This past week while I was in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mets Legend Ron Swoboda. We touched on everything from his early career with the Mets, the '69 Championship Season, to his views on the current Mets roster. We also discussed the effect that Hurricane Katrina had on his private life as well as his career as a broadcaster for the New Orleans Zephyrs, as well as the place he calls home - New Orleans.0506_largeRUSTYJR: How are you doing today?RON SWOBODA: I'm alright man, I'm doing alright. The Mets did good last night.RustyJr: Thank goodness about that. I'll tell you being a Met fan in New York has been very painful this season.Swoboda: Yeah you hate to be punished for caring and I do care - I know a few of those guys, and even more so because we were a Mets affiliate a couple of years - ending last year - but you know you just care about those guys.Rustyjr: Now that you are an affiliate of the Florida Marlins do you see a difference in philosophy between the two teams?Swoboda: Well the Mets are supposedly a big money team and the Marlins are a small dollar team and the Marlins seem to have - I don't want to say the word perfected - but the seemed to gain a facility in winning it - trading off a few veteran guys for prospects and then rebuilding around those prospects. It's a very interesting thing to watch the evolution of the prospects - they certainly have a lot more prospects that makes you thinks "WOW ! this guy might help somebody" and their big club is on a run right now and three or four guys that are on that team right now started the season with us.   Their lead off hitter (Chris) Coghlan is a infielder that they moved to the outfield and this kid is not having the Daniel Murphy fright experience in the outfield.   He is a second baseman/third baseman kind of guy who seem to be one of those guys - Fernando Tatis is one of those guys who was a infielder but was put into the outfield and he handled it.   For some guys it's not the spot for them (referring to Murphy).Rustyjr: Do you see this as the Mike Vail syndrome? (Vail came up in 77 batted .306 then got hurt, traded to the Cubs and faded into obscurity).Swoboda: Do you remember when they put the catcher in left field Todd Hundley?   And I mean it was funny if it wasn't so awful and and I mean Daniel Murphy is the same kind of guy - ordinary fly balls hit to him are utterly frightening.   He takes the routine out of routine fly and it's just not a spot for him.   He just doesn't read fly balls well.   First base is much more comfortable to him we were told he played one whole day at third at New Orleans and they took him to the big leagues and put him in the outfield.Rustyjr: Well that's the funny thing when he came up last year maybe it was just a small sample size but he didn't botch that many balls that came to him.   Do you think there is more pressure on him this year?Swoboda: Well you know its that second year thing.   How many times do you see a guy - I mean we have 2 guys on our team that were/right now Cameron Maybin - I was in Shea last year for the last weekend - and Cameron Maybin and the Marlins were in town - and it happened to be the Marlins that knocked the Mets out of the playoffs by playing sound baseball and Maybin looked like "wow".   This year they have him and this other guy they called up named Gaby Sanchez who had limited exposure last September and Maybin is the center fielder this year and Sanchez is going to play first base and there is something different about playing in September after you have played a whole season in the minors and you are excited - nobody knows you and now you open this season and people know you a little bit and this load is on you - you're "the guy" and and you have to fight through that.   Cameron Maybin is a good player and he is in the big leagues and I believe he will do fine - I think Gaby Sanchez is a good player that will find his way into the big leagues and do fine.   But starting this season they both faltered.   So anyway those type of things are hard to predict and what I am trying to say is Spring Training as an indicator of what a guy is going to do, September of minimal exposure to the big leagues is not a good predictor of how he is going to do the next year in the big leagues.Rustyjr: You signed to the Mets in 1964 - were you always an outfielder?Swoboda: When I was a kid I played some third base but I was not a good third baseman - I always was a little too close to the bag.Rustyjr: Because I remember that quote by Casey Stengel about your outfield play ("HE WILL BE A GREAT OUTFIELDER IF HE CAN JUST CATCH THE DAMNED BALL!") and that's how you got your nickname "Rocky."Swoboda: Nicknames back then indicated many different things plus and minus (laughs) - there were positive and negative connotations to the nickname "Rocky" I was definitely a hardheaded person - I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer.Rustyjr: But you worked hard on your defensive play.Swoboda: I worked extremely hard about it - I'm a nut about outfield play - I still am I think most guys should do more to help themselves be better outfielders.swobodacatchRustyjr: Do you put the onus on the coaching staff?Swoboda: I don't know anything about their fielding drills - I know what works well for me - and that was Eddie Yost hitting me line drives and ground balls from about 150 feet away and the first thing you need to do is to see the ball as it comes off the bat - that's first and foremost as an outfielder and start once you figured out where this thing is going then the quicker in your mind how you're gonna catch it.   