I caught up with Junior Spivey the other day, he was watching the Angels play the Yankees in the ALCS. Junior was full of enthusiasm for the game of baseball... we had a great conversation.
BF: Hello Junior, thanks for returning my call.
JS: Yeah, sorry I didn't hear it ring, my phone doesn't work in the basement. I was down there watching the game... I can't believe Scioscia took Lackey out, that's overthinking... let the man pitch!
BF: (laughs), Wow, Junior, you're really into the game.
JS: You know, the umpiring has really been exposed this postseason... it's really been bad. When you're out there playing, you can't come out and say that, but sitting here watching, I have to say it.
BF: There's no doubt of that. Are you always this into baseball?
JS: Always, it's a part of me, I love all sports, I grew up playing ball, I'm a huge fan.
BF: Let's talk about your career.
JS: Yeah man, let's go.
BF: You came up with the Diamondbacks...
JS: Yep, you know, the '01 season was magical for me. I got up there and did everything I could, making plays, running hard, keeping the pressure on the defense, everything I could to help the team. We got to the postseason, and that set me up to be there for Opening Day in '02. I did the little things, taking the extra base, scoring on a ball in the gap, a lot of things that help a team win, but a lot of that got overlooked... I was left off the postseason roster.
(long pause)... That still hurts to this day.
Mike Morgan took me aside, and said, "Hey, it happened to me, you deserve to be on this team." I really respected him for that - he knew exactly how that felt.
BF: That was an amazing postseason for the Diamondbacks, were you able to be there?
JS: I was for the home games, but I wasn't allowed to travel. I was there, suited up for the home games, and they did give me a ring... but I felt like an outsider. I got a ring, but I missed the experience.
If I would have been allowed to travel, I would have been right there in the dugout, right there near Ground Zero, so close after 9-11, hearing all those Yankees fans. If I had been there with Randy (Johnson), Schilling, Gonazlez... thinking about missing it just hurts... still.
I won't mention any names, but there was a guy who was on the DL all year, who really wasn't able to contribute, he was allowed to travel, but I wasn't, he went to Atlanta and New York... I just wish I had been there too.
BF: You had a big year in '02.
JS: Yes, I started off red hot, I was making plays and having big ABs, but then I tweaked a hamstring. I made the All-Star team that year, and I really felt like I had established myself. They used four of us in a rotation, myself, Counsell, Tony Womack and Matt Williams, to keep everyone fresh. It worked out well.
BF: OK, Junior, I have to ask this question. When you were traded to Milwaukee, there was a quote...
JS: "I'm devastated."
BF: OK, yes, absolutely. You were quoted as saying, "I'm devastated", when you heard you had been traded to Milwaukee. That has hung around, there are fans here who say that out loud the minute they hear your name.
JS: Ed Price did that to me.
JS: Ed Price, and I confronted him on it too. He took my words and twisted them all around, and made it sound like I didn't want to come to Milwaukee. Who wouldn't want to come to Milwaukee? It's Robin Yount, it's the Brew Crew... I loved Milwaukee!
The thing was, I had made it to the big leagues with Arizona, and we were all working hard to get back to the postseason, I just didn't expect it when it happened. I was about to go on my honeymoon, and I got the news... it wasn't about Milwaukee at all, it was just a complete surprise.
Listen, Milwaukee was great, the fans were great, my dad stayed with us while we were there, and we loved the city. I just wish I had been able to stay longer so the fans would have gotten to know me, I had a lot of work I wanted to do in the community that I never got to do, because I wasn't there long enough. Doug Melvin, Ned Yost, Mike Maddux, Rich Dauer... those guys were awesome.
That experience made me leery, before that I never turned down an interview, after that, I didn't do many.
BF: You're doing one right now...
JS: (laughs)... Good point.
BF: Thanks for addressing that, Junior... what are your lasting impressions of the Brewers' organization at that time?
JS: I wonder if the fans there truly appreciate what Doug Melvin has done for them. When I was with the Diamondbacks, the Brewers just had no energy, there was no life there... Doug brought in good people, I mean good, quality people as players and coaches, and then when the young guys got up there, you can see it... he brought that team all the way back.
Rich Dauer was the backbone when I was there.
BF: Dauer, really, why is that?
JS: When it comes to defensive positioning, Rich Dauer is a genius. He had us playing all over the place, way out of normal position... and we took a ton of hits away. We'd talk to guys on the other teams, and they just hated us! They'd be like, "That's a hit every time... what were you doing playing way over there?" Rich just always seemed to know where the ball was going to be hit.
BF: How did he do it?
JS: Work. Dauer would start by reading the scouting reports, then he'd look at what each hitter had done in their last series, to see who was hot and who wasn't, and then he'd consider who was pitching for us that night, whether it was Sheeter, Doug Davis, Capuano, or whoever, so he'd know how each batter would be pitched to. Dauer would take that information and shift us around, and it just worked great.
I know one thing, the pitchers all loved it, I remember Sheeter telling me he loved having us behind him, taking those hits away.
BF: Junior, your time in Milwaukee was interrupted by a serious shoulder injury, please tell me about that.
JS: Oh yeah, for sure. We were in Pittsburgh, it was somewhere around the first of July and the team was peaking, we were talking about bigger and better things, then I got stupid and dove into first base for the first and last time. I tore my labrum... tore it right from the bone. I tried to stay in the game, but there was just no way, I could already feel fluid building up in there.
I thought, "This can't be happening." I want home to Arizona to rehab, and I'd just check to see how the guys did... it just hurt.
That labrum tear was front and back, my shoulder was never completely the same after that.
Hey now, let's talk about JJ Hardy. I love JJ, and I still talk to him. Don't forget, he had that labrum tear, it's the same thing for him, sometimes he's going to have to deal with it. When it's right, he's fine, but when it's not, it knocks your swing off. That was his deal this year, trust me on this... .JJ Hardy will be all the way back, there's no question.
BF: Would you trade him?
JS: Never. JJ Hardy is a terrific shortstop, and his swing will come back for sure, after this offseason, you'll see, he'll be all the way back.
BF: Your time in Milwaukee ended with a trade to Washington, which paved the way for Rickie Weeks. Tell me about '05...
JS: Carlos Lee came over, and the guys got off to a good start, except for me. I just couldn't get out of the gates, I just wasn't hitting. I can't blame Doug Melvin for trading me, I wasn't getting it done in Milwaukee, and Rickie was doing what he was supposed to do at AAA, that's just baseball.
BF: How was Washington?
JS: OK now, don't anybody take this the wrong way, I AM NOT saying anything bad about Milwaukee, but Washington was unbelievable. At that time, in Milwaukee, it was a really quiet clubhouse, with no music or anything