the true number one guy without any real distractions?
COACH SABAN: He hasn’t had any distractions all year. He’s been the true number one guy all year long. He’s done a good job for us. I think everybody looks to him as our quarterback. And so I don’t really understand what you’re asking me. There’s never been a quarterback controversy. There’s never been?? he won the job and he has played well for us and we are where we are because of the things that he’s done and what our entire team has done to get us here.

Q. I was wondering, obviously when Urban was at Florida, you guys were always going after the best players in recruiting. And I didn’t know if you still see him on the recruiting trail a good bit as far as guys you’re going after. And we had a kid specifically from the Chattanooga area, Vonn Bell, that you guys were interested in. And he wound up going to Ohio State. I was just kind of seeing if you still go up against him a lot in recruiting and what you remember about Vonn Bell?
COACH SABAN: Well, we thought Vonn Bell was an outstanding player and certainly wanted him in our program. I think if he was in our program right now he would be a very productive player for us. We see Urban a lot in recruiting. And I know last year there were two or three players that we wanted that they got. And there was a couple that they wanted that we got.

And I think that if you have one of the top programs and I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for the energy in recruiting that Urban and his staff and their organization has in trying to go after some of the best players, identifying them and going after them. Obviously they’ve done a great job of recruiting there and that’s why they have a very good team and that’s why they’re going to be in this playoff.
So we have a tremendous amount of respect for the way they recruit.

Urban Meyer Press Conference Transcript, December 7th

Ohio St. head coach Urban Meyer, still riding the high of a 59-0 win over a pathetic Wisconsin team, spoke to the national media yesterday to discuss the upcoming Suger Bowl game against Alabama.

At this time we’d like to introduce head coach Urban Meyer from Ohio State University. Coach Meyer, we’ll ask you to make a brief opening statement and then after that we’ll have questions.

COACH MEYER: We’re very honored to be a part of one of the great Bowl games, one of the most historic Bowl games in the history of college football.

I’ve had the opportunity to be there before, and so our players, I know, some of our players have been in the past, too. So we’re very honored to represent the Big ten Conference against a great team in Alabama.

Q. Just wanted ask you what you remember obviously some history between you and Nick with those two great SEC champions where one year you were 1 and they were 2 and vice versa. Do you remember those games well? What stands out to you about those games?
COACH MEYER: Probably I can’t remember my address or phone number but I could tell you probably every play in those games. The 2008 game was just one of the great games in college football history, in my opinion. Where evenly matched teams were going back and forth, back and forth. And obviously we got, scored right at the end to take a two?score lead.

The second year, that was one of the best teams I’ve ever coached against Alabama and they handled us pretty good. Ingram was a tailback and they dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides. So a lot of respect for Alabama and their coaching staff.

Q. Wondered if Chad Lindsay, is he still around the program? Is he still part of the day to day?
COACH MEYER: No, he’s given up football. He’s finishing up his schooling this semester or this month.

Q. A couple of quick ones. One, first part would be are you surprised that this has happened this quickly again, you facing off against Coach Saban, one of your teams against Coach Saban’s teams and the other thing I wanted to ask about a kid from our area Vonn Bell a sophomore has made good plays for you, if you could talk about his career to this point?
COACH MEYER: I’m not surprised. I think Ohio State’s an elite program, and obviously Alabama is as well. And we had?? I still think we’re in the building stages. Obviously a couple of years ago we took over a team that lost 7 games and kind of built it up. Lost some good players last year.

And this year we’re still a very young team. I wasn’t sure this year, I thought it might be next year that we would reach this, especially when we lost our quarterback. I knew at some point, if you’re going to reach for the top, that you have to go through the top. And the last several years Alabama has certainly been at the top of college football.

Q. I was just curious on how stressful the night was or the morning was in waiting to see whether you guys were going to get that 4 spot or not?
COACH MEYER: We got in at 4:00 in the morning. I dosed off for a minute and popped out of bed, couldn’t sleep. I went down and really started just working on schedules about?? I know this is a big?? we only have one week of recruiting and then we’re off. The recruiting calendar has changed so much you have to be so efficient and most of the programs were out recruiting last week, and we were not. We’re behind. I had my strength coach come over we started mapping out a calendar if we made it or didn’t make it.

And then our athletic director came over and we got to sit and watch it together. So it was very stressful. Not just waiting to see, but last week, I don’t know, maybe some people have done it in the past where they already work on those schedules. Our complete focus was on winning that last game. So that’s where more of the, I don’t know if stress is the right word, but just making sure?? because I’m going to be on the road recruiting most of this next week.

Q. You’ve been right there every single year that you’ve been at Ohio State. And it’s just a matter of time before you started applying for National Championships. But your first year when you went undefeated, you had a tight game with UAB. Would you imagine that they just all of a sudden cancel their football program?
COACH MEYER: I actually saw the special they did, three? or four?minute special on Game Day. My opinion probably doesn’t matter because I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I understand the value of athletics, the value of football, in particular. My son plays it. And I’m very glad that he does because of what it teaches.
So anytime you see that happen, you just?? you feel sorry. To answer your question, I was surprised because I know UAB has been around for a long time and they’ve had some great teams in the past.

Q. Wanted to ask you about Vonn Bell. If you could talk about him. I know he picked you guys over Alabama, getting a kid from our area, what he’s meant to the program and how he’s progressed?
COACH MEYER: He’s having a pretty good year. He’s our starting safety. Came in last year. Was very instrumental on special teams. I probably should have pushed harder as far as getting him in the game a little more as a freshman. But he’s a very talented guy, highly recruited guy like you said, that could have really went anywhere and to go down to the south and?? I know with Tennessee and Alabama and he grew up a Vols fan. So he’s a big part of who we are.

Q. Just your personal relationship with Nick Saban, what’s it like, how would you describe that?
COACH MEYER: It’s good. We always used to sit next to each other in the SEC meetings. We’ve actually known each other a long time. It’s very good. We worked together on the agents and those type of things in the past. And so very good relationship.

Q. When you and Nick are both at the top of the profession like that, when you’re in those situations, do you talk shop? Do you talk about running a program or what it takes? Do you think there are any similarities in how you guys go about running a top tier program?
COACH MEYER: We haven’t really spoke that much about that. The one thing I think both of us?? I don’t think?? I know we both committed our entirely livelihood to college football and believe in players. The players are the most important part of this whole institution of college football. So we’ve had many, many conversations about how to make sure we keep the game or do the best we can to make sure the game stays what it is and I just remember we went after this whole?? both our programs are dealing with non?stop agents attacking your players. And he felt fairly strongly about it. So did I.

That’s one of the few times I think we were both involved. We were on another committee or conversation about the whole payment of players and all that. So ours is more about the conversation about the good of college football.