The next thing is how good are your hands with Eddie hitting me ground balls and line drives it helped me improve my hands so I felt like I tiptoed ahead of conventional wisdom that said I was just a bad outfielder. And to me conventional wisdom is not wisdom - it's a notion that people have without really looking at something.   So I worked at it and got myself better out there.Rustyjr: Were you resentful when Gil Hodges started platooning you with Art Shamsky?Swoboda: You know what burned me more in '69 he would bring in Rod Gaspar as a defensive replacement - and that used to drive me crazy.   I was working to try to discontinue that- I wanted to be in the ball game.   And I did manage that- nothing against Rod Gaspar - he's a good friend to this day - but I didn't want Gil to feel that he had to make a defensive move to replace me - it burned me.Rustyjr: Getting to Gil when he was hired did you see big changes from his organization than who he inherited from (Wes Westrum)?Swoboda: Gil's concept of the game was very interesting - he was a very sharp baseball guy his decisions on the field were pretty incredible - always ahead of the game and creative in a way that you understood - I've played for Gene Mauch and Gene Mauch was a very smart baseball man, but Gene resolved things in a very complex way sometimes he did things you didn't understand - like he was trying to outsmart the game of baseball and I don't think you win games by outsmarting the game of baseball sometimes I think you can do something off the wall or tricky but for the most part you don't outsmart the game - you play it the way it was meant to be played and that to me was the way Gil managed the game.bball_ronswoboda69mets_s_generalRustyjr: Speaking of that then what do you think about Jerry Manuel's style of running this team?Swoboda: I think right now Jerry Manuel is a victim - I think the things that are happening now are not on Jerry Manuel's shoulders.   I think the team is a construction of the General Manager and the decision that they made I believe and you know what it's not Omar's fault that Santana is struggling a little bit - its not Omar's problem that John Maine came up wounded and I would wonder if it were really Omar's that they really didn't get into the Derek Lowe bidding.   They didn't want to give him 4 years but at what point does some of those decisions are taken away from Omar (Minaya).   I don't know- it's an organizational thing.   I'm not privy to that stuff so I don't know.Rustyjr: The Mets fan base was very happy when they bolstered the bullpen but were you surprised that they didn't acquire a big bat?Swoboda: I was more interested with what they could do with the starting pitching and you knew some guys were gone - you knew (Scott) Schoeneweis was gone, (Aaron) Heilman was gone that appeared to be in pretty good shape.   I wasn't crazy about our starters - I thought one more solid 3 starter would've been good.   I never had a great deal of confidence in Oliver Perez - he just seemed like a guy who never gave you a sense that he was in every game - he gave you the sense that sometimes he goes out there and you don't know where his head was - that was his reputation and I was never much of a Rick Peterson fan - pitching coaches are not for everyone and you can certainly see that Rick was not for Mike Pelfrey - too many changes and I don't think he helped him - but you wonder because of the balance things - there was a more rigid nature to Ricks approach to pitchers that some how he was better for - and I am speculating - Ollie.   Perez looks like a guy you have to be on a lot.Rustyjr: Your thoughts on pitching coach Dan Warthen?Swoboda: I like him a lot - he is one of those minimal tampering kind of guys- I think he's one of those guys who doesn't monkey with a lot of guys and he wanted to know how they felt about what they were thinking and feeling.Rustyjr: Everyone remembers when Gil took Cleon Jones out for loafing after that flyball - do you think Jerry should've benched (Luis) Castillo for dropping that pop-up against the Yankees?Swoboda: No this is a different time in baseball - Castillo didn't miss it because he was loafing - he missed it because he looked shaky underneath it and he is a golden glove guy. Maybe he didn't win a golden glove on pop ups but when stuff like that starts happening you can create a certain sort of mass psychosis that can happen where everybody is trying to be the one that turns things around and they try harder to be the difference in that kind of play and it rattles the teams confidence and it clearly got contagious - people that don't drop balls are dropping balls.Rustyjr: Well do you think that David Wright has what it takes to be the leader of this team?Swoboda: Isn't the way David Wright plays the game the way that the game should be played?Rustyjr: I believe so.Swoboda: So do I.   