07/14/2003 7:05 PM ET
Williams handles media circus
Pirates' closer excited for All-Star Game
CHICAGO -- Player availability day for the media at the All-Star Game is always a circus, a free-for-all in which each All-Star sits at a table and answers questions from reporters for an hour.
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
By the very nature of the setup, that invariably means every player has to answer the same question repeatedly, each time trying to muster energy to answer as if it's the first time he's heard the query.
Just how often the same questions resurface is always difficult to judge, but with the cooperation of Pirates closer Mike Williams, a less-than-scientific study was performed. Setting up camp at Williams' table, a running tally of questions was kept. Heading into the interview session, the popular questions for Pittsburgh's lone representative were thought to be:
1. What do you think of home-field advantage being decided by the All-Star Game?
2. How do you deal with trade rumors? Do you think you'll be traded?
3. With the year you've been having, do you feel you deserve to be an All-Star?
4. What was up with that whole sausage thing?
The pre-media craze projections weren't that far off. The home-field question led the way, followed closely by questions about Williams' ERA and his All-Star credibility. Trade rumor questions finished tied with a generic one about being honored to go to his second straight All-Star Game. Here's a complete list of Williams' whos, whats and whys.
Home-field advantage: 8
All-Star credibility/high ERA: 7
The honor of being named: 4
Trade rumors: 4
Setup men being honored: 2
Albert Pujols: 2
NL Central race: 2
Lloyd McClendon's contract extension: 2
Baseball movies: 1
Video games: 1
George Brett's hemorrhoids: 1
The biggest upset came that only one person, right at the end of the hour, wanted to talk about Randall Simon and the incident in Milwaukee, the same total who mentioned Brett's unfortunate condition in the 1980 World Series.
None of this shocked or surprised Williams, and not just because he makes a living coming into pressure-filled situations. He was a little more unprepared last year in his first All-Star appearance, but this time around, he knew exactly what to expect.
"You think about what they'll ask and how I'll answer," Williams said. "Firsthand experience is always better. From last year, I was more prepared for the media."
How did Williams, currently tied for third in the NL with 25 saves but with an inflated 6.44 ERA, handle the battery of questions? Here's a sampling of his favorite replies to popular queries:
On the home-field advantage issue: "It's not going to make any difference to the players. We're going to give 110 percent. Guys will prepare in the same way. Competitive nature will take over."
On the high ERA and being an All-Star: "I've done my job as far as the saves department. ERA for a reliever can be blown out of proportion in a couple of bad outings. I think Dusty [Baker] realizes how hard it is to come into the game in the ninth inning. I was surprised, but I'm glad to be here."
On the honor of coming to the All-Star Game again: "It's an honor. It's just as exciting. It'll be fun. You get to talk to guys you don't normally talk to."
On trade rumors: "It's part of baseball this time of year. If they feel we're out of the race, they're going to trade some guys. You can't pay a lot of attention to it until it happens."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.