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October 12, 2004

Tony La Russa


THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Tony LaRussa.

Q. Have you come up with a rotation for the series?

TONY LaRUSSA: We go Woody (Williams) first, we go to Matt in Game 2, and we'll open in Houston with Jeff and Jason Game 4.

Q. Just to follow that up, how did you come to those conclusions?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, Woody's on time. I mean, he actually was ready to pitch Monday, so he's got a couple extra days. The game Thursday fits right into Matt's (Morris) fifth day. Jeff's (Suppan) had the success on the road you don't want to ignore so he gets that one. We like Jason (Marquis) pitching in their park, he pitched a great game there middle of the season. So we think that's our best way to go.

Q. Just talk about facing Houston. They're coming in on an emotional wave, the way they got through the playoffs. What are your thoughts on facing Houston?

TONY LaRUSSA: I heard Jeff Bagwell's comment yesterday. I think one part of the answer is ever since I've been in the league, we really had terrific competitions. If you look at our season series, bunch of really good games, close games that can go either way. Lot of hard competition, minimum BS, there's a lot of respect between the two clubs. Seeing what they did at the end of the season, qualified for the wildcard, the Braves are a very good team, a real intense series. They're coming in with a lot of confidence. So I think we're two hot clubs, two confident clubs. It makes for a great series.

Q. Obviously, you've talked a lot about what Larry Walker has brought to the team. Now, especially through this first Division Series, how key was he in this team's production, being in that No. 2 spot?

TONY LaRUSSA: I mean, I don't know how you describe it, but we had a really good team and we add an outstanding player, so we add outstanding to really good, it makes us better. I think one of the neat things about him in that 2 spot is he's a very intelligent player. A lot of times with the 2 hole, especially, the ability to play the game, if Tony's (Womack) on, maybe try to hit the hole or if we fall behind them, they might challenge him with Albert (Pujols) on deck. You have to be smart to understand how every at-bat might make a difference. Larry is very smart, very talented. So, I mean, I think he'd be a terrific third hitter, fourth hitter. In a lot of ways he's an ideal two hitter if you like damage from the 2 spot. If you like Ted Sizemore type, which is very good too, he's not Ted Sizemore.

Q. Carlos Beltran is in the 2 hole. Has he done the same thing for Houston that Walker has done for you? What makes him so dangerous?

TONY LaRUSSA: You're talking about a multitalented, all-around player. You just talk about an outstanding base runner, hits the ball for extra bases. That's why, I mean, that's the beauty, you talk to managers, baseball men, guys have different -- you know, I've always had a really good third-place hitter that was dangerous. So if you put a 2 guy in front of him that creates problems for the other side because they know 3 is waiting. I think it adds a lot, especially in that first inning. So you have Beltran, I don't think he's ever doubled up. If you get a guy on, you'll always have somebody on base. Like he showed in the Atlanta series, hit the ball out of the park. I wish they didn't have him.

Q. Last year the wildcard winner was a team taken over by Jack McKeon at the start of the season. Same thing this year in Houston with Phil Garner. How difficult is that to do? Did you ever do it?

TONY LaRUSSA: No, when I started managing there was still eight teams in each league (smiling). No, I think it is difficult because somebody doesn't lose his job unless a club is struggling. I think most of the time the clubs that are struggling, they have injury problems or key guys are slumping or whatever it is. So it's very, very difficult to do what Jack did and what Phil did. I think the tough part about it is it somehow reflects on Jeff Torborg or Jimy Williams, who are outstanding baseball men. Sometimes you need a change. Players got to hear somebody different. I think in both cases, you know, I mean, evidently Jack did a great job. Phil came in, I watched him when he first came in with Milwaukee. He does a very good game, he's a great competitor. He does a great job. So their club put it together, and they still didn't have Andy Pettitte and Wade Miller. They deserve a lot of credit.

Q. Houston, obviously, as you said, are really hot. At this time of the year, do you prefer as a competitor the challenge of playing the best guys out there, or would you be just as happy playing the Helen Keller School of the Blind?

TONY LaRUSSA: I'm a big fan of the no-brainers, you know. I love those, where you get so far ahead you can't mess them up. But I think it's academic because you got eight teams qualify at this time. You're not going to find a team that's not tough to beat. You get to where it's four, you're going to get tested. I mean, we're going to test them, they're going to test us. Same thing in the American League series. I think in the end, if you want to do well, whether it's us or Houston that advances, the tougher this series is, the better chance you have in the next one. Competition toughens you. The better the competition, the tougher you are when you survive it.

