This Sunday, ESPN will be broadcasting Sunday Night Baseball from Dodger Stadium when the Los Angeles Dodgers finish their four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew will actually be taking over the Sunday Night Baseball experience, by calling the action from various locations throughout Dodger Stadium. Former All-Star third baseman, and Southern California native, Aaron Boone, one of the Baseball Tonight commentators who will be participating in this enhanced viewing experience (calling the action from the Pirates’ dugout), joined us Friday for an interview to talk about the Dodgers, growing up in Southern California and being at Game 1 of the 1988 World Series to see the magical Kirk Gibson walk-off home run, and of course, his own magical walk-off home run when he played for the New York Yankees, in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.
He talked to us about watching Yasiel Puig play, Hanley Ramirez‘s potential move to third base, and the Dodgers’ post-season aspirations. You can listen to the full interview below, as well as read Aaron’s thoughts on all of these topics.
–His thoughts on the Dodgers’ new ownership group, and building a championship contender:
“Well, no, this–you gotta remember–this ownership came in just a few years ago. So they haven’t had a chance to necessarily build it all exactly how they wanted to from the ground up, but obviously, one thing they’ve been willing to show is the commitment to putting the absolute best product they can on the field. Obviously, you know, will spend any amount, it seems like, to make it happen, and I think they’ve put together a team that is still very capable of winning a world’s championship. And I think over time, I still think their team will shine through, I think their pitching staff, you know provided they stay healthy, will prove to be an overwhelming strength. And really, throughout the course, the integrity of the 162-game season, I think that will shine through, in time. Now, the tough part for them is, obviously, they’re in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. When you consider what the Rockies are doing, and as much as a struggle as it’s been for the Diamondbacks, they’re kinda getting their ship together to where at least they’re looking more like a .500 team. And then what the San Francisco Giants are doing, and have proven in the past what they can do. So it’s a tough division to win, and we know now with the Wild Card situation the way it is–if you’re a Wild Card–it’s a one-game playoff where obviously anything can happen in a one-game scenario, so it’s a difficult task. But I think that the team they have put together is very capable of winning a championship.”
–His thoughts on the Dodgers’ postseason aspirations:
“I believe they will be at least a Wild Card. Now that, like I said, presents a challenge because that’s just a one-game to get into the postseason, and anything in that one-game scenario, can happen. So if they don’t win the division, that makes things a little bit dicey. But I do think they’ll at worst be a Wild Card team, yes.”
–His thoughts on growing up in Southern California and rooting for the Angels, but loving Dodger Stadium and being there for the magical Kirk Gibson home run in the 1988 World Series:
“Well, my dad played with the Angels from ’82 to ’89–so that’s about seven years or there–and having come from back East–he played with the Phillies for a long time, so coming out west, and moving as a family out west, you know, I was all Angels–I didn’t like the Dodgers. But then as I went to college, and my dad had retired by that point, you know–Dodger Stadium was up the road, so we would occasionally go to games with buddies or teammates or whatever. My brother and I actually were at the Kirk Gibson game in ’88 when I was actually still in high school and my dad was still with the Angels, so you know, and now being a player, when people asked me ‘what was your favorite place to play?’ or ‘what’s your favorite place to go?’ and the answer for me is always Dodger Stadium–just a magical place to play. As an infielder, it was a great infield to play on, and it just always felt like a big deal whenever I went to Dodger Stadium. And even now, going back–when I go as a broadcaster or a fan–just the setting, for me, is impossible to beat.”
–His thoughts on watching Yasiel Puig play:
“I love watching him play, yes. I think he’s been tremendous for the Game, and what’s really impressed me about him is he’s shown an aptitude to be able to adjust, and we’ve seen that at the plate. We saw him obviously burst on the scene a year ago and then hit a period where, you know, pitchers in this league, when you get a book on somebody, they start to make adjustments and try and get him to chase. We saw him chase pitches out of the zone in the postseason against the Cardinals quite a bit, and this year, it’s been that same kind of book–trying to get him to chase–but he’s shown the ability to adjust to how pitchers are attacking him–he’s laying off more pitches each and every month–and the result is high-caliber, All Star-caliber, on the MVP map, type player. You know, I think he’s also shown, you know, a willingness to try and adjust and make certain adjustments to, you know, what it is to be a major league player. I think he’s reached out to teammates–I think he wants to be a better teammate–and those are things you have to applaud. There are obviously things–defensively, running the bases, just overall game–that he’s still a work in progress, but I think , on balance, he’s been an overwhelming success.”
–His thoughts on Hanley Ramirez possibly moving to third base:
“I think he can make the transition. In fact, he has played third base already–he’s made that transition before. Does it mean–I don’t think it automatically means he’ll be a great third baseman, but, once you decide you have a premium player, and especially a premium defender at short stop–if that’s what you think you have–then it’s worth it to move him at that point, but there’s a lot of complicated things that go into that–you have a playoff team, you have a team that’s built to win a championship now, you have a veteran player in Juan Uribe that’s, you know, that’s played an important role in postseasons before. So, that’s a delicate balance of ‘do you make those kinds of moves in the middle of what you hope is a championship season’, and I don’t know if I’d go there yet.”
–His thoughts on Hanley Ramirez’s willingness to move to third base:
“I don’t have any inside information to that. My guess would be with Hanley getting set to become a free agent, I believe at the end of next year, there’s been some talk–you know, this spring training, about the Dodgers and him having some conversations. So I think a lot of a potential position move might go hand-in-hand with a contract, you get an extension, things like that–those might be things that are worked out through negotiations.”
–His thoughts on being remembered for his walk-off home run in in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox:
“Now that I’m retired, it doesn’t bother me at all. The fact that people know me for that or, and you know, I’m amazed all the time, across the country, how many people have a story–on a positive end or a negative end to that moment–and just kinda one of those moments that people know where they’re at. So to have a small place in the history of the game, or the history of the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry, you know, I’ve really learned to embrace and I’m appreciative of. When I was a player, and when I was playing on different teams, and when I would go to a different team, and people or media would want to talk about it, I was frankly a little uncomfortable with it–I’d try and distance myself from it. But now that I’m a retired player, I have a strong appreciation for that moment, and you know what, what it’s meant to different people across the ledger.”
–His thoughts on imagining having his own magical Kirk Gibson moment as a kid:
“Imagining that position–that’s what ball-players do. When you’re a kid, I mean, you dream of those scenarios in your backyard playing, you know, wiffle ball with your brothers. I mean, that’s what you always dream of, whether you actually believe it’s going to be a reality, I don’t know, but to actually get to live it out, I feel very blessed and fortunate to get to have done.”
You can watch the Dodgers take on the Pirates on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball at 5 p.m. PST. Baseball Tonight coverage begins at 4 p.m. PST, also on ESPN.