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October 10, 2000

Tony La Russa


Q. Jim Edmonds, how long did it take for you to think you had a special player?

TONY LA RUSSA: The exact moment that Walt Jocketty says the deal is made because we saw him. We saw him in spring training and in Arizona, when I was with Oakland, and played against him. And the minute he said -- because he told us it happened pretty quickly. I think he told us like a day or two -- he says, you know, we are having serious conversations with Anaheim and you learn from Walt -- Walt doesn't say that just to get you excited. He says it if there is real mention there. And for about two days then you had a chance to mess around thinking about him actually being on your club, wow, this would open all kinds of possibilities. As soon as he said it, we went through the roof.

Q. What changes might you have in the lineup against lefthanded pitching?

TONY LA RUSSA: We don't need to make a lot of them just because our left-handed hitters really hang in there well and are tough out against left-handed pitchers. To me, our problem is that the left-handed pitchers are good pitchers - just like facing a good right-hander, but I mean the move that you would expect to make for tomorrow's game would be Eric Davis. He has been very, very successful against left-handed pitching and gives us a real threat in the middle of the lineup. But beyond that, I mean, sometimes early September when we were playing a lot of games, that if we had a lefthander, you know, we would throw a big right-hand platoon out there with Shawon and Paquette, but won't do that tomorrow.

Q. Would he start in place of Drew?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, what he is going to do is he is going to start in rightfield. But leftfield is up in the air because obviously Ray plays there. J.D. has played leftfield a number of times this year, so that is something to play around with tonight.

Q. Is Will Clark the same player that you remember when you were in Oakland and he was in San Francisco?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, he is not nearly as irritating (Laughter.) because he is on our side now. Yeah, I mean you can see he is -- he is a little thicker, you know, around the middle is the only difference I see. Maybe he is probably more of a threat to get a base -- steal a base than when he was younger. But everything else about him is -- I mean, he is a 21 year old in the heart, except he has got all that experience. I mean, very, very similar physically and probably the best he has ever been mentally because he has got the experience and he is still as excited as ever.

Q. Everybody we spoke to we asked one player who is the leader on the club; they say: "Somebody else." Nobody seems to agree. Do you see a particular leader in the clubhouse?

TONY LA RUSSA: That is one of the healthiest comments that you can make. I really like that answer because on any good ballclub you got to have a group of guys - one guy may be hurt and you are hurt, you don't lead the same way. One guy may be slumping and he is not quite as likely to stand up. So you need a bunch of guys and we have. We have a good core of leaders and most of them have some experience. I am trying to think if we have a young guy, probably the youngest guys that I think is a leader is Edgar Renteria, but we have a core of guys that have been really good for, you know, hey, we got to go this way, not that way. It can come from any one of them.

Q. Could you put this year in perspective, this year as opposed to previous years, injuries that might have impacted the club adversely this time around, didn't seem to have the same impact?

TONY LA RUSSA: Big difference is the injuries have been to our position players for the first four, four and a half months of the year and we have a really deep situation created by Walt, so you know, no matter who got hurt, whether it was Mark or Fernando, or Fernando or whatever, we were able to put a winning lineup on the field. Years before, we got -- our pitching got beat up and I don't -- there isn't a club around that can lose a couple three starting pitchers and make up for it. So the big difference was the last -- actually the last three years, we kept having to take a reliever, make him a starter, bring up a young guy before he was ready and if it wasn't for Dave Duncan -- see last year we stayed alive as, you know, as far as a chance to be a winning club and just about the first September, year before we actually were a winning club. 1997 we weren't embarrassed to the end but it is a terrible way to try to contend. You can't do it. I haven't seen one club do it unless the standard in the division is not very high. This year we had our pitching staff -- until we got hit with Andy and Garrett our pitching staff was the great equalizer. We kept trotting those same five guys out and it made a big difference in terms of consistency.

