Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Matt Capps Introductory Press Conference

This morning in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park, Closer Matt Capps was introduced to a select group of print and online writers. No pictures, no TV, just a good conversation in this informal setting which featured Our Washington Nationals newest addition--Capps wearing a Red Curly "W" Cap and Black Pinstripe Suit--sitting alongside Our General Manager Mike Rizzo in leather lounge chairs. Jersey Number 55 hung on the locker behind them. Situated in the center of Washington's Locker Room, 11 media members sat before Capps & Rizzo in folding Curly "W" Locker Chairs or the remaining leather loungers.

Here is the complete transcript of that 20 minute Meet & Greet followed later by more side sessions--one with Paul Kinzer (Matt's Agent) and another with Mike Rizzo. Capps was pretty up front and honest about his just completed season with The Pittsburgh Pirates. He related how shocking it was to be non-tendered by the only professional organization he had ever played for and the difficulty the free agent process dealt him in the wake of the passing of his father--very touching stuff.

With that, here is Matt Capp's Introductory Press Conference:

Question: What did Mike Rizzo say that convinced you that The Nationals were the right team for you?

Capps: “There was nothing he had to say. He had already done it with the moves he had made. I wanted to find an opportunity to win right away and a commitment to the future. I feel like they (The Nationals) have done a great job in showing that with the guys they are trying to bring in and the guys they have brought in. And then as far as me--just the opportunity to continue to close. The chance to come into spring training with an opportunity to compete for that job—was important to me. (Pause) Winning was the biggest part and I felt like this organization and what this team has done is not far away.”

Question: Can you talk about the jolt of being released after being with The Pirates for your entire career?

Capps: “It was shocking. I kind of knew it was a possibility. There had been word of it being a possibility before. I didn’t really see it happening with the track record of the way they (The Pirates) try to do things. But it kind of surprised me. And then the surprise and the shock and the, almost, fear at first—turned into excitement within the first couple of days talking to Mr. Rizzo and a couple of other teams. The excitement of the possibility what could be, and as the week progressed, narrowing it down and probably the best Christmas present I could have gotten this year.”

Follow Up: Did it open up your eyes into what the other teams may have thought about you before and you didn’t realize it?

Capps: It is very humbling to know that that many teams (16 according to his agent Paul Kinzer) like what I have done on the field and paid attention to what I’ve done on the field. It’s very humbling and very flattering that that many people are interested in what I can do for them.”

Question: By taking that one-year deal you’ve really put a lot of onus on yourself to prove what you can do this year? Can you talk about the importance of re-claiming your old form?

Rizzo steps in to clarify the contract situation:

Mike Rizzo: “It’s a one-year deal but we have control of him for two years because of the service time and the process so we don’t see him as a one-year guy. And we didn’t sign him as a one-year guy. We know we have control over him for multiple years. It’s a one-year contract but he is arbitration eligible after this year ends.”

Capps: “Like we talked the day before yesterday on the phone (to the reporter), I didn’t want to go (just) any where and I don’t want to come here to Washington and play for one-year. I am confident in what I feel I can do. I know what I am capable of doing and I have done it before. Every year you go in, whether it’s a five-year deal, a ten-year deal or a one-year deal—you go out and try to prove what you can do. I don’t think there is any more pressure whether it being a one-year deal or a two-year deal or a five-year deal. There is no more or less pressure in my opinion with that. But like I had said the other day, I don’t want to come here to pitch for one-year. I want to come here, this year, pitch well, be an impact player and have that impact on this team going forward and be a part of it for the next—well until Mr. Rizzo gets tired of me, I guess.” (Laughter)

Question: When you came here, how much did you know about The Nationals from talking to either Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett or others? Where you paying attention to what they were doing—some of the young guys?

Capps: “Absolutely, and playing against them, competing against them—having to pitch against that lineup, you knew this lineup was one of the best in baseball last year. And I don’t have to look at numbers to tell me that, I pitched against them two or three times. I remember sitting in the bullpen, actually here before the trades (of Milledge, Hanrahan, Morgan & Burnett) talking to Burnett about it. About how good this lineup was and how good of an offensive team they were. You put some pitching together and this team is going to be very competitive. Then with Burnett and Nyjer being traded over, I talked to them quite a bit in that week after my non-tender and got a good feel about what the guys were like. What it is like in the clubhouse? And a little better feel for the coaching staff and what it is going to be like on the field.”

