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Newark Bears News Speaks with Bears Manager Bill Madlock!

Newark Bears News spoke with Bears manager Bill Madlock after the close of the 2003 season.


 

Newark Bears News:  Thanks for agreeing to speak with us.

Bill Madlock:  No problem.

How did you enjoy managing the Bears for the 2003 season?

Well it was fun, but itís difficult, too. When youíre in a place like Newark, a lot of the older ball players are trying to get back to the big leagues -- they like to come here because of the location, you know, close to New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. You know youíre gonna lose themÖ The tough thing about this league is the players change [all the time]. We probably had over fifty-some faces go through here Ö just for this team, because of injuries and the guys we had that other organizations picked up. It made it not only tough to manage, but it also made it awful tough to win because we never could get a set lineup out there. I donít know if we had the same lineup out there more than two times during the course of the year! We had a lot of utility players start, and I donít care what league youíre in, you canít win with second-tier players [starting games]. We sometimes started four or five guys who should be utility players, but they were starting for us a lot during the course of the year.

We noticed that the lineup was always different and wondered whether that was by designÖ

No! Iíd rather have the same lineup because if you look at any good team, the more lineup changes you make, the worse your team is, for whatever reason. And especially when you have a DH, you shouldnít be having to make that move. Sometimes in this league too itís tough to make your lineup as ďstartersĒ and ďutility players.Ē I will be more involved in that (i.e., signing players and setting expectations) this year, because we canít get [only] players who want to start; you gotta get players who want to be utility players, and thatís the toughest thing to do because, especially in a league like this, everybody wants to get out of this league, so everybody wants to play. Sometimes that makes for an unhappy clubhouse, and as a manager you try to make everybody happy, and you canít do that. The least [lineup] moves you make, the better off you are.

And then our pitching staff went through major, major changes -- it seemed like every day -- the only guy who was was consistent was Navarro, and we didnít have him at the beginning of the season. Losing [Jose] Lima, losing [Matt] Wagner, and those two were the one-two pitchers in the league, so that didnít help out. We had Harris hurt most of the season. But we did develop one guy, moved Castillo to starter. If heís back next year heíll probably be our third pitcher. If Jamie comes back heíll be our number one Ö and weíve got a closer (Reggie Harris), so we just [have to] mix the in-between [innings] there.

Do you think Reggie will be back next year?

Yeah, yeah, thatís a given because heís probably got the best stuff in the league for a closer.

How do you feel about the DH?

I donít like it because Iím basically a National League guy. It helps, because I hoped to make [Danny] Clyburn a full-time DH -- [but] because we had different players come in and out with Rickey [Henderson], with [Michael] Coleman, we had [Clyburn] playing more in the field. But I wanted basically 90-95% DH and maybe playing [outfield] every once in a while. One thing about Danny -- I looked at his record which I really didnít know -- he hadnít played since í99! Last year I know he played -- 66 at bats -- but thatís not really playing, so [taking that into account] he did real good for not having played in four years.

We understand that youíve been a hitting coach, and this is your first managerial assignment. Can you tell us about the progression from being a player to a coach to a manager?

Well, the first two were easy!

Playing was easy?

Playing was easy, and being a hitting coach was easy, because being a hitting coach you only have to deal with 15 guys. But being a manager you gotta be responsible for all 25, not just on the field but off the field. Whenever something goes wrong Ö theyíre going to come to you. When the seasonís over, when a gameís over, as a coach you can just leave; as a manager you have to ask questions, wonder what you can do to make the team better.

Do you like being a manager?

Yeah, yes. Then you got guys coming to your office every day wondering why theyíre not playing. If they look at the stats, looked at what they did, they could understand why theyíre not playing, but they donít do that sometimes.

What was the biggest surprise about being a manager that you found once you started doing it?

Itís not so much a surprise about [managing], but during the course of the season you look at some of the guys with [affiliated league] experience, like AA, and they still donít know the game! That was surprising. Not just our team, but the rest of the teams around the league, how little knowledge of the game they have, how the small things -- the mistakes they make day in and day out, [like] what base to throw to, stuff that should come naturally that they should [have learned] in little league, and they didnít know how to do that.

So you do more building drills here than you expected?

Well we couldnít do anything here this year because of the weather! And spring training is only ten days, so itís not easy. You donít want to work for five or six hours every day because that defeats the purpose, too. You wish you could have more time in spring training, but you canít. If the weather is better here then you can go out and do stuff early in the season, but there are a lot of reasons why you canít.

What was it like managing Rickey Henderson?

I know Rickey -- our age is not that much different, maybe five or six years! -- Iíve known Rickey for a long time. I wish all the players were as easy to manage as Rickey was. Heís very professional -- he obviously knows how to prepare himself for the game. When you play twenty-something years you obviously know that! The only disappointing thing about having Rickey here was that the guys didnít take that from him. You know, how he prepares himself for a game, looking at what Rickey does, looking at what Lima does, what Coleman does -- these guys have been very successful, not only in the big leagues, but every place they play. If you take that from Rickey, and those other guys, it can only help you get out of this league and have people notice you. One thing about this league, people think they have to be a star here -- you donít have to be a star here! The players who leave here -- theyíre not going to be a star in the major leagues. Theyíre going to be a complementary player, theyíre going to be a fourth outfielder, or a utility player. So if they do the little things here, they can leave here and be able to do those little things in the big leagues. Nobody in this league can leave here and step right in and be a star and be an impact player [in the majors].

