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October 23, 2006

Tony La Russa


Q. Last night you said it wasn't important to talk about the dirt on Kenny Rogers' hand, what it meant and so forth, what happened, but today everybody is talking about it. So apparently it's important to people all over the country, fans, so on and so forth, would you comment on it today?
TONY LA RUSSA: First question? I lost the bet. (Laughter.)
Well, you know, what I'm going to say, I've had enough time to think about it. You get on a bus, you get on a plane, you come here, you've been waiting this afternoon, and I don't know if it's going to be adequate or not, but I'm going to tell you what my perspective on something like this is, see, I believe in the beauty of the competition. I'll try to explain it very quickly.
I have really always enjoyed the competition of teams. To me what that means is, I'll get to the point, it's important to set it up, what that means is, like today, from what we're doing today until 7:30 tomorrow night, the two teams and all the players are getting ready for that competition. I really enjoy it. I enjoy it in Spring Training, getting the club ready for 162 games, you get ready for the postseason, because I enjoy getting ready. And then when the game starts there's no script and you have this -- in many cases it can be a pure competition. After all this work to get ready, now you go out there and it's our team against their team, and I get off on it. We coach it. Why do you run sprints, why do you take ground balls, why do you lift weights? Not to look pretty, it's so you can compete at your highest level.
So if you really get into the competition, anybody that's been around me, and we have coaches that last night said, I understand where you're coming from, I detest any kind of BS that gets in the way of the competition.
Now, I had to deal with it. I've been around a long time, so there have been controversies and most times the only people that are involved directly are paying attention, but other people hear about it and somebody analyzes it and somebody gives a quick answer or a label - gamesmanship, cheap shots, head-hunting, all these things that sometime become controversial and I would challenge anybody to search all the times I've been around and somebody find where our club, including the managers, instigated those controversies. I would challenge you to do that. Almost always it's happened in answer to. Because I do believe part of the competition is that somebody will try to take advantage of it. They'll try to intimidate you. And what happens is if you allow your club to be intimidated, you're going to lose an important competitive edge.
So I was never raised with "turn the other cheek," so it just means you get to keep getting your cheek slapped and slapped and slapped until you say enough is enough. So if somebody spanks you, we spank back. That's part of competing.
So now I bring you to last night. And this is the best competition, you're playing for the world championship. There's an indication from the clubhouse that something is going on with the pitcher. I have a decision to make, and I decided that I was not going to be part of BS where I was going to ask the umpire to go to the mound and undress the pitcher. Now, what was I going to do? I alerted him. I said I hope it gets fixed, if it doesn't get fixed then I'll take the next step. Because I do think if someone abusing, it could be stealing signs on second, I don't care what the abuse is. I say "we," because we've been a staff for a long time, the way we handle this is, quit doing that, before this becomes a big deal or ugly or whatever. I mean stop it. That's what was done last night.
And I'm sure there are fans of ours and maybe teammates or whoever, people in the organization that said you should have gone to the mound. The umpires are right on this, the rule states it, they have to get a request. They don't act on their own, here, I don't think they do. And I did not. I said I don't like this stuff, let's get it fixed. If it gets fixed let's play the game. It got fixed, in my opinion, and we never hit the guy. Without belaboring it, that's kind of the philosophy of competing I was taught, that's what I'm comfortable with. You either beat them or they beat you, and you try to deal on a day-to-day, individual basis on what the BS comes up. And there's all kinds of BS sometimes and you've got to figure it out and sometimes you go to the coaches, what do you think, because I've got coaches that I respect. In that case I made that call myself. If somebody handles it differently, that's what this country is all about. That's the way I handled it.
The best thing is -- this is going to sound like a doggone speech, and I don't mean to do this, but it's gotten a lot of attention. There's another part about competition that we try, and I know a lot of people do, when the competition is over, you want to have no regrets. That's why you work so hard to get ready and that's why you play so hard. If you play your best and somebody beats you, you go (tipping cap), you beat us. And if you thought that you didn't get ready, if you thought that during the game I got distracted, I didn't try hard, and you get beat, you've got regrets. I don't have any regrets for the way I handled it last night, but if somebody attempts to abuse us, then you take the steps.
I don't have any regrets, and I don't think after the initial whatever happened, the hand washing or whatever happened, I don't think we got abused, I think we just got beat.

Q. I've got to ask you this, your close relationship with Leyland, a lot of people think maybe you didn't push it because you didn't want to initiate something that would inflame your relationship with him, start a feud with him, maybe if it's a different manager, you're more aggressive in terms of dealing with what you saw with Rogers, could you just address that?
TONY LA RUSSA: That was actually asked over the phone this morning by a guy that used to be my friend (laughter), because if somebody raises it as a question, hey, you can see where it makes some sense, if somebody tells me that that's what I was thinking, it's really a personal insult, and I would take it personally. I'm just telling you that in 20-plus years of competing as a manager, that's how I've handled every one of these controversies, against whoever the other manager was.
There was a time where there was a rage of corked bats in the American League, and the only time I ever challenged a corked bat was when somebody did some BS on the other side. You want to mess around? Hey, go check his bat. I just don't like to BS. So it had nothing to do with Leyland. We're friends, the competition isn't about friends. This is about the Tigers and the Cardinals. And if somebody seriously accused me of that then I would get very upset and confrontational.