Q. Unfortunately, there have been many times when both in Oakland and here you got close to the ring and haven't gotten it. Does that carry over, in your mind, every year when you come into these over and over again?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, yeah, there's a big difference between Oakland and here. Oakland, we got the World Series, even though we only won the ring one time. We got an American League ring. We had three opportunities here, and always disappointing because you get that close and you want it so bad. I don't know how to answer the question except to tell you that, you know, in every playoff experience that I've been a part of as a manager I was only not feeling real good about how we competed in 1990 in the World Series. We should have lost that in six or seven games, shouldn't have lost it in four. Every other time our club has competed, I thought we put out our best effort. The only time I was ever broken-hearted was losing to the Giants in 2002.

Q. Why is that?

TONY LaRUSSA: Because the club had been so heroic to do what they did during the season, eliminated the Diamondbacks. I mean, that was heart-breaking. I thought, "Here's a group of men that deserve to get to the World Series." Just shows you there's no justice in baseball, it's whoever plays best I look at it, it's a competition. You take your best shot, you got no regrets. The only thing I know for sure, we are going to try our damndest to win this thing. I think with that, we'll just play the game, take our chances.

Q. Cardinals instigated shaking hands with the Dodgers. Did you get any feedback on that? Would you do the same thing with the Astros?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, our -- I mean, the feedback we got as far as phone calls, discussions among the players, I think it was a positive experience. I don't know. I mean, I don't know if Phil (Garner) and I will ever cross paths to talk to him, I don't know if it will come up. I don't know if it's a one-time deal or you'll see it. I really don't know how to answer that.

Q. Couple guys are nicked up. Having a couple days obviously helps out. Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, how are they feeling? How will they handle the next couple of days?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I feel better about Scott today than I did the beginning of the Division Series. I felt better then than I did when he first started playing. He was out a while. He's been going hard. Had some setbacks. I think Jim is good to go. Albert had a very painful in-step. He told me today he's good to go. So we're ready.

Q. You said, obviously, Scott Rolen is improving. Where would you say he is in terms of what he's able to contribute to the team that makes you keep him in the lineup where he is right now?

TONY LaRUSSA: Every day that he didn't play, I didn't think we had as good a chance to win. Every time he's in the ballgame, I think we have a chance to win. Sometimes you have to go beyond the stats. He was not a hitless hitter in the Dodgers series. You watch his at-bats, he had tough base on balls. He hit the ball hard enough for some hits. What he did for us, cracking out tough at-bats in RBI situations, was the most important thing for us to have that kind of season. Nothing changes. I hope there's 27 ground balls hit to him tomorrow. We'll all have a lot of fun watching him make plays. I hope it comes down to Scott going to bat every time with men in scoring position.

Q. Usually, Game 1 doesn't set the tone of the series because you have so much ebb and flow. In the Dodgers series, it did. You guys got him in Game 1. It took everything to get them back. Can you do that in this series, or is this going to be a series of ebb and flow?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I think what you'll see is you better separate every game, seven times, try to get four before they do. I think that's our best attitude. I also know that - because I was always asked a couple, three times - we're not going to fall into the trap tomorrow, because Clemens or Oswalt is not pitching, that we've got some big advantage. They'll have a legitimate starting pitcher, a legitimate bullpen, a legitimate club behind them. So it will be -- that's the way you play the game. I think it will be a terrific game going in. So I think you take your best shot at 1. When 1's over, you go out and play 2.

Q. You talked about the many LCSs that you've been in. How do you rate this opportunity as far as the talents that you have on this team?

TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I know what I think. I'm just wondering how much I should say because I don't like in any way to be negative about anything in the past or too positive about anything now because you still have to play the game. I mean, getting to this -- when you have a chance to play for the league pennant and there's only four clubs left to do that, I mean, you're talking about some serious baseball to get here. I think the other chances that we had here in St. Louis, we had more issues and more problems that we had to overcome. But we also had, and we won the Division Series. Just shows it can be done. I think we had more going for us going into this one, but I also look at Houston and I see an outstanding club. Like I say, I think it's going to be a great series and I just know we're going to take our shot.

End of FastScripts...

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