So it was disappointing that the players here did not really pick that up from the veterans?

Right. I told the guys thereís a lot of knowledge right thereÖsome of them did, but a lot of them didnít.

When your appointment as manager was announced, there was a lot made of how argumentative you were on the field, and we were expecting some fireworks this year. Have you mellowed -- we didnít really see too much of that?

I think this league has improved over the years, but one thing we have to do is improve the umpires! At the beginning of the season, it got to the point that thereís no use arguing because you could almost argue on every play! Thatís the whole thing, after a while I was getting upset but thereís almost nothing you can do about it. So you just gotta let it go. And I think what the umpires [do] here, if they miss a call, they try to make up for it -- instead of missing it and just going on, they constantly try to make it up, and that makes it [worse]. What they do, too, they make it tough to talk to the guys about hitting -- being patient at the plate -- because they [make] such ridiculous [calls]Ö well, letís say it looks ridiculous, because from the dugout I can only tell if itís up or down; I canít tell if itís in or out. Thatís why I wish [we had] some stationary closed-circuit TVs so we could at least look at them and see where the pitch is because [the umpires] could be right, and the players could be wrong! It wouldnít be the first time a player argued over strikes [and was wrong].

What can be done about the umpiring? Is there something you can do as a manager?

One thing I know: theyíre not as bad as the players react to them. As a player, I got kicked out something like eight times, and I donít think any of them was at home plate on balls and strikes. What I got upset about is when they miss the easy calls on the bases -- thatís what bothers me, because a lot of times they were out of position for the call. But theyíre improving -- theyíre here for the same reason the [players] are here, theyíre trying to improve. If I argued every bad play [Iíd be thrown out in the first inning every game]. The fans didnít come to see the umpires, they came to see the ball players, and sometimes [the umpires are] too involved in the outcome of the game. They need to stay to the side, be invisible. A lot of times they were. I know players, I know pitchers -- Iíd be behind home plate sometimes looking in and I know the pitchers are bitching because they think the ball is a strike [but I could see] it was outside -- so it works both ways.

Weíve been hearing recently that the League is exploring the idea of a short season league?

I donít know about that -- I heard about it, but for details, no. Right now, we have to start getting our roster ready for the expansion draft, we have to protect 13 players.

Do you have a sense as to what a short-season league would mean to the team or to the League?

Well I think the only thing itíll do is supply players, that's the only thing it could do. Keep the players in shape and when you need them you go and get them. I would imagine thatís what it is.

So the finances of the League would support that?

Well I donít know, but once Lancaster or whoever comes in, thatíll take away some home games here but it takes the burden off the teams paying for the Road Warriors. Thatíll help right there because theyíll have their own home.

Weíve been hearing that there are some changes in the front office. How do you expect those changes to affect your job as manager and the performance of the team next year?

In the independent league, the changes to the front office are a lot different than [in affiliated leagues] because itís really two separate parts. Once youíre in the front office [it seems] itís about selling, and baseball is secondary. One thing people donít realize is that in the independent league you donít have the help, you donít have the Yankees buying bats or paying the salaries. Everything comes from what those people do upstairs. It wonít affect me -- [except] obviously thereís the budget for players. Everybody here [at the end of the season] only got here in January! This has really been the first year for all of us -- everything was set [by the previous management] when we got here.

Can you talk about any of the changes youíre planning for the 2004 season?

We want to set up our team a little bit differently, we want to have more balance left-right in the lineup. If you watch our game weíre basically a dominant right-handed hitting team. We have [Mike] PiercyÖ [heís a good hitter but] heís not a hitter with any pop. We want to mix in either one or two left-handed hitters. Obviously we want a catcher. We need a left-handed hitter somewhere, [even a switch hitter] who has some pop and can drive in some runs.

Have you signed anyone for sure for next year?

Weíre going to take it slow this year. When we got here [this year] most of the players were signed, so we couldnít really make any moves. Weíll talk with them privately, weíll make contact with them in the next couple of weeks

Who would you like to sign?

Outfielders and infielders -- we can live with it. But we have a lot of work to do [with] pitching. If you watched you saw weíd get out of a game quick -- weíd give up five or seven runs in a minute. We probably gave up more five-run innings than any team in this league! I canít imagine anyone gave up more big innings than we did.

But weíll see some familiar faces?

Youíll see some, and youíll see some that you donít know, too! Weíre gonna make a lot of changes -- weíre going to make the team more a team than a bunch of individuals. We donít want five guys who think they can start. Thatís why we [Pete Filson and I] are going to make contact with all of them and tell them [what] their roles [are going to be] when they get here.

 

Newark Bears News thanks The Newark Bears Professional Baseball Club, Inc. for facilitating access to Mr. Madlock for this interview.

Reprints of this interview are available from Newark Bears NewsClick here to request one.

 

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