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October 14, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. Can you give us your take on Jaime going into this start?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think it's a great question, because a lot is riding for our sake on him being effective, which is the responsibility of the starting pitcher. And the only point that I make, which is not an excuse, is he's in his second year. So a lot of things, everything that you see with Jaime that is not as great as he can be, and he can be great. It's just he's learning.
I think he's proven many times that in a clutch situation, he's got the talent and the toughness, and he's done very, very well. And every once in a while, something happens, and you're reminded that he's young. So, you know, we'll watch, and if you see that, you know, Yadi had something to say, Dunc had something to say. But he's been outstanding through his first two years, especially when you consider he's in his second year as a starter in the big leagues.

Q. These are two pretty solid rotations, and yet so far, starters, even when they have been effective have not gotten real deep into the games. How much of that do you think is the lineups? How much of that do you think is guys maybe just not being that sharp, and how much is maybe just tactical, wanting to get a bullpen guy or get a pinch hitter in there?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think the least of it is the tactical part because your starter is good; the deeper you go, the better chance you have to win. I think it's everything to do with your first point.
If you look, every inning that these guys go out there, the offensive talent that they have to face, you don't have the luxury of throwing the ball down the middle, and you know, when you pitch well, like I said yesterday, every one of these guys has struggled, they have had innings where they shut these same guys down, because they are really sharp and they command the edges and command the count. But if you get an inning or part of an inning where that command deserts you, somebody nails you, quite often.
So I think it's a heck of a challenge for the pitchers on both sides against these two lineups.

Q. Don't want to get ahead of yourself I know, but would there be anything tonight that happens that would affect your pitching choices for Sunday or Monday?
TONY LA RUSSA: Oh, please, that's -- I mean, one of the exciting things about getting this far is that we have Edwin (Jackson) and Chris (Carpenter) for 6 and 7. They are there and they are not going to pitch in relief today.

Q. Baseball is not necessarily, at least regular season, home-field advantage, disadvantage, kind of sport, and yet, that seems to change in the post-season a little bit. Certainly in some cases, more than others, the Twins old ballpark being an example. Is there something about Milwaukee's ballpark or the environment there that is -- that makes it a tough place to play?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think part of the reason that it's not a big factor in the post-season is because of the eight teams that get in are good teams, which means that they had to have been good or competitive on the road, and they are not intimidated by it.
I think an important part is that the fans have gotten very excited about their ballclub and they have done it little by little. Three or four years ago when the young guys were there, they showed some and got more excited and more excited and they got in the playoffs, it all fit. They are a legitimate contender. Front office made some really good moves and their team was as good as anybody and they were expecting a good season; they had a great season.
Fans are confident; players feel their confidence, and it's an edge. It's an edge when you go in and play against them that you have to overcome.

Q. We are at the point of the series where we are going to see pitchers that are going to see the lineups more than once, obviously Jaime tonight and Edwin on Sunday. Is there an advantage to a hitter or pitcher at this juncture?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think the common-sense answer is if you are playing a playoff series against a team in another division, then you know, you've had six games probably against them, two-or-three game series, and there are going to be pitchers, starting pitchers relievers they are not familiar with, so that's an advantage to the pitchers.
When you play each other 22 times, except Edwin's case joining us later, but they saw them in Arizona. These hitters know the pitchers, Greinke from the American League and we played against him in Kansas City. It's a matter of hitters knowing hitters and pitchers knowing pitchers -- you know what I mean, and who executes the best. And I mean every at-bat, not just in part of the game. I think it's even.

Q. McGwire, last night, I asked him about the struggles with runners in scoring position, and he described, in my words, there's a bit of a hero complex in the post-season; that they want to be the guy that drives in the big run that has the big hit. I wonder how you fight that sort of human nature, and whether or not some of the changes that we see in your lineup like Holliday to No. 5 or Freese batting sixth tonight after going seven for so long is part of that, is part of how you fight that urge guys may have to expand the zone or force the issue and be the hero.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think if you just ask about our guys, the move with Matt is just, I think a common-sense thing. I never forget, these guys are men. What you always want to do is you want to get them into a pressure situation, you want them prepared for it and to get into it when it's fair. That's why you try to rest pitchers during the year so they have some gas left at the end, your starting pitchers.
But in Matt's case, he came into this pressure-filled time and he did not have the right prep. And putting him in the four-spot, which I've done behind Albert, is I think is unfair; unfair to him, unfair to us, so he's going to hit fifth.
Yadi was in the last, in our spurt was probably as good or better than anybody we had in clutch, so move David to seven, our lineup gets deeper, now he's hitting six or seven. I don't think there's a big difference. David is having very good at-bats and I think he gives better protection to Matt.
But as far as the hero, I think Mark's right, because that's human nature. You want to be the guy that comes through and you want to do more against pitchers that will take advantage of that.
But, you know, you always look at your club. If you look at the other clubs, when they get beat, they didn't hit with men in scoring position. That's just -- that's why it's a constant battle between the pitcher and the hitter. The pitcher that executes the best has the best chance. The team that makes mistakes usually gets hurt. Everybody has a hero complex. You just talk about it, just execute your fundamentals, good pitch-to-hits, stay within yourself, do the best you can.