Q. Understanding your respect for the competition, your whole point here, if, indeed, you guys felt that Kenny Rogers might have been cheating, isn't that a violation of the competition?
TONY LA RUSSA: Depends. You're getting my opinion. That's the beauty of -- right now there's two managers left playing, and does Jim bunt, do I bunt, you see our opinion, and if your opinion changes, that's the beauty of baseball.
There's a line that I think that defines the competition. And you can sneak over the line, because we're all fighting for the edge. I always think, does it go to the point of abuse? And that's where you start snapping. I also know that pitchers -- I was going to say routinely, that may be too strong, because I don't know enough -- pitchers use some sticky stuff to get a better grip from the first throw in Spring Training to the last side they're going to throw in the World Series. Just because there's a little something that they're using to get a better grip, that doesn't cross the line, you know. To me what got my attention was guys that came down and said, man, this thing is real obvious on his hand. I didn't see it. But I did watch video of the other postseason games, so I had an idea of what it looked like, and I said, let's get rid of it and keep playing. That's the attitude I took. If he didn't get rid of it, I would have challenged it. But I do think it's a little bit part of the game at times and don't go crazy.

Q. I'm just wondering if you have video from previous series where you have an indication that this might be going on? Do you feel it's over the line that it's been going on, that you really trump what you call BS and say, that's such BS that he's doing it again, I'm going to get him ejected and give my team a big advantage here, because he's not only going to get ejected he's going to get suspended for the rest of the series and you'll get a real stronghold on the series, with the fine line between not wanting to break your etiquette on the game, and gamesmanship, whatever that word would be?
TONY LA RUSSA: Maybe just asking the question, but it sounds like if you were me, you would have gone to the mound (laughter).
Based on what I had seen on tape, and based on what I was told, to me the way to handle that situation in that competition was to alert, let's get it fixed so we can play the game. And that's the way I went. And I have no regrets, because we got it fixed and we still couldn't beat them. I feel like if we can keep this thing continuing, we have another chance in six, we have a chance. We can compete against anybody. That was the decision I made.

Q. After seeing the video, do you believe that it was dirt that Kenny had on his hand or was it something else?
TONY LA RUSSA: I don't believe it was dirt. Didn't look like dirt.

Q. This is a new stadium, you're the first manager to manage a World Series here, what does that mean to you?
TONY LA RUSSA: Knowing our fans and our history it will mean a lot more if we're all involved with the first World Series that was won in this park, rather than the first World Series that was played. That's our goal. It's not just to play, it's to win. And we've got a shot. We've got a better shot than most people think.

Q. Do you have any concerns, as clearly as you say your code here, do you have any concerns that not all of your players agree, you mentioned players, are you concerned that players feel that you might not have done enough for them yesterday?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's a terrific question and I actually, when we got together today to talk about what we were going to do out there, and who wanted to do that, and I actually mentioned that. I briefly explained where I was coming from and I said, anybody felt like I should do different, then I disappointed you, but I went to sleep at night and I looked in the mirror. You've got to live with yourself. And they didn't raise their hand and say, hey, I disagree, they just didn't say anything.
But it's very possible there were guys that disagreed. It's not the way we want to win.

Q. Just to clarify, what was brought to your attention or your coaches' attention exactly, that there was discoloration on Rogers' hand and that the ball was acting erratically or just the discoloration?
TONY LA RUSSA: I heard Jim's comments that hitters -- no hitters said anything about the ball. It was purely something that came from the clubhouse, that there was speculation on TV that the hand looked funny, that's what I was told.

Q. Are you thinking about skipping Anthony Reyes in his next start, Game 5, and going with all of your other guys short, or did the way he pitched in Game 1 make you want to pitch him again?
TONY LA RUSSA: Thank you for a question that's got something to do with -- (laughter).
Well, the great part about that question is that there's an issue, and that's because Anthony really gave us a flying start in this series. What Dave and I have talked about is making sure our options are open. And I think that's just the best way to approach the last series you're going to play in a season. So if he'd have had just an adequate start, I don't think there's any doubt that we were going to bring back the three guys with three days' rest. And now we're keeping our options open.
Dave talked to Anthony today, it's not been decided. So the options are open and we'll see. Right now it's all about tomorrow.

Q. Just a clarification back to the other subject you don't like, you were talking about looking at videotapes of Kenny in his two previous postseason appearances against the Yankees and the A's, I'm not sure whether you said something was noticed or something wasn't noticed about possible use of something. Were there any suspicions raised by looking at that tape?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, 90 percent of the concentration on those tapes is trying to get an idea of how this guy is so successful and what have to do to beat him. But there was one shot that the cameras caught that you notice. It looks a little different. And that's pretty much what it was. And it really wasn't -- we had a hitters' meeting yesterday and that wasn't even discussed. But what happened was in the first inning I guess they got a shot of it and TV started talking about it and players thought it was worth mentioning and I did what I thought was right.

Q. Are you saying something was noticed in one of the previous appearances against either the A's or the Yankees?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's what I said, we watched tapes of his other starts.

Q. You were walking around Busch Stadium in the stands, what were you doing?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, mostly I've been here since early on, and I didn't want to be here this early, playing the ticket game. And I've got a lot of friends and family coming in and I was looking to see where they were sitting (laughter). So that if I hear compliments or gripes I can say, well, I may make some late switches, my sister is coming in.
I was just looking to where they were sitting and seeing if I had to do something different from the way they've been assigned.

End of FastScripts...

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