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October 8, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. Just in general is it kind of karma that you end up going against the Milwaukee Brewers the way the series went this season, the temperament, the way you guys were so competitive, that the stakes be this high?
TONY LaRUSSA: I don't think there's any script for this. I think four teams got in from our League and you could have mixed in the different combinations. It happened to be us and the Brewers in the same division.
What that adds is we play each other a lot this season. That's just the postseason, you can never predict who's going to go to the next round and who's going to leave this one.

Q. Could you comment on Zack Greinke and what you saw in him during the season, what you expect from him tomorrow?
TONY LaRUSSA: Saw him a little bit in the American League. High quality starter, a lot of ways to get a hitter out, very competitive. Kind of what you expect to face when you get into October.
Our goal will be the same thing. There's talent out there, there's talented hitters, we'll try to beat them in numbers.

Q. We know being around you how much you like to mix the guys from the bench early on, and then you get into that situation where the guys that play the best play the most. How much of that do you think carries over when you have to call on them in the postseason, even if they haven't seen a lot of time, but because they have experience early in the season and got regular playing time, that benefits them this time of year?
TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I've talked to managers for years, and I think we're all a product of who teaches us. Different guys are taught different methods. I was taught use the whole roster, for a lot of good reasons. One of them is -- especially in the National League, you're going to need them, whether it's slumps, injuries, playing short one day.
National League, guys come off the bench. And so to be fair, they have to do something so they can be a part of the action. I think our season is so long the everyday guys need a mental and physical break. So we play a lot of guys as much as we can.
The other thing besides that is they feel like they're contributors. It's not nine or ten guys and the other two or three are on their coattails. That's what I was taught. That's what we believe in. If we get this far, there's one guy on the roster that hasn't wanted several -- won more than several games for us.

Q. What you did against them pretty well was contain the guys at the heart of the order. How big a part of winning this is that going to be? How big a priority is it going to be to make sure those guys don't beat you?
TONY LaRUSSA: It's a formula, I don't care if it's a regular season contest, American League Championship Series. You know, they had the season lead on us for a while because they shut down some of our key hitters. And then we did better later on shutting their guys down, so it evened up.
The key guys are the ones the club is built around, and if they produce, lift, and if you can get them out, it makes it tougher. So your attitude is the same. Their attitude is the same. We hope our guys are hot and theirs are not.

Q. You've talked about Albert a lot. With all the pressure that you came in on this free agent year this year, how has he responded to it?
TONY LaRUSSA: I think the mistake we could make is to think that it's been a different pressure this year. Since his rookie season, we said, are you for real? He had to prove it over and over. He signed a big contract, and are you satisfied, and we backed off and he gets better and better. And he handled it perfectly in Spring Training. We talked about it the first day in Spring Training, and he said no more, didn't want to be a distraction.
He got off to a start this year, it was tough for whatever reasons, but ended up having a banner year. He's just immune. He's so strong between the ears, he knows exactly what he's responsible for, who he's responsible to and he will not back off that.

Q. You talk about Jaime Garcia and what he's meant to the staff and what you're looking for out of him tomorrow.
A. Sometimes it's hard to remember this is just his second year as a starter. Because in his rookie year, and again this year, there's been so many times, like the playoffs start against Philly, you look at him and you think you're looking at a guy that's been in the Major Leagues as a starter with that responsibility for years.
He's a very talented young man. He's a terrific worker. And when he's got his delivery together, he's got a lot of ways to get hitters out. And he's still learning. He's going to get better than this. When he gets a little out of whack, you learn I've got to do this or that. And he's helped the catchers out of this world, helping. And our pitching coaches, really good, too.
But he's been amazing to be this effective, no matter what your stuff is, in some of the games he's pitched the first two years. He's just a very special talent and competitor.

Q. There's a perception that these two teams don't really like one another. Do you acknowledge that? What do you do this week, do you embrace that? Is there a reset button?
TONY LaRUSSA: I think rarely do you find that comment when teams are not in the same division. You play two series, spark may fly here, and then you don't see them until -- I think within a division, it's kind of common. In this case we play 18 games, sometimes 15. It happens all the time. The only time it doesn't happen is when one or both teams don't compete. And that's pretty boring.
So they play hard. We play hard. We're both interested in the outcome and sometimes sparks fly.
I think the idea is to play the game. There's a lot at stake. And there isn't anything that happened last year, this year, that wasn't explainable just because that's baseball.

Q. Philadelphia was the favorite going into the postseason. The way you got to the postseason, the way you got so far, do you have a psychological advantage that they don't have to see Philadelphia?
TONY LaRUSSA: I can't speak for the Brewers. I think they're committed to doing the best they can whoever they play. Going in against Philadelphia it was going to be a fun competition, because they really compete hard, hard, at a very high level, no BS. It's just who's better.
If there's one thing we learned over the years, the eight teams in, any team can beat the other in a short series. If you make the right pitches and it goes your way -- it went that way against Philadelphia. We're coming against the Brewers knowing they're ready, we're ready and you're going to compete.
They have to answer whether they're relieved to play us instead of Philadelphia. I can't answer for them.

Q. Nyjer Morgan was saying that he tries to be entertaining. Does he fit in with Mark Fidrych and a whole roster of folks, Reggie Jackson, does he fit in as being entertaining and bringing the fans to the game?
TONY LaRUSSA: I'm not sure how to answer that. I think this is an entertainment competition, athletic competition. I think people like personalities. I think there's a line you shouldn't cross, as anybody -- does anybody who is entertaining cross it? I really don't get into it much at all.
I think what you get into is what you observe. I crossed the line the other day with the umpires. We all make a mistake here or there because of the heat of the moment.
But he's a talented guy who makes things happen and we have to try to not let things happen against us. Beyond that I don't have an opinion.