Q. I know you are as prepared and as intense as always, and I don't want to debunk the myth that you never have fun, but people around you sense that you have been having more fun now. In this surprise run have you been loose or have you enjoyed this more than anything in a while?
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, we need to debunk that as fast as I can.
I always look in the dugout, I haven't even Ron (Roenicke) telling jokes or -- I never see the other managers or coaches messing around. I think I said a lot, from the first day of spring training, it's a special group of guys, and in the end, how you compete, it's going to put the nail on it. But if we were not real competitive, but we tried hard, it would still be a really good experience, because there isn't a jerk on the club.
But when we went through there, in a sense it's historic, I've heard it said, and it probably is, the comeback, that puts -- when this club gets together years from now, they will go, hey, remember what we did. It has been more fun.
You know what it is, somebody asked me the other day, it's more enjoyable, because we are doing it and we are hanging in there and we have done some really great things. We have had some major screw ups that haven't beaten us. So I'm enjoying it and I'm enjoying the club a lot. Just enjoying them in a different way from some of the other clubs that got to October.

Q. Lance is in there, so obviously he is at the very least playable, but how iffy, how questionable is his situation?
TONY LA RUSSA: Not at all. He could have played yesterday. It's just a bruise, so it's sore. I'll venture to say that of the 16 position players, they all are sore. If you hit him on a bone, hit him right in the knee -- he's fine.

Q. Along the lines of the earlier questions about enjoying things, when Carp was in here the other night, he said that he was appreciating the big moments and he said that you have to because you don't know if you're going to get them again, and the whole thing with Holliday and this was enjoying it and taking it all in. What kind of advice -- or how did you talk about this with some of the younger players, where this is their first playoff experience, so they can enjoy it, but at the same time, going about things so that they will be ready to play?
TONY LA RUSSA: What's the expression, history is replete? I saw Cal Ripken yesterday, and in 1983, he played on a team that won the World Series. If you talk to Cal, he thought that would be something that would happen at least again. Never happened again. Other guys never get into the World Series. Some guys never get into the playoffs.
The message that you want to send, and you send it consistently, first of all, the real exciting part is playing in October. To play in October, you get all of these games that are important. If you have a chance to be on a club that's got a chance to win, this may be your last chance. And it sounds a little bit coachy, but if they really challenge you, you can show them all kinds of examples.
The team may break up next year; you may have injuries. You may never have another chance to be on a club that has a chance to play in October. Once you get to October, what's the next message? Any of the eight teams can win this thing, so just let it all hang out and don't hold anything back, don't have any regrets later on and enjoy the hell out of the competition.
I really think that our club, I think Milwaukee -- think I saw a guy that I respect as much as anybody in baseball, Jerry Narron and I walked in at the same time, and we both agreed, knocking on wood, the next two or three days, I don't think it will happen, but I really think that the two clubs have competed so hard against each other. I've been reading and hearing the remarks about each other; I think it's gotten to where it's supposed to be. I think they are really good clubs. They compete the same way. I think they respect each other, and trying to beat each other's brains out, which is what makes this thing fascinating.

Q. Jerry Hairston was saying last night that when you managed the White Sox that he was running around that clubhouse so much when he was a little kid with his dad that you probably got sick of him. What do you remember about Jerry as a little kid, and in particular, the relationship that you had with the Hairston family?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, that's an emotional one, because of his grand dad. For any of you that have been around a while, Sam Hairston, not just for the White Sox, was an institution in baseball. Great, great man. And when I got to the White Sox and met Sam, he had a lot of idiosyncracies that were really neat, and whether you were the worst Minor Leaguer or the best Big Leaguer, just an amazing man.
I met his son, and then we had a unique experience -- I'll tell you quickly. During the strike of '82, Roland Hemond went to México to scout two or three guys, and young manager, he took me with him. We got rained out of a game, so we went back to the capital, and we drove all the way out, someplace out in the country to see a left-hand pitcher, a guy named Angel Moreno know who ended up signing with the Angels.
We saw a night game, Mexico City Reds were playing against the Mexico City Tigers, and I watched that game and I watched and there was this young right-handed reliever, and I said, "Roland, look at this guy." Salomon Rojas, pitched for us the next year. Maybe it was the '81 strike. And the other one was Jerry Hairston who I was running into in the Minor Leagues and he's taking these at-bats, he's in great shape, and Roland was and still is a great baseball man, very emotional, and knew Sam.
So in September, we brought Jerry up, and he lit us up as a pinch-hitter. So he was with us the next year, I forget exactly how many years he was with us, but just do anything, ready all the time. I really enjoyed Jerry, one of my favorite players, and then he had these two little kids, two little jerk kids running into my office telling me to play their dad more than I'm playing him.
I'd say, "Okay, maybe I should, but get out." I really enjoyed his family and his wife. Yeah, makes you feel real old to see Jerry, Jr. kicking our butt like he does, but I hope Sam is appreciating it.