Question: Mike, could you talk about what impressed you about Matt because you pursued him right away as a free agent?

Mike Rizzo: “We began the process literally minutes after the official non-tender names came out. We started doing our due diligence and phone calls in which we talked with Paul Kinzer (Matt’s Agent). We had discussed Matt coming over prior to the trade deadline, also, in a trade. So, Matt was on our map for a long time prior to the non-tender deadline. And I just want to make clear, we are in a little more of an informal setting here, just because of some of the other things that are happening here today in D.C. (Mike Shanahan named Washington Redskins New Head Coach). But this is a major, major announcement for The Washington Nationals. As important as Jason (Marquis) and Pudge (Rodriguez) in my opinion. This guy is a 26-year old closer that we control and is going to grow with us and grow with the franchise for a long time to come. Unfortunately, Matt came in and he’s got to get on with his thing this winter and his life, so we couldn’t postpone the press conference for any longer than we did. But this is a big day for us here in Washington. We are excited to have a player like Matt Capps join The Nationals. Again, when there were ample opportunities to go elsewhere, many, many more opportunities to go elsewhere—we are really excited to get him.”

Rizzo continues: “But to answer your question, Matt was on our map for a long time. He encompasses everything we are tying to do here—young, character, hard nosed, guts on the mound, not afraid, a winning attitude on and off the field. He was the guy we identified and we went after him hard. We used all our tools and all the allure of Washington, D.C., the new ballpark, the up and coming franchise, the teammates that are going to be around him and we got lucky enough to talk him into coming over here.”

Question: Matt, you didn’t have a season that you liked last year. What happened and what are you going to do differently?

Capps: “As a competitor, I don’t think you ever have a season you want to have unless you throw up 0.00—which is pretty tough to do (chuckling). But you are right; my numbers don’t look good from last year. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing or another that went wrong. My fastball kind of got flat. I went away from my fastball, which, earlier in my career, my first two or three years was my bread and butter. When things were going good, I was throwing my fastball—locating it—and pitching off of it. Last year at times, it kind of got backwards and I paid for it.”

Question: Mike, you said you pursued him at the trade deadline and obviously you guys liked him. How did you guys (Nationals Baseball Staff) view what went on with Matt last year?

Mike Rizzo: “I view him visually. I saw a guy out there that was not afraid to go out on the mound in the 9th inning--a back of the game guy that is not afraid. And to me that is criteria number one when you are looking to get a guy to pitch the 9th inning. Not afraid to go out there, doesn’t walk people, throws strikes, pounds the strike zone, trusts his stuff, trusts the defenders behind him. The numbers that jumped out on us is that he gave up more home runs than he ever did in his career and that’s a part of being aggressive. And that’s a part of his fastball-flattening out a little bit. But I evaluate this guy as a guy I want to have in my foxhole because I feel comfortable when the bullpen gates swing open—I am happy Number 55 is coming out of the bullpen. And that’s really all the evaluation I needed. His stuff is there. We pitch FX’d him all the way through the season. He was 92-96 MPH consistently throughout the season. I talked to several guys who hit against him. I talked to many, many scouts who have seen him many more times than I did. I look at it like I usually do—with the glass half-full. If he didn’t post a five-something E.R.A. he wouldn’t be sitting with us.”

Question: And just to follow-up, were there permutations of the Milledge/Morgan deal that had Matt in it?

Mike Rizzo: “There were discussions that happened and there were independent discussion as well.”

Question: Does adding Matt give you guys a little bit more of a luxury in terms of a time-table for moving Drew Storen through the organization and up to the big leagues?

Mike Rizzo: “Storen is one of the elite prospects in the game of baseball. We are going to develop him at a pace that is going to maximize his affect on the big leagues. I don’t know when that is or how that works out—but he is on our map and this (signing Capps) is not a band-aid to wait for Drew Storen to get to The Big Leagues. We are just trying to get the best guys with the most ability to pitch for us in 2010 and beyond. We look at today, but we also have a look toward the long-term.”

