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October 22, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. What role do you play in slowing or stopping, whatever the right word is, an opponent's running game in terms of calling slide steps, move to first, that kind of stuff?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, we allow two independent decisions. If the pitcher -- if there isn't anything that we set up, if the pitcher sees something, he can throw over if he wants to. And more importantly, if Yadi, if he already gets a sign and a guy takes his lead and he sees something, Yadi can call a pitchout if he wants to.
But there's so much to be done with just trying to figure out how to pitch to a hitter that if you really want to put the burden on the pitching staff and the catcher every time you walk into a series, what's their tendency, so I think we do it the way everybody does it. You take that responsibility off them and you try to read the situation.
I said before, the way that game got away, strategy is strategy. Somebody else could have done something else with the pitching. I did what I felt was right. But I was upset that I didn't make another -- I threw over once, I didn't defend the running game better because in the end I was more concerned about Jason throwing strikes and getting the out that Andrus was trying to give us, and I didn't feel like Kinsler would try it. So that was my screw-up. It comes to the bench.

Q. Edwin said a little while ago he thought he was too tentative last Sunday when he got roughed up a little bit in Milwaukee. Would you agree with that?
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, probably, he was trying too hard. The thing you learn over and over again, human nature is such an important part of -- I don't care how great these guys are. He went out there and he tried to be perfect. It's hard to be perfect. I think it's a good experience for him, and he'll benefit tomorrow because of it.

Q. It seems like the two questions you'll have for your lineup for the most part are second base and kind of how you do Craig and the DH. One, what goes into Ryan being the guy today, particularly given that this guy doesn't have a real big split? And two, after today, how do you kind of envision getting Craig in there and working the DH?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, I think -- have they announced Wilson for Game 5? I'm guessing -- if he is, the logical guy to get at-bats is Craig. Whether he plays right field or DH, we're going on a day-to-day basis, so that decision is going to be made. If it's a right-hander, yeah, I'm sure Schu would get at-bats.
As far as second base, Ryan has been an important part of how we got here, and he's had a really good postseason. It's a tough call when you've got to go Punto and Ryan, and we won the first game with Nick, stayed with him, and I'm just looking forward to Ryan being the American League second leadoff. He's hitting ninth at the top of our lineup.

Q. Aren't you being a little bit hard on yourself on that one play? Andrus is up there trying to bunt, and Kinsler was running on his own, it wasn't like -- it was kind of like a sequencing thing, you had to guess one way or the other and defend against one way or the other, you couldn't do both.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you could do both. Like I said, we knew what his time was; his time was a tick slow. He's got a faster one, but he was really concentrating. But if it comes up today, say it comes up to the bottom of the ninth today, it'll be harder to steal the base. He has a quicker time, and he also has a couple of different moves to first base that will cut down the lead.
In retrospect, I made a decision not to mess around with the runner because I wanted his concentration. So it wasn't like I walked around town for three hours kicking myself. But the way it was played, I know Kinsler has got the guts and the green light to try it, so I should have thrown it over again and I don't think he would have stolen successfully.

Q. It was also a spectacular slide, too.
TONY LA RUSSA: But it was a spectacular throw that made it close. Defending it better was my decision. I didn't defend it, and that's my fault.

Q. When y'all did the rookie thing, you said one of the voices that you relied on was Arthur's, and I wondered about the impression that he's made. You've often been very complimentary of him from afar, but when you have him in the room, and not just throwing but actually a presence in the room, what has that meant?
TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, I'm only sorry he was only with us two months. I hate to just keep dropping stuff but I like to do it because it's fair. Earl Weaver as a young manager said, pay attention to the guys on the other side and see how they fit in because someday you might have a chance. So for years we wanted Arthur in our ballclub, and it never worked. Now we've finally got him, and not only is he an effective pitcher, but he's got a dynamite presence, he's excited about competition, he's fun to be around. And we already had a really good situation and he added to it.

Q. Based on your many years of experience, what have you noticed in approaches to the ceremonial first pitch, how people throw it? What are some of the memorable ones you've seen? And what advice would you give to somebody making that first pitch?
TONY LA RUSSA: I'd probably give him a couple. Number one, I'd get short enough to where I wouldn't bounce it because the worst thing to do is bounce it, then you look like you don't belong. If you're going to make one of the mistakes, throw it over his head because then your arm is just strong, not weak. So I'd get like from here to Barry and I would make sure -- if I ever have to throw one, here, here it is. The farther you get back then you invoke the second rule, over, not under. Like Dirk, I think he can just take one big step and hand it from the mound. (Laughter).