Q. Similarly, you have been critical in the past of the way the Brewers have gone about their business.
TONY LaRUSSA: Explain that, give me some examples.

Q. Maybe just a little bit more braggadocios?
TONY LaRUSSA: I never said a word about them.

Q. I would say at the end of the day it's working for them. There is an acceptance of that on your part, correct?
TONY LaRUSSA: I have never, ever said anything about the Milwaukee Brewers. I've never said anything about their celebrations, anything else. They're tough to play against.
Sometimes in whatever the competition -- I'm for the Cardinals. That's who I'm supposed to be responsible for. Just like Ron is for the Brewers. I don't get into making judgments on them. You take care of your club, they take care of theirs.

Q. Does it matter if the dome is open or closed? And on an 80-degree day in October should it really be open?
TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I understand from this afternoon it's going to be open tomorrow. So whatever -- I think what matters is that the condition is the same for both teams. If it's shut and you've got lights you don't have to worry about shadows. As long as it's the same for both teams.
If you're lucky enough to get an 80-degree day in October, I think you want fresh air.

Q. In past years we've talked about the difference between baseball and BS. Given what's happened this year, some of the stuff that's happened between the two teams, does it rise to the level that's something addressed now or does everybody understand that it's a different stage, a different situation?
TONY LaRUSSA: Give me an example of what you're talking about.

Q. Last time we were home, what happened between Carp and the outfielder there.
TONY LaRUSSA: Well, I think I've already explained it. Teams are competing hard. You want the competition to go your way. They want it to go their way. It's not a very entertaining game, entertainment, if both teams are kind of blah and whatever happens, happens, man. So you want guys to be emotional.
That's the argument I use with the umpires all the time. Can you cut the players some slack sometimes because you want them to care about what's happening.
So when guys are emotional, like I say, there's a line generally kind of a little fuzzy that all of us look at. And if you cross the line, then that's a little bit different.
But like I say, whether it's -- you're talking about the Brewers, it's just competing. And I don't think there's a carryover to the next day, much less when you start playing for the National League championship.

Q. You won't discuss the line here with these guys?
TONY LaRUSSA: If you ask me about that one, I didn't think there was anything there except that, you know, I think Morgan's got a revved up motor, and sometimes he gets excited.
I think in Carp's case, Carp is a warrior competitor. There isn't any team in baseball that wouldn't welcome, including the Brewers, on their team. He's golden. But he doesn't get into BS and he doesn't tolerate BS, which I think is a very good attitude.

Q. Along those same lines, Zack Greinke came in a minute ago and he said that a lot of the Brewers' guys don't like Chris Carpenter in his eyes because "his attitude out there sometimes is like a phony attitude." What's your take on Carpenter and a comment like that?
TONY LaRUSSA: Very disappointed that Greinke would say that. Just praised him a little bit ago. I don't know him a lot, but I always thought he was a high character, classy guy. That's a bad comment to make unless you know Chris Carpenter.
Our attitude is we look at ourselves and we grade ourselves. And even if we don't like what's happening on the other side, we don't make a -- it's not our business, unless somebody crosses the line.
So I think the Brewers should take care of their players and their comments and not be concerned about other players and comments. But like I said at the beginning, I said it purposefully, if they had Chris Carpenter, they would be cheering for him and believing in him and they would not allow somebody that was a teammate to make a crack like that.
But Greinke is not his teammate, so I'm disappointed. If you knew him, none of that stuff is true. He doesn't give bullshit. He doesn't take it. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Q. Let's talk about Pujols from the standpoint of how they pitched to him during the regular season, how effective they were early. Do you expect them to change strategy, and it's postseason and he's hotter, and will you, from a managerial standpoint, from a pitching standpoint, change up the way you pitch to Braun and Fielder during the regular season?
TONY LaRUSSA: That's the fun of having to play a team in the postseason that's in your division. It usually doesn't happen until the LCS. We've got a lot of at-bats against each other. They're going to try out what they think was getting them out, maybe they see some differences, maybe they change it.
Albert needs to make an adjustment. He got Lance out. We're going to do the same thing. These are quality hitters. And the reason they're quality hitters is they make adjustments. The hitter has to stay ahead of the pitchers, the pitchers stays ahead of the hitter. In the end, it's real simple, I want our hitters to stay out of their adjustments and I want their hitters to be behind our adjustments. It's real simple.

Q. How would you characterize the offensive approach against the Phillies the entire series? It seemed like a lot of times you talked about all season, either good or bad, was very consistent, positive in that series, and to that extent is that what you want to see carried forward in this series?
TONY LaRUSSA: The approach has been simple. The one thing that helped as a team, and I'll take it to hitters, but when you're behind like we were with just enough games to play, I mean, you've got to play it like it's the last one you're going to play. And the urgency was good for us and we had fun doing it.
When you face a really top-shelf pitcher, who is a great competitor, and I think we're going to face that type of pitcher with the Brewers, your best shot is to have all eight guys compete to the best of their ability and you hope 8 against 1 you break through.
That's all we tried to do with the Phillies, just compete, like Roy [Halladay] and Cliff [Lee] and Cole [Hamels]. I hate to use their first names, because I don't know them. But just compete.
And the better the pitcher, the harder you have to compete to have a chance to break through. There's four teams left. Everybody is going to have a really good pitcher against them. We're going to just compete, see if we're good enough.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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