All the talk here in L.A., as you might imagine, is about Manny. Not so much in our clubhouse, although of course it comes up. But it’s splashed all over the newspapers and on TV and the all reporters want to know what we think.
Here’s what I think. I know he’s a rival and a Dodger, but he’s a good friend of mine, too. He’s a nice guy. You don’t want to see something like this happen to anybody.
My first reaction when I saw it on the news Thursday morning was, “Wow, why would he do that? He’s already a superstar. He’s a guy who’s so talented he doesn’t need any of that.” You start asking yourself all those kinds of questions.
When all the steroid stuff first came out, back a few years before the Congressional hearings, I had mixed feelings because a lot of the stuff that guys were getting in trouble for wasn’t banned yet in the major leagues. I’m sure they were thinking, “OK if this is going to get me over the hump, give me a little edge, I’ll try it.”
But now the rules are clear. Now there is no excuse to be using any of it. It’s against the rules, and obviously it puts the clean players at a real disadvantage. I don’t want to see Matt Cain or any of our pitchers going up against a batter who is on steroids. It’s not fair to that pitcher. It’s not fair to anyone.
Do I worry that the players who test positive make fans suspicious of all of us? I can’t let myself worry about it. People are going to think what they’re going to think. People need to remember there are plenty of guys who have had great careers who didn’t do any of that. Most players are successful because we have worked, and continue to work, really, really hard.
So I guess fans have to decide for themselves how they want to judge a player. I’m someone who stays away from judging anyone. All of us have our faults and have made our mistakes. So if I see my friend Manny tonight, if he’s working out with the team before the game, I’ll tell him just to hang there and that I’m thinking about him.
Yesterday, as you know, we had a great game in Colorado. I had two home runs in my first two at-bats. People ask sometimes, after a game like that, if I know right away I’m in a zone. The answer is hardly ever. Most of the time, the pitcher dictates what kind of swing you take. It’s not like you can put a ball on a tee and go out there with your best swing. I was lucky that I got a hanging slider my first at-bat and a fastball down the middle on the second. To tell you the truth, I haven’t been seeing too many of those pitches this season. Pitchers generally give me nothing in the strike zone.
My third at-bat, I got ahead in the count, which kind of frees up your swing. You can put more into it. (When you’re behind in the count, you take a little bit off your swing because you’re looking to just put the ball in play.) I really, really hit that ball hard – harder than the first two home runs. I thought it was gone when I hit it. But the wind picked up and was blowing in. When I saw the fielder get under it, I knew it wasn’t going out. If it had, it would have the first time I hit three home runs in a game.
Then I had the weird at-bat. I swung, the ball bounced off the plate, hit my hand then trickled down the third-base line about 40 feel from home plate. I didn’t run because I knew it had hit my hand and was a foul ball.
But the umpire didn’t call it. He said he didn’t see it or hear it, so he couldn’t call it. Our runner scored, but obviously I was thrown out at first base. So here’s a lesson to you Little Leaguers: Don’t assume anything. Run everything out. That’s what I should have done.
Another lesson for young players from yesterday’s game: Never give up. Did you see Matt Cain? He was really struggling, especially early on. He couldn’t find the strike zone. He was walking guys – three in the first inning. He had all kinds of trouble. But he got Todd Helton to hit into a double play and then struck out the next guy, I think, to get out of the inning.
He never found his rhythm yesterday, so it was a perfect example of just bearing down. He wasn’t hitting his spots and he knew it. But he came out with the win because just kept plugging away one batter at a time.
Matt and I didn’t talk too much during the game because he was trying to keep his focus. But after the game, he came up to me and said, “Thank you for getting me through that.”
I told him, “This is the type of game where you earn your money. It’s easy to come out and play when you have all your pitches working. It’s not easy at all to pitch when you don’t.”
So the Dodgers tonight. Can’t wait to get back on the field. Every game is important but the ones against the division leader – especially when the division leader happens to be the Dodgers – are especially exciting.
In my next post, I’ll answer some of the questions you’ve been leaving for me. Keep them coming. I really like hearing what’s on your mind.