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October 2, 2006

Tony La Russa


Q. Tony, as a manager who is fairly averse to the intentional walk, can you speak to the idea of why people would pitch to Albert Pujols if they had an alternative?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, there's several reasons. Number one, we have a history, over the last several years as he's become a force, that I'd say a strong percentage of the time, the guys behind him have made the other side say, hey, use that strategy a few times, say it's not working. I'd rather go after Albert. We've been really good protecting them with quality guys.
And I think the other thing that always bothers a manager and pitching coach is sending messages to your pitchers that you're not good enough to get somebody out. You're raising competitors, Philippe Lewis said we raise competitors not cowards.
So you do have -- you're saying, well, Albert is better than you are. That's not a message that you send that's very productive. You want to send the opposite to your pitching staff.

Q. Two-part question. How, if any way, managing in the post-season differs from the regular season. And part two of that question: You and Bruce Bochy are both veterans, have a decade plus to match wits. What's it like to play against him?
TONY LA RUSSA: The excitement and intensity of the post-season is by far the most challenging and enjoyable thing you can get into. I'm talking about managing, coaching, playing.
During the regular season, you're really grinding because you need to accumulate wins. And coaches and coaching staff and managers, you make a bunch of decisions about today, but you balance it against the rest of the season and keeping guys fresh and maintaining confidence and trying to get guys going.
I mean, there's a lot of long-term issues there. But when you get to the post-season, it's your best shot. You just want to max out your best shot and try and get three wins in five days, five games.
So that really makes the process a lot simpler. You're pitching your best guys, playing your best guys, you're not really saving anything.
I think I share -- I know I share the opinion with the other guys in the National League regarding Bruce. I'm sure a lot of American League managers all do, but he's as respected as anybody. He's done a great job here in San Diego. And I think he has a terrific rapport with his players, which tells you a lot about his personality. He's an outstanding game manager and one of the best -- he does it all as far as positioning and being creative on offense.
I think one of the things, I think he has a real special feel for handling the bullpen. He has talent there with Trevor and so forth, but he puts guys in the right spot. So I think a bunch of us think he's as good as anybody out there.

Q. Tony, the decision to hold off Carpenter for this worked out. What went into that and was that even a tough decision or was this the obvious way to do it?
TONY LA RUSSA: I'll give you a couple of frameworks. I believe as much as anybody around, I try not to take anything for granted, because you will get spanked for that.
But at the same time, you know, sometimes you get put in a circumstance where you have a chance to take advantage of the way things are falling for you.
I knew earlier in the week -- we had, back in August when we were putting together rotations for the rest of the year, we had a choice because of an off day, and we really wanted to give Chris the extra day, because it's a nice thing to be able to do at this time of year.
But that would mean that he would pitch -- I think it was Wednesday or Thursday and miss Sunday. And we thought, boy, as inconsistent as we've been, I mean, who knows that we might not get to the end and need Chris. We could pitch him until Sunday.
Dave and I have known since August that if he ever pitches Sunday, that would not be good for our Division Series chances.
So early in the week, as the number finally drifted a little bit in our direction, Dave and I talked about, you know, probably not -- we're not going to spend a lot of time thinking about it but if it got to one, not two, but if we got one on Sunday, there would be a decision to make.
And we got to Friday and then Saturday, and I thought this is going to be a tough call. Alerted Chris that you may not go. And then we had a day game so had all night to think about it.
And I was surprised that -- I mean, I wasn't an hour into being by myself that -- you know, there are a lot of tough calls you make. It wasn't even a tough call.
I mean, the consequences of pitching him were tough enough for us in the competition and, to follow, if we get in, like I said, don't take anything for granted.
We could have pitched the bullpen game and pitched one up to beat Milwaukee and score some runs. And you did have a chance with John Smoltz. And if that doesn't work, Chris pitches against San Francisco on Monday.
I was surprised at how easy the call was. I don't say I was surprised, but I did notice there was some disagreement with the decision because they felt like it was a risk, and maybe I'm dumb about that. I didn't see the risk.

Q. Tony, coming off the pair of hundred-win seasons, can you put in perspective what this year has been like for you and the ball club?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, totally different. You know, the '04 club I thought was remarkable because we were really good and there was never periods where we backed off or got complacent about our league. Guys just kept going and going and going. And that's hard to do.
In the '05 club, we took some big hits in the second part of the season and it was wonderful to see guys step up and we kept playing a really good pace. This year we've been really good and we've been really not good.
And you can look at our club and you can see how if things fell into place, we'd play well, but you could also see where something would crop up and we'd get burned. So our club dealt with that.
And I feel really good about how we got here because, I mean, I've been around the block a few times, and I've seen when things aren't working, I've seen guys get discouraged, our club get discouraged and get negative.
We just toughened up and said we're just going to battle through it in some way somehow. So totally different.
The thing that's the same is that, you know, 0-0 with eight teams playing. Excited about our chance. I think we're going to play well.

Q. Tony, I'm sure you probably already addressed this but with the pitching matchup, can you just talk a little bit about Peavy and of course Carpenter?
TONY LA RUSSA: I know there's a lot of -- especially from the guys I talked to, a lot of tension with Chris, but I think he's there up in that echelon with the best in baseball.
But I know Jake Peavy, and he has as good a chance to dominate that game as Chris does. This guy is the real deal, and real good stuff, great competitor.
So I think it's a classic matchup, and figures it's not going to be a fun day for hitters. And we're confident when Chris pitches, but we definitely understand how tough Jake can be.

Q. This isn't related to tomorrow's game but I just wanted to ask you about your feelings about Felipe Alou, your good friend, retiring.
TONY LA RUSSA: Did he do that today?

Q. Yes. He's not coming back. Maybe what he meant to you and the game.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to say something about him, because I go way, way back when I was really, I mean a terrible player. I played a couple times in the Dominican and met Felipe and then I met him at the end of his career. He was playing with the A's. And you fast forward in '78, first year I ever managed in the Southern League in Knoxville. He was in Memphis. So I saw him again.
And then he was in Montreal when I got into the National League. So I've known Felipe a long time and I have so much admiration and respect.
I think he has as much intelligence and integrity as anybody I've ever met in the game of baseball. I mean, this is a smart man, and he is honest and he has terrific values.
He was a real tough competitor. No fun to go against his clubs because he was trying to beat you. I have great affection for him and value our friendship over the years.

End of FastScripts...

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