Q. You've complimented your Minor League managers, but what have you seen exactly happened on the young guys being prepared when they come up here and what are your expectations of your Minor League managers and coaches, especially Astros and Triple-A as far as being hard on the guys and telling it like it is?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think our organization, they want the manager to be honest and they want him to be supportive and positive. You can't be positive and supportive if the guy is doing something wrong. So you have to be honest, "you gotta do this better." And you gotta show them you care and our guys do a great job of that.
Best way to develop in the Minor Leagues is just to teach them that there is a score. You're not just out there to generate some stats so you can make the next move. It's a score and a team, and our guys do a real good job of that and they put them in pressure situations and they respond.
Now it's Maloney, it's Warner. I can remember 2001, when in 2000, Gaylen Pitts had the Memphis club that went all the way to the finals there and in spring training, I wasn't sure what to do with this young guy that was tearing it up, because guys started giving me hell. I said I can play that guy in the outfield. Pitts said he could play the outfield and he's still with us playing first base.
These guys are really good, and they are -- when people ask me all the time, if you had to do one thing, what would you do, and I always give the stock answer about get rid of the DH, that's a stupid answer. I would raise the pay of the Minor League instructors. That's really the biggest thing we should be embarrassed about in our game. Our Minor League people are just -- need to make more money. They are too important.

Q. I'm still on the ballpark thing. But wonder if you had a thought about the character of their park, whether it changes with the roof on, roof off. And I know you're going to have fun either way, but --
TONY LA RUSSA: I'll enjoy it. Fun is not playing the bottom of the 9th tonight. That's fun. (Laughter.)

Q. Either way dictates a certain kind of game where it's advantageous to one team or another.
TONY LA RUSSA: The point of that, though, is what difference does it make? It has nothing to do -- MLB is going to decide based on the weather, and whatever it is, you play the game and try to win.
The ball carries there if the roof is off. It's a good hitting park. Roof on, roof off; it's just -- you've got to pitch really well to keep the ball off the barrel. And that's what we are going to have to do starting tomorrow or two days from now with Edwin.

Q. Could you just talk about how you feel you've pitched to Fielder and Braun, and if you have an opinion on either one of them possibly being the MVP in the League.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, we pitch them carefully. I mean, you know, Braun has a little bit more of an advantage because Fielder is behind him. But they always have somebody behind them. Weeks is now behind Fielder when he hits us.
No, they have had great years. I heard this answer from Reggie Jackson one time about something, who is the greatest this or that; it's just being in the conversation. If you're in the conversation, it tells you all you want to know about Braun or Fielder, and they both should be considered for MVP, and whoever gets chosen, they have had great years. If you're on that list to talk about, that's enough. And we just try to avoid, you know -- try to pitch them tough. And if you don't, they get you.

Q. From what manager or managers did you draw the most on how to deploy your bullpen during a game?
TONY LA RUSSA: Did you say manager or managers? Okay. Because actually it was a coach. Here again, long answer and short answer. The long answer is the managers I watched and played for, I learned a lot about, because -- people will find it hard to believe, I was on the '71 A's until they got rid of me, so watched Dick Williams and the way he used the bullpen and would always talk later on to the other great ones, Sparky (Anderson) and Billy (Martin), those guys knew what they were doing and they passed along the tips.
Dunc once told me, the one thing about the way you run a game bullpen wise is it's very consistent. And I follow one consistent piece of advice that Charlie Lau gave me. Met him in '63 when I was 18 years old, he was a backup catcher then, we saw each other, coached at Oakland and then at Kansas City we were together in '82 and '83. To me he's the greatest hitting coach in our time, revolutionized our game.
He would tell me, the thing that would worry him most about a hitting coach is when a manager on the other side had a bullpen and made it as tough as he could to score the inning that you were playing. And that's the basis of the philosophy that I was taught. Doesn't really conflict with the other guys that gave me their version of that, but if you get into the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning, to the extent that you have the pitchers and the lineup you're facing, you try to make it as hard as you can to score that inning.
That's why sometimes you match up two pitchers in an inning, and I know there's been some conversation about that over the years. You know, like Philadelphia, when you've got left and right or switch-hitters, same pitcher that matches up good against one guy is right into the meat of the other guy, and if you're trying to prevent scoring that inning, just so you don't make a trip -- I believe in that. If you have other clubs, more three or four rights, then you don't make the trips.
But No. 1 thing I try to do, as I've been taught, and I believe it after all of these years, is make it as hard for the other club to score the inning you're playing to the extent that you can.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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