EXCLUSIVE: 2001 Champion Swindell talks Mariano, Gonzo, Colangelo

Swindell pitched out of the bullpen for the Diamondbacks during the 2001 season. He compiled a lifetime record of 123-122 with a 3.86 ERA.
Swindell pitched out of the bullpen for the Diamondbacks during the 2001 season. He compiled a lifetime record of 123-122 with a 3.86 ERA. /

I spoke to former Diamondbacks pitcher Greg Swindell last week about a variety of subjects. Swindell played 17 major league seasons with the Indians, Astros, Twins, Red Sox and Diamondbacks from 1986-2002. He was an All-Star with the Indians in 1989 and spent the final four years of his career in Arizona—where he was a part of the World Series championship team in 2001.

CG: Earlier in your career, you were an All-Star starting pitcher on some not-so-good Indians teams. At the end, you were a solid reliever on a World Series winner. In retrospect, which one stands out more when you look back?

GS: I really enjoyed both. Maybe relieving more, because the possibility of pitching everyday was nice.

CG: When you were with the Indians, you had 12 complete games in 1986. Do you ever think another pitcher will have that many complete games in a season?

GS: Maybe, the game is so specialized now, short relievers, long man, closers, plus they really watch pitch count these days. Back in the day, they didn’t as much.

CG: Why do you think pitchers have a lower tolerance to innings workloads these days? And why do you think that Tommy John surgery has become so frequent?

GS: Pitch counts are looked at starting in Little League on up, so in my opinion, it is instilled from an early age. And Tommy John, in my opinion, is because some kids get no rest. Players and kids play year round and never give their bodies or arms enough rest and recovery. Plus there is a lot said about velocity these days, everyone thinks they need to throw 100 miles per hour.

CG: Once you came to the Diamondbacks in 1999, they were only two years old. Did you think they would jump into contention as quickly as they did?

GS:  Not at first, but we had an owner in Jerry Colangelo and GM [Joe Garagiola Jr.] who wanted to win and win now/then. He went and got the right guys and it worked.

CG: In that year, the Diamondbacks’ season ended in dramatic fashion at Shea Stadium thanks to Todd Pratt. Looking back at that, did Steve Finley get stuck on the warning track or wall? He was someone known for robbing home runs, and it appeared that he didn’t really jump.

GS:  He slightly misjudged his jump, and his shoulder jammed into the wall. He was so upset, because it was one that he usually catches.

CG: Two years later in Game 7 World Series, did you honestly think the Diamondbacks had a chance against Mariano Rivera?

GS:  No! None of us did. I mean there is always a chance of doing it but honestly, no! But when [Mark] Grace singled to lead off the 9th, then the error by Mariano, we knew we had a shot.

CG: What was the atmosphere like when Luis Gonzalez got that hit off of Mariano Rivera to win the World Series?

GS: Complete pandemonium, indescribable.

CG: The 2001 World Series is typically mentioned as the best World Series ever played. Do you think it’s the best ever?

GS:  I’m kind of biased, but with what had gone on in the world, 9/11 and all, it could have been at least top three.

CG: What do you think that championship meant for the brand new Diamondbacks’ franchise?

GS:  That Arizona did the right thing bringing baseball to the valley, 1st championship in Arizona professional history.

CG: On a personal note, how’d it feel to get that World Series ring after 15 years in the majors?

GS:  That’s what you play for, the ring. It made all the work, sweat, and tears worth it, very special.

CG: Do you typically wear the ring out?

GS:  I did for the first year, now I will break it out if I am back in Arizona or at a special event.

CG: Since you’ve retired, you’ve become a baseball analyst for your alma mater on the Longhorn Network. How did that job come about and how do you like it?

GS: I did some postgame for the Diamondbacks for a couple of years, so when [Longhorn Network] started, I live in Austin. I go to all the games anyway. So it was perfect fit!

CG: Who was the toughest batter you ever faced?

GS:  Toughest? Anyone named Ripken—Billy and Cal, Jose Canseco, Edgar Martinez and Marquis Grissom.

CG: Who was the best pitcher you ever saw?

GS: Best pitchers? Arm was Randy Johnson, most prepared by far was Curt Schilling.

CG: Have you been following the Diamondbacks’ offseason moves? If so, what are your thoughts on them this year?

GS:  I have followed them and love the pitching moves. I believe they need a couple more hitters and they will be right in the mix.

CG: Who is your NL West pick this season and what is your World Series prediction?

GS:  It’s too early to predict a World Series winner, and the West, anyone but the Dodgers, haha.