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October 16, 2006

Tony La Russa

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI: Game Five (Postponed)

Q. Is the manager in you pleased to have a pitcher now being able to go on full rest?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think it's not just the pitcher for either side -- it's exactly the same for both guys. You don't want to have a pitcher pitch short if you don't have to. And I think more importantly, because I think both guys have been gearing themselves to go, so they are ready.
I think the position players would have had to deal with the elements, the manager in me, Willie and myself, it would be dangerous and a lot to ask.

Q. I know it's a small sample, but Yadier has had a terrific post-season offensively, but he had a sub-par year, so was it anything mechanical or was the year more of a fluke? What can you say about his hitting in the post-season?
TONY LA RUSSA: Very good question, because his Minor League record, he's always hit. And last year, his first full season after a slow start, he was a good hitter and got it to where he had very respectful numbers.
I think he had a tough year, and he's used to hitting and he pressed and a lot of days he's out there trying to get four hits in three at-bats and he just got stuck in a lot of at-bats and not enough hits. I think when he got to the post-season, in my opinion, he started 0 for 0, and with that fresh start, he's been more himself.

Q. When you folks took on Jeff Weaver, was there something that you thought you wanted to work on with him? What was your basic overall view of how he got to be -- so he was even available to you?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, first thing is that we had need, you know, so that was important. Then he was available. We knew that he was a guy with a track record of success and more importantly, a very good competitor which I think counts for a lot. In the final hope we can get him, just like everything we do with pitching, Dave Duncan watches tapes, looks like he's healthy, throwing the ball, stuff-wise, look forward to getting him. I know we placed a couple of calls to people that knew Jeff and they said, "He would be good for your team," and they hit it right on the nose.

Q. This is a little bit off the subject of this series, but Ken Macha was fired today in Oakland --
TONY LA RUSSA: I beg your pardon?

Q. Yeah. Obviously news to you. Amid reports that there was friction between him and players, etc. My question for you is as a long-time manager, can you describe your relationship with players and ideally what it needs to be. Do you need to be liked by players, do you need to be just respected, what is your view on this situation, because as I said, reports are that there was a lot of friction in the A's between the manager and the players.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, they had such a great second half, there was friction, how did they beat Minnesota -- they beat Minnesota, right? How did that happen.
Well, there's a long way to answer that. I mean, we don't want to get long winded. I think we all have an obligation, in the end, you have a coaching staff, you have front office and your boss and so forth, but you're supposed to be the decision maker. And you have to have a relationship where the players are willing to go in the direction that -- you speak for your coaching staff and for your front office and for your ownership. If you stand and say we need to go right, and your relationship with players is not one where they follow, then there's a couple things. No. 1, that's why sometimes managers don't go back on their own, because, you know, they just get tuned out. And that's why if an organization sees that, then they don't bring them back.
So I'm really shocked by this. I just look at the season they had. I didn't know that. But I think what you look for, in the best situations, you have a personal and a professional relationship with your players. In my opinion, if it's just an effective professional relationship, where they respect you, that's okay. But the dynamics of a baseball team is from Spring Training to hopefully October, you're together so much that professional alone, you're missing edges. It's like the guys that I respect the most that I've watched over the years, you've got to add the personal. There's got to be something personal with your players so that they respect, but there's feeling and there's caring and there's trust and all that.
You know, so that's kind of -- that's a little long winded, but I don't think you can just get up there and be a great strategist and get it done as well as somebody -- I use my friend Jim (Leyland). To me Jim is incredible that way because he's personally just gets into their hearts and heads and strategy, he's great.
But you need to have both of them in my opinion, and I'm surprised, Oakland.

Q. Obviously the way you guys have pitched to Delgado and some of the damage he's done, that's been a big theme in the series so far, what are specifically some of the things that make him so tough to pitch to?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I thought you were getting ready to get that answer, what are you going to do to get him out, can't talk about that.
No, what makes him so tough, here is a guy that's a .300 hitter with power. If the guy is hitting .300 and doesn't have power, he's got holes. If a guy hits .300 and doesn't have power the damage is limited. This guy's got it all. Guys like that, they have the ability to hit a lot of different pitches and they make adjustments. That's Carlos Delgado, can't go to the same place to get him out. You've got to mix it up and if you've made a mistake like we've made, he punishes you. He's a big-time producer.

Q. What makes a good coaching staff, and how much difference can they make on a team, good, bad?
TONY LA RUSSA: Appreciate the question, because I really think there's a lot of respect due to good coaching staffs. As long as everybody understands, this is a player's game, but the demands on the players from the first day to the last are so difficult and they come in so many forms that a good coaching staff can really help put players in a position, both psychologically, fundamentally, you know, strategically.
A good coaching staff knows that they are there for the players. Same thing as managing. By the quality of how you are as a person and as a professional, you earn respect and trust and caring. So, I mean, we're blessed here. We have a great coaching staff, and these guys work hard and they work hard for the players. Nobody is here -- I challenge you to find one coach that's generated a headline out here, "I helped Albert" or "I helped Chris." They just don't do it. You're not there to be cute with the press. You're there because you're there to be a friend to somebody, help guys get into a position to succeed and it's all about them and not you.
And the other P.S. to that, we talk about with Red all the time, the veterans here, the last bunch of years, players get to the bigs here and they still need to be coached. You used to learn at all levels of the Minor Leagues but now you come to the big leagues, even in a good developmental situation, there's still a lot of teaching, so your coaches have to be good teachers as well.

Q. Chris Carpenter is the ultimate competitor. The Mets maybe didn't see the best of him in this last game. He says that he's ready to take on this next challenge. Will they see a different pitcher most likely in the second game?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, that's interesting, you know, they saw the great Chris Carpenter. They saw a guy that was not the top of his game, and they couldn't finish him off and finish us off. That to me is part of why he's great. If he goes out there Wednesday and he's his normal self as far as command of his four pitches, they will see the greatest of the great.
Carpenter's greatness, just like the other day, the last game in San Diego, they could have had five or six the first two innings if he had not been as great as he is, and same thing with the Mets. Those great ones, when it's not their day, they give you a chance anyway.

Q. Again it's a small sample on Albert and his batting average is fine, do you feel like a power explosion is there, that you cannot go through a series without him hitting some long balls?
TONY LA RUSSA: We won a couple of games in this series, one game at Shea, he got a couple base hits.
We can win with him getting on base, whether it's a single or a walk or a double. I mean, you probably noticed, he's laboring when he runs. His right hamstring is a real problem, his push-off/drive leg. He can hit some home runs and catches it right, but he's not going to be generating as much power but he can still generate base hits. Just got to be careful running.

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