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October 27, 2004

Tony La Russa


Q. Woody was just in here and he basically said the Cardinals haven't been themselves in the series; they haven't hit, run the bases. Have you been able to get a handle on why that is? Is it because of the Red Sox or because of the Cardinals?

TONY La RUSSA: I think it's a combination, but I agree with Woody, if you watch the games, we're taking some strange at-bats, and some of it is not a strange at-bat, because it's a been a good pitch so you don't center it. Sometimes our execution is not what we're used to. I've said it several times, where we pitch backwards, we're too careful and we get guys on base and we give them something to hit. Defensively, we play good defense. We've had a couple of freak baserunning plays. But I think some of it is us, and a lot of it is the Red Sox. I have no trouble giving them credit.

Q. In a situation like this when you guys have your backs to the wall, is there a player on your team or a couple of players on your team that you would specifically look to say something or set a tone or anybody who you think would provide some leadership before a game like this?

TONY La RUSSA: I think one of the major strengths in our club has been that we've divided the leadership thing among a number of players, so the answer is that we have 8, 10 guys that have been taking charge all year long and are capable of doing it tonight, whether it's saying something or making a play. We don't like one or two guys as leader, too many bad things can happen. We have a bunch of guys. And they were speaking up yesterday. They're speaking up yesterday. We have great leadership, but it comes from a lot of guys.

Q. Has Mitchell (Paige) worked with the guys on anything specific to try to break out of this slump? Obviously you've been a very complete team all year, but with the great hitters that you have, they just haven't delivered here.

TONY La RUSSA: Well, at this point after the spring and the regular season and quite a bit of October, everybody's routine is pretty set. But their routine includes if you're going good, keep it going good. If you struggle, these are some of the things you work on mentally to get back on. We're into that struggle mentality now. But we know how to pull ourselves out of it, it's just a question of doing it.

Q. Not to suggest that this series is over, but just in the nine previous years since the wildcard and the expanded playoffs, the team with the best record in baseball has only gone all the way once, the '98 Yankees. Any feelings or theories as to why that might be?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, I remember it was pointed out to me when we started the playoffs, the best record doesn't get this far. So I think that the best record indicates that you've had the most working for the six-month season. You get into a short series where it's 5 or 7 and you get a couple of swing games and they go against you, you get beat. But there's no doubt in any series the team that wins the series is the best team. They played the best baseball. So I just think most people agree we have talent and we're down three games. But we have the talent to win tonight.

Q. Last night there were some booing here at Busch, which is an unusual thing, and even today in the paper some of the Fox executives are saying this is awful, the performance has been bad for you guys. Is this an unfair feeling after 105 win season to feel this negativity, I guess?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, I tell you, one of our attitudes is that you'd rather have -- be on the plus side so you're not experiencing it. But if you're experiencing it, it means you have to be here to experience it. So there's only one way -- there's two ways to avoid it: One way is to not get in the postseason. We don't want to do that. The other way is not to get behind. We're already behind. So I've got a feeling if we've got the lead and in the top of the 9 innings, and three outs to win, I don't think anybody will be booing.

Q. What's impressed you most about the Red Sox thus far?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, we knew a lot about their lineup, we saw them last year. As I said at the beginning, the four clubs that have gotten into the Championship Series were very similar; they were good lineups, really good lineups. I think probably a lot of the key at-bats, the pitches that have been made, they've given to some tough looks and we haven't centered them. Sometimes we hit pitches, but a lot of times they made quality pitches. They deserve credit for that.

Q. Where is Rolen at physically right now and how much do you attribute his struggles right now to the time he missed late in the year?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, he would get real upset with me if I said anything that sounded like an excuse. So I'm not going to say it for him or for us. He's definitely one of those do or don't players. If you do it, just walk away quietly; if you don't, you suffer the consequences. So I think in the first week or two if he struggled, I think if in the Division Series, where the pressure at-bats -- but we're pretty far into it and I just think he's had some good at-bats where he's hit the ball hard and not gotten anything, he's also got beat a few times. I saw this during the season and he just completes, and like today he'll break out of it. And if we can win today and have another chance tomorrow, I don't think there's anything about his rustiness that he would want to make an excuse about. I think physically his calf is bothering him some, but he's definitely playable, he's definitely better than he was when he started playing.

Q. Did you do anything to your lineup for today's game, based on the guys struggling and can you explain the moves?

TONY La RUSSA: We're going back to our standard lineup where Tony (Womack) is leading off with Walker and so forth and Edgar (Renteria) goes to 6th. There are two changes, John Mabry will hit 7th, and Molina will hit 8th.

Q. May I ask you about Ramirez and what it is that makes him such a tough out?

TONY La RUSSA: I think for a long time he's one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball. And there's a -- I'm sure people in New England are not going to like this, because they're Ted Williams' fans, and I don't disrespect them at all, the man that revolutionized hitting is Charlie Lau. He's the one that started the inside path and better extension with the top hand coming off, and Ted didn't like that. If you look at a lot of these hitters, now they're hitting for average and power, that stroke started with Charlie Lau with his work. A little bit with the A's, but mostly with Kansas City. I look at a guy for a long time that's been using this Charlie technique that's really tough to pitch to, and you can hit for average and extra base pop.

Q. Back in the NLCS you said during the series that the tougher the competition was the better it would be for whoever came out of it for the next round. Given what the Red Sox went through to get here, do you think that theory has played out for them?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, it definitely played out for them, at 0-3 it doesn't look like it was true for us, except I know the opposite was a very exciting, terrific series with Houston and got us ready for this one. We lost the first three games.

Q. Further on your lineup are you satisfied that Womack is over his physical problems and the other two lineup changes, are you looking for a spark from those two guys? What exactly are you after?

TONY La RUSSA: Yeah, I think that part about being worried about his back, I think that he's feeling good enough to where I'm confident he'll play nine. The collarbone was another reason to be careful with him. And that's just sore, but he can play with it. I think Tony, physically, for this time of year is in good shape. John, if you pulled his numbers when he started games, he gave us another option, whether it was left, third, first base, so we're looking for that tonight. I just wanted to make a switch. Because I think Reggie (Sanders) is taking one of the best looking 0fers in the World Series. And Molina and Jason (Marquis) have had a good thing tonight. Mike also, but I think if we can win this game Mike will be fresh for tomorrow.

End of FastScripts...

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