Q. I didn't see your series against Atlanta because I was covering the other series. Are you going to stay with Edmonds and Clark back-to-back?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, if I were to write the lineup right now, I would insert Eric between Jim and Will. Glavine is the kind of lefthander, he gets right-handers against lefthanders, you pick up no edge -- I just think that Eric has -- he has got some respect from the other side -- unless they are not paying attention and I know they are. He has had some success against Hampton, been tough against left-handers, he is not going to be afraid tomorrow night. So that would be one change we make, Eric would hit fourth.

Q. What happened to Fernando Tatis? He used to be a big part of your offense and he didn't even play in the Division Series?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, that is a little tricky and most of what happened to Fernando Tatis is talk about valuable player, Mr. Polanco, you know, Placido was so good everywhere we used him and, you know, we were trying to make the big push to finish first, actually Freddie got a bunch of at-bats and just went sour as far as offense. Defense was fine. But one of the biggest problems was the strikeouts. In fact, I know when that was passed on that I said that -- I said it to him person-to-person that -- he said: Well, we strike out a lot. He is right. We have guys on our ballclub that strike out too much. But the more guys that strike out the more you need some guys to put the ball in play. And you got to look where you have alternatives. It turns out that we had alternatives at third base like Polanco, so I mean, I think Fernando is going to be a factor in this series. I plan to play him, but at some point, you know, when you get a chance you got to do something with it. And I mean, I remember Mr. Hummel dug out the stat, 50 at-bats he struck out 20 times. We are telling him, we can't play winning baseball this way, and other guys responded: Better cut him down. And I really think one other guy it happened to-- who was the other -- had 18 -- I thought J.D. got into a little bit. Tried to hit 20 home runs, you know, you can't hit home runs when you are trying to hit them. We played three games against the Braves, the first game was Maddux, Polanco played great. We won the next game against Glavine. I wasn't going to change anything.

Q. Everybody knows about the strength of each of the clubs. Is there one particular weakness on yours and one particular weakness on the Mets that you see as a possible turning point?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, Mr. Hummel discussed the Cardinal weakness as the manager. I would just as soon not get into that more than that. That is just part of it. Mets weakness, having to deal with the media, New York media, that is -- that would be, I am not sure if that would be a weakness, that would be a chore. I don't know. I think we both -- nobody is perfect. We are both vulnerable and both have strengths and I think we are both very dangerous.

Q. What is the status of Stephenson?

TONY LA RUSSA: He will make his next appearance in spring training. He is out. I know -- Rick knows the term, I forget it. It is something about the ligament -- sprained ligament. No way it would respond in the next two weeks, three weeks.

Q. Who takes his spot on the roster and your thinking on who that is?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I was talking to Walt and we are going to wait to announce that and decide that tomorrow just so that we have the chance tonight to sleep on it. I think it is one of those decisions you don't make until you have to. But there is -- we went with 11 pitchers in a five-game series which was unusual just because Matt, the morning of Game 1, showed up ready to go and that was something that we definitely wanted to add Matt. And we wanted Britt Reames on the club. So you had 11 pitchers in a five-game series. There is a chance we will go 10 pitchers for a seven-game series, which is a little bit ass backwards, but -- probably we will replace Stephenson with a position player.

Q. It looked like in the first series everything you did basically turned out golden and everything Bobby Valentine did turned out golden. What is the psychology of that?

TONY LA RUSSA: First of all, my starting pitcher in Game 1, that move wasn't too terrific, but I think you really have to learn and I was -- we talked about this, I mean, I think I can't remember now, maybe Atlanta or somebody, you got to learn early in your managing some survival philosophies and one of them is the decision making thing. There are no guarantees. What you are obligated to do is you try to use every bit of judgment and instinct and knowledge you have and you make your best call. And as long as you believe that was your best call, then that is what you go with and that is what you live with, the results. These are men; not machines. There is no guarantee you can bring in Dennis Eckersley and if he gives up a lost, you wish you had brought in somebody else. So I think the psychology is try to stay on top of it, create the best situation for your players, recognize the other side has talent. They are trying to win, and also recognize that if a move you make doesn't work, then somebody is going to say: You made the wrong move. If that bothers you, do something else for a living.