It seems to me that he's getting hits and driving in runs - the only thing that he isn't doing is hitting home runs - sometimes you take more on your shoulders and you try to do to much in those at bats - not because he cant do it - he is just trying to do too much in the absence of (Jose) Reyes and (Carlos) Delgado.   All I can say is there is something good about this team- with all the bad luck they've had so far they are still in it and they are playing hard.Rustyjr: Have you been to Citi Field yet?Swoboda: Yeah - it's amazing.Rustyjr: Are you upset about the lack of Mets-centric history in there so far?Swoboda: The rotunda coming in where most fans are coming in is a tribute to Jackie Robinson - and I have no problem with that - I have a picture of me and Jackie on the wall of my office right here where I am sitting and he is in his uniform - he was back at Old Timers Day at Shea earlier in my career looking healthy and looking good - its one of my prized possessions - I think what Jackie represented in baseball can't be overstated.   My understanding is when talking with some people there are some things being prepared that were in the works before people got upset about there being as much Mets stuff - I think its more of a reaction to the Jackie Robinson tribute, there is some stuff up and there will be more stuff up - there's a lot of wall space in that place - I go to the Mets fantasy camps and I know what those guys think and feel about stuff - so I got some source to a lot of real hardcore Met fans.   This stadium is going to evolve and develop it's own legacy and its an amazing place.   Have you been through the right field entrance?   Well you can see the silhouette of yours truly having that silhouette up there of this catch I made behind the right field sign is wonderful.Rustyjr: How does it feel to been a folk hero in Mets history?Swoboda: I love it - obviously to be at the age of 65 to have done something that even younger fans can see - I just love that - our legacy of being '69 Mets gets more important as I get older.0408swobodaRustyjr: Any thoughts on people that recently passed such as Tommie Agee or Tug McGraw?Swoboda: Tommy was a great friend and Tug was my first roommate and the world is not a better place without Tug McGraw.   Tommie Agee was a great gentleman we talked to one another - we spoke the truth to one another and I valued his friendship.   Tug McGraw - you know my mom died of cancer and Tug had 2 brain tumors and we kinda knew Tug wasn't going to win this one- I love Tug - he was the one player who I always wondered how he was doing and what was going on with him.   I thought he related to fans in a amazingly warm and wonderful way - he related to everybody.   He came from a family that had some craziness in it he loved being in pressure situations and that stoked him - it made him fearless out there.   And I wish I could play the game and have fun like he did - I always felt as soon as I started grinning things would turn to crap.Rustyjr: When you were traded in '71 were you taken aback?Swoboda: I asked for it with my behavior and some of the silly things I said - someone sent me a scrapbook a few years ago of a lot of those clippings - and a lot was from that rough period in '71 - I just started saying things, I was unhappy and I was afraid that my career was just slipping away, my big problem is I think out of my mouth - and I shared it with a lot of people with pens in their hands.Rustyjr: Obviously you have been living down here for over 20 years - how has Hurricane Katrina impacted your personal and professional life?Swoboda: I would say like a lot of New Orleanians we are not as blase about the threat of a hurricane anymore, we always evacuated but not everybody did - with good reason - where you live - do you have money?   Do you have a car?   Do you have the means to evacuate?   Can you absorb the expense?   And when was the last time a storm hit New Orleans where you thought you should evacuate?   It's been a long time.   We live uptown and our lot is elevated and that's higher ground and we were minimally affected by Katrina except for a refrigerator that somehow didn't improve with the electricity off for 6 weeks. You started feeling like your country - your government let down some folks by its failure to make some of its basic decisions that should have been made when people were languishing at the convention center in 90 degree weather without enough food or water.Rustyjr: Before I let you go - You are obviously excited about the 40th anniversary of the '69 team at Citi Field - who are you looking forward to seeing the most?Swoboda: I get to see some of the guys - I get to speak to Cleon, (Ed) Kranepool and Art Shamsky, Ed Charles and Buddy Harrleson alot and I get to see Rod Gaspar a fair amount, Wayne Garrett I don't see as much, Ken Boswell, J.C. Martin.   I dont see (Jerry) Koosman as much but we do email each other a lot, but you feel like you are so lucky to be part of that group and it seems the further away you get from it the the more miraculous it seems - how many things it takes to go right to reach that point and reach a championship - you respect the change in all of that - the matrix of things that have to coincide for that to happen.Rustyjr: Thank you for your time and patience and I cant wait to see you at Citi Field for the celebration.Swoboda: Thank you and enjoy the rest of your stay here in New Orleans.