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October 27, 2011

Tony La Russa


Q. Skip was saying that you guys have been here for basically two months before, your backs against the wall. Your thoughts?
TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I think that's one plus we have going for us, we've played this game -- literally we've played it a couple, three times, and there have been a bunch of other times we knew we couldn't lose another game that soon. If we lose another couple, the thing is over. So guys have responded. We'll respond today. They may be good enough to beat us, but we'll be ready.

Q. I guess we have to know what you thought of Moneyball.
TONY LA RUSSA: Good acting. (Laughter). I'm serious. Good acting. I mean, I was offended because of what the book represented, and I know a lot of those guys were portrayed -- I knew a few of those guys as scouts. It's strains the credibility a little bit. They won 20 in a row, qualify for the playoffs, go two up on the Yankees, and there wasn't anything in the movie except a brief about Miguel and Eric, the three starters, Billy Koch. It was about a couple of trades and turning Scott into a first baseman. That club was carried by those guys that were signed, developed the old-fashioned way. That part wasn't enjoyable because it's a nice story but it is not accurate enough.

Q. I probably know the answer I'm going to get, but is there any different answer today than yesterday for a starter for tomorrow's game?
TONY LA RUSSA: The only different thing would be Dave and I talked about it a couple days ago because we had to, and I said based on playing it yesterday and today we were excited about how we could pitch it and have a chance to win if we got there. The only difference has been an extra day, so Chris was not part of that conversation. If we win, he would be. But we were still very excited if we could get there that we could pitch and compete.

Q. Yesterday you gave kind of an elegant, kind of counter ideal to the Moneyball stuff. Over the last ten years do you think that's grown popular, the idea of numbers dominating the sport, has that been hard to live with at all, given the way you came up and the way you do your job? Not that you don't care about numbers but just the dominance of it? Has it been hard to watch it take over the sport?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's been hard because guys have lost their jobs. Scouting staffs have been reduced, their importance have been reduced. That's hard. I mean, you've got to be careful because I think about when I first came in the league years ago and I had no experience, I was a lousy player with no managing experience, you had all these great guys who managed for years, so preparation was the only way that myself and my staff could survive, so we were looking for everything. I think a lot of those stats and tools, they're helpful when you prepare.
But they eliminate to a great degree the human element, which is a big part of every day that you play. Wherever those numbers are, that's one starting place, and then you look at how a guy feels. Some of those stats about you don't bunt, let me tell you something, some of these guys, you want to sit there and try to get three hits, you're never going to score. And the better teams you play, like in the playoffs, you'd better find a way to advance the runner.
Handling the bullpen, I can remember that, they had this concept there wasn't anything special about the ninth-inning pitcher, they were going to pitch your closer in the seventh. Well, the guys pitching in the seventh are coming up in the ninth and the ninth is different. I don't know any team now, even the ones that tried it, have not gone back to understanding that the ninth is different, your closer, and then you build around it.
My opinion is I think a lot of people, a lot of people, not just fans, but owners, they gave it way too much credibility as far as how you scout, how you develop, and then how you end up playing in the Big Leagues. It's a nice tool, but that's all it is. It's not even as important as the human characteristic that you have to think about all the time when you play the game.

Q. Would you discuss your approach to Colby Lewis tonight and the advantage that both teams have a little bit of, having seen the other starter now once?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, that's a great question coming in and probably the mystery that we'll see very soon. Both guys pitch very effectively. I watched the game now several times, and they both did some really good things to get key outs. They also had some pitches they got towards the middle that neither the team really capitalized on because they're just not familiar. So it'll be interesting to see with one actual game and three or four -- two or three at-bats how each team adjusts to the other guy. And I don't think that either one of those two guys will get away with mistakes, but they're both capable of pitching.
Hitters will have a better chance. I think the weather still is going to favor the pitcher.

Q. If I told you in February the night you got the news on Wainwright, that you would have been in Game 6 of the World Series at home, needing to win two, would you have believed it and would you have taken that scenario?
TONY LA RUSSA: I would have kissed your butt at home plate Opening Day if I would have believed you. (Laughter).
Yeah, that's easy, man, being here, two wins away from the world championship. It's been -- and you understand it. We have mugged a couple of chances to be in a better position, but there were a lot of times you could have asked about just playing the first game in October and that would have been true. We've had a lot of fun. We've popped champagne three times, and we're going to try our best to get the fourth one.

Q. In retrospect are you good with that game being postponed yesterday? That would have been one that you would have played most nights here regular season.
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think it was a perfect decision. I mean, I think when you consider the fans, the quality of the baseball, we could have endured it and they could have endured it, but that's the beauty of playing the last series, isn't it? You're not trying to worry about what's happening in the other league, and it was by far the best decision, and there was enough -- it may not have stormed here, but there was enough ugly weather that it would have been very messy and uncomfortable. And we both benefitted exactly the same way.

Q. Having seen you over the last couple weeks, do you find yourself more relaxed as things go on in October, or does it get more intense?
TONY LA RUSSA: I've been asked that a couple times. I don't do a lot of checking on myself, but this is what you tell the players, and it applies to all of us, a coach, you get here for your first time and it's real kind of apprehensive, what's it going to be like, not just on the field, but you've got tickets -- a lot of stuff. You get after your first one, well, I got through it but I missed some of the enjoyment. So we're telling our guys, you've got to stop and look around and enjoy, even in your first one. But the big reason is every time you go in and you know how good it's going to be, it gets better.
Postseason never disappoints, even just getting in and playing the Division Series and losing. You get to the World Series, this is the most enjoyment you can have, our whole staff, our club to the extent they can appreciate it, I'm enjoying it more than ever. I don't know if that makes a difference, but I always enjoy this part. Most exciting, best part.

Q. When you're going through the decision process for the starter tomorrow and especially when it relates to how Carp is involved in the decision, are you looking at how his last start on three days' rest went and what all goes into play looking at him for tomorrow?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's an easy question to answer because the only thing that comes into it is recognizing that when and if we have the opportunity to talk about Carp's name it will be there before it wouldn't be there, and that is it. We are not going beyond this game. This is too important.
I hope to have the problem, and all I've said is we liked -- we had a little planning and we like our chances, and now with Carp to be considered, but we're not -- Dave and I didn't spend one second today talking about tomorrow. Not one.

Q. A handful of guys for both teams are playing through injuries. When you're looking to make a decision on inserting a guy into a lineup, aside from the physical, what mentally are you looking for from a player before deciding to put him in a lineup?
TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, there is a difference in -- I don't know how to describe it, toughness, pain tolerance, and they're tough guys because they have no fear, but it gets in their head that if they're at X percent less, it's going to affect them, and some other guys just discount it. And I don't really put it to toughness, I just put it to whatever -- however you're connected in your coconut.
I think the thing you ask is, if it's a guy who's sore that can get hurt, you're probably not going to push him. If it's just soreness, guys deal with that for six months, and it's just -- they ignore it.

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