Q. The idea of chemistry is somewhat ethereal, but all good teams talk about chemistry. Did it become evident from you the beginning of this year that this team had something special?

TONY LA RUSSA: To me that is a very interesting subject because I guess if you get 31 managers, it would be interesting to see what their opinion about that is and the importance. I know what mine is. How many, the 25 managers -- 30 --

Q. We are not close to 30 right now.

TONY LA RUSSA: And how many have been fired so what, is there 24?

Q. Give or take.

TONY LA RUSSA: But I think my opinion based on what I have learned and what I have been taught, I think chemistry is a vital part of your ballclub. And I think it is vital to sustain you even if you don't finish first. It can keep you from being embarrassed. It will help you get your extra wins. The one we always try to explain to our club is beginning the spring training if we get this thing going it is like the general manager trading for a star pitcher or player because there are a lot of times during a grueling six-month season where there is something on that ballclub gets you to push a little harder or not -- not dwell on the negative. It is real -- I can see it. I think it is tangible, so if you think it is that important, then -- as a staff, you do everything you can to encourage it and you do everything you can to work around things that would discourage it. I do believe in the end though -- we have had some really close teams that did not get close enough because you didn't win. In the end, if you have a good club with good feeling, if they do experience first place then -- these guys, I guarantee you, these guys ten years from now will see each other in the street and talk about the 2000 Cardinals because it has been that good here. And I guess the last part of your question for those of us that watch -- we think it is important. I mean, we all pay attention to it. We thought in spring training that -- we said: Man, you know, this team has got a chance -- in fact, I am almost sure there was a quote in there where I said someplace: All we need to do is win games because the rest of it is here. The guys were just terrific together, but if you don't win enough games, then you can't have what they have right now.

Q. The way you have your rotation set up, is it possible Kile could pitch three games and go on three days' rest; do you feel comfortable with that?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I mean, we have had the luxury of several days to think about this. It wasn't anything like we won a game, we are playing the next day. I mean, we played around with it and played around with it. We did it for the Division Series. And one of the important factors is that I mentioned earlier, our pitching staff was blessed. It was a blessed part of our club. We ran the same five guys out there. It was a huge advantage. Ironically, right there at the end, we lost that advantage. So we came into the postseason for the first time with our starting rotation affected, whether it was injury, layoff, whatever, loss of a catcher, so in looking at this thing, the one guy that stands out physically is Darryl Kile. If our very best pitcher was somebody who couldn't come back with three days' rest, then you couldn't do it. But it just so happens the guy that has been pitching the best for us is a guy that can pitch with three days' rest. I mean, he was going to pitch Monday. If we had gone 5 -- I watched him Sunday here take a bullpen. He had great stuff. And I think we did the other thing, two things, one this is the plan. It is something that looks different Thursday, Friday after he pitches Tuesday, then we will go a different way. But secondly, you know, I mean, we believe -- I am talking about Duncan -- we believe that you play the six months always thinking that you got a chance to win and that means you want your pitchers to have life in September. And if you can have October, you don't want guys at that time, the most critical time of the year, not to have anything evident. There were games he came out and saved him 15 or 30 pitches, so we feel his arm is very ready to potentially come out there with three days' rest. And he is our best guy and just like Bob Gibson and Dave Stewart, I think our club expects him to be out there, if it makes sense.

Q. Do you think that that helps Rick on the other side going into Game 2 and not having the Game 1 pressure?

TONY LA RUSSA: Here again, it is just opinion, that is what you get. I believe in a five-game series - I have been involved in a few of them -- I think Game 2 has more pressure than Game 1. I think in a lot of ways in a seven-game series -- I am not saying Game 1 is a piece of cake now by any means, but there are some factors involved with that second game just like I believe in a seven-game series, Game 3 is a tougher ballgame than Game 2. So I think, you know, we got Andy pitching Game 3. I think Rick pitches Game 2, we are excited about sending them all out there. If they are not good enough, we are not good enough, and I think we are good enough.

End of FastScripts....

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