Q. There's a school of thought that pitching changes in the American League games can be a bit more complicated because where the pitcher's spot in the lineup won't dictate the move. What's your take on that? What differences do you see in decisions on pitchers in American League games?
TONY LA RUSSA: I totally agree with you. I went over to the National League, and after two, three, four years, whatever it was, I realized, wow, and I said it and people looked at me -- most people looked at me like, you can't be serious. There's an assumption that somehow pitching in the National League is tougher. It's not, it's easier. It's never easy anyplace, and the reason it's tougher in the American League is every decision that you make about the pitcher is based on your evaluation of who should pitch, how long the guy in there should pitch and who you should bring in. There are times, a lot of times it's a really close call. You're splitting some really fine hairs. In the National League just enough times to make a difference, about the time, all right, what -- a spot comes up and you've got to hit, and you don't have to make that decision. You never have that decision taken away from you in the American League.
So I think it's -- and then if a guy is pitching really well, you've got to be really careful that you don't burn him out and hurt him because sometimes in the National League you may have Chris Carpenter in a Cy Young year and he'll pitch six or seven and you're down three to -- it's your chance to score and he doesn't pitch. American League, happens all the time. Handling pitching in the American League I think is tougher.

Q. It's been well documented about your friendships and relationships with some of the different coaches in the different sports. When you get to a stage like this, do you guys pick each other's brains about how you deal with
championship week and the stage and all the different distractions? And what have you been able to learn and share from some of these guys along the way?
TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, I've explained this, people who are around me, I think it's one of the neatest perks of the time I've been around is that I've established a relationship or a friendship with some of these guys. They're fascinating. They're so much different than they come across. We were talking about Belichick in the room. Bill gets in front of this, and he says, yes, no. If you get Bill in a social setting, he is charming, and we have the best time. Most of the time if you ever get to one of those dinners, they're talking and I'm listening because there's some good stuff.
I went to dinner with Rick Carlisle last night and I asked him about what we do to get an edge in this series, and he said, hand the ball to Dirk. And I said, I can't do that. (Laughter). He said, This is Dallas, I can't be telling the Cardinals how to beat the Rangers.
But I don't know how to describe it. It's fascinating stuff, and every once in a while somebody who's just visiting comes and you walk away just shaking your head. How neat these guys are, first, secondly, how interesting.
And in the end probably the most important play I could make, especially with a professional coach, and even in college because guys are already starting to get distracted with their futures, about me is me, but a lot of the conversations go to what each guy is doing to get guys' attention and bring him into the team instead of getting my minutes, getting my numbers, and everybody -- hey, this is what I do this works. And it's been a very helpful exchange over the years. I've learned a lot, and the next year I'll take it over and try to tweak it. But it's great. I mean, it's the most fun I have other than being with family is having time with these guys.

Q. What are some of those things that you learn from them, though?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you can learn how to keep your message fresh and keep guys from being distracted in a team sport. This is not golf or tennis. This is about our team. Guys listen to agents, family, friends. They've got ears, and when you stand up and talk about team, it's just a coach speaking. There are ways you've got to break through there, and I've gotten some really good tips over the years.

Q. With a fresh bullpen, how quick are you to the trigger bringing a guy like Westbrook into the game early? And how slow to the trigger would you be bringing him in in an open-ended extra-inning situation?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think if it's a close game or they're scoring and you think it's time to get Kyle, if we're scoring, too, I think it's a bullpen game, not a Westbrook game. I don't think that's a good situation for him. If it's something other than that, I mean, he's definitely a weapon that we think we have, and we just -- it wouldn't be I don't think to come in in the middle of an inning. We've got a lot of depth in our relievers and we should handle it that way. There's two or three places that Jake would help, and we'll see if it comes up or not.

Q. From your very small sample of playing in this park, does it influence at all how you run a game?
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, you mean, you've got to factor it in. Just like playing at Wrigley and the wind blowing out, this is a big ballpark here. It does carry some, but one of the advantages is it's a big outfield, so you get bloopers that fall. You've got an edge offensively, and you don't want to give up outs. But if you're facing a guy that's just shutting you down, then the little ball is something that you can't get away from. I probably wouldn't do it today, but if Colby Lewis was pitching against us and Furcal lead off with a double in this ballpark, I'd probably bunt Jon Jay. If I get one shot then bunt. You just have to play the game in situations and trust your gut.

Q. You are something like 40-some odd regular season wins behind John McGraw. How much will that influence whether you come back to manage again next year?
TONY LA RUSSA: It's about 2012 -- we've got a deal with our club. We don't talk about anything beyond our season, and it's worked really well for our guys to concentrate, and I'm not going to upset them by breaking them. That was part of putting the rule in.

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