Question: After hearing you say that when the gates swing open you want to see Matt on the mound and about your interest in him last year, were you surprised he was basically available freely to pick up as a free agent?

Mike Rizzo: “I was a little surprised that he was non-tendered. But each team has an independent decision process to go through. We non-tendered a closer that had 20 out of 21 saves (Mike MacDougal). Each team has to take care of themselves. I certainly do not want to speak for The Pittsburgh Pirates, I’ve got plenty of my own problems here to worry about in this organization than worrying about The Pirates mindset at the time of their decision making.”

Question: You were very involved with the community in Pittsburgh, are you excited about picking up those efforts here and why do you think that is important?

Capps: “Athletics can be taken away very quickly. My parents, at a young age, instilled the importance of education to my brother and me. It’s something that is very important to my family. It’s very important to me. I feel like it is a part of my duty as a role model to kids to get my opinion out there about them. And for whatever reason, I know how I was as a kid—I looked up to athletes and baseball players in particular and valued their opinion. And if I can, in turn, have a kid look at me and want to know what I think and express how important it is to me and change their life one way or the other—it’s kind of my duty as an athlete and more importantly as a person. But yeah, I do hope to be active in a lot of different things, whether education---I don’t know—I just have to see what I can get involved in here in April.”

Rizzo: “You’ll be involved before April (deadpan--everyone laughs)

Capps: “Here in D.C. in April and some things in Florida in February and March.”

Question: You get to go to Atlanta quite a bit (his hometown) to see your mother and brother. Is it good to be able to see your family more often?

Capps: “It’s huge. It’s important to me, more so now than it ever has been.”

Question: Speaking of comfort level, how nice is it to have former teammates like Burnett and Morgan over here?

Capps: “It’s nice. It is very nice to know someone on a personal level before you get here. But Nyjer and Bernie (Burnett) are not the only two. I’ve gotten to know a few of the guys over the years competing against them. I got to know Adam Dunn fairly well when he was with Cincinnati. We saw Cincinnati quite a bit in Pittsburgh. Josh Willingham, being from Alabama, my wife is from pretty much the same area he is from. There are a few guys I know a little more personally and that always makes it better in anything. And especially coming into a new clubhouse, a new locker room--I think that will help me.”

Question: When you were sorting through the free agent offers, did the league matter? Do you consider yourself more of an NL guy?

Capps: “I like the National League game better but that wasn’t much of a factor to me. I do like the strategy of the National League game better.”

Question: You mentioned that it was important to be close to family now more than ever. That’s seems like something you would say at maybe 35 years of age. Why? What’s important to you now?

Capps: “Well, my father passed away in October. So to be closer to my mom and my brother—I can’t tell you how much I missed him through this whole process. It was tough for me because I talked to my dad—Paul (his agent) probably talked to him every day (chuckling). Or, would have if he was here. But I talked to dad two or three times per day for the last eight years since I have been out of the house. I talked to him every single day. And things like this—dad would read everything online. He would read every newspaper. He would call me and say: ‘Hey, they are saying this….they are doing this..’ OK dad, that’s great. I don’t know anything. (More chuckling). I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to pick up the phone and call him.”

Follow up: So, he was instrumental in your baseball career?

Capps: “Oh, very much. (more softly) very much so.”

Question: What is your initial impression of Washington, D.C.? What does your family think about moving to this town?

Capps: “I have always liked D.C. every time we have been here. I really haven’t had a whole lot of the tourist thing—go around and see a lot of the monuments. Last year, we took a tour of the White House and that was very cool. But it’s a great ballpark, great stadium. And as I mentioned earlier sitting in the bullpen on the visitors side last year talking to some of the guys in that bullpen about how good this team could be from the outside looking in—you could see the light at the end of the tunnel for them (The Nationals). And now—for us! I have enjoyed it—every time I have been here. The people have treated me well and I can’t say enough about the ballpark. It is a beautiful ballpark. Now, it’s just looking for a place to live—looking for a place to hang this thing (showing everyone in attendance his new Red Curly “W” Cap proudly).”

Laughter and the perfect ending to today's Matt Capps Introductory Press Conference. Coming up later today, the side sessions with Paul Kinzer and Mike Rizzo.

No comments: