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Tony La Russa pregame interview

Tony La Russa pregame interview

Tell us about your outfield today and your thinking behind who is starting and where.

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, Chris is going to play right field. He's more comfortable there. Hitting in front of Albert, he's got potential to do some damage. Jimmy in the four slot. The tough call was in leftfield. Both Preston and So are playing inspired baseball, and flipped a coin and came up So.

If there's a Game 6, who will you start?

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TONY LA RUSSA: No chance to get that answer (laughter.)

You're on the verge of winning the world championship, can you talk about your mood a few hours before the game. Are you excited, are you trying to play it down? What are you going to tell the players?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, as soon as the game was over yesterday, the club's attitude, and we've gotten to the win that moves us forward, this will be the third time, so we've had some experience with this. And the frame of mind of the club is outstanding. You've just got to keep doing what you've been doing. The thing is we know that the Tigers will be ready to play. We'll be ready to play and then you play the game. But part of the fun is being excited. I'm not trying to -- our club is not trying to be cool, and what's the big deal? This is a very exciting tournament to be a part of and to be in this position. But we understand. They've got their pitching lined up and they're saying the right things. I think we're saying the right things, so let's go play.

Jim Leyland told us last night that he would not pitch Kenny Rogers in the game tonight under any circumstances, quote, unquote, he doesn't want him to pitch in this atmosphere. Considering they have to win or go home, and he has the hottest pitcher in baseball on full rest, are you surprised that they're worried about the atmosphere would overcome him here?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, let me tell you, however Jim figures it, I guarantee you that's as good as you can figure it. He knows his ballclub, he knows the game. He considers everything, he goes very deep with all his decisions. And I think the thing that he said makes the most sense. He's got pitching lined up, if they play three games. And they have to get all three games played to have a chance. I don't see where there's really an issue. I think the only thing -- this is the Midwest, St. Louis, probably if Rogers is going to pitch in a visiting park and get less hostility than some place else, it would be here. Our fans are respectful.

If I could follow-up on that: Knowing you, he said, "We have to win three games." And I can't imagine you saying that. I can only imagine you saying, we have to win one game, and then another game and another game. So can it be dangerous to look ahead and say we have to win three, instead of just playing for tonight?

TONY LA RUSSA: I guarantee you what Jim told you and what he told his team are different. He probably told them -- he's just giving you a brief look at -- he told his team, we've got to win. We've got to win one before you can two or three. Trust me, they're saying all right things and they're including Jim. They are thinking all the right things. They will be ready to play. We know they take care of business. Our responsibility is to take care of the Cardinal business, and understand how ready they are to play. We need to be as ready to play as we can be, and then you play the game.

How much different does your lineup look? What has it done to your lineup to have both Rolen and Edmonds hitting the ball as well at the same time as we've seen them in I don't know how many weeks or months it's been?

TONY LA RUSSA: I go back to 2000, when Jim is swinging well we're one different looking offensive club. Ever since Scott's been here, when Scott is swinging well, we're a -- when they're both swinging well, with the other guys, then we have a chance to break through against -- no matter what park, what conditions, whatever pitcher. But this game, we talk about this all the time, this game is all about what's next and the fact that we play to this and guys that pitched and hit, it's always what you do next. We've got a next one more time.

Chris Carpenter has never pitched on three days' rest, how much does that factor into your decision on what he may or may not do tomorrow?

TONY LA RUSSA: I would say it's something that you note. I don't think in his career it was important to bring him out with three days' rest. The situation he's in now makes you consider it. I answered that the other day by saying that we seriously considered whether it was the Championship Series or this series, if it had been lined up with Chris the first day, we were thinking about pitching him with three days' twice. Typical 1, 4, 7, as the ace. I think there's very little doubt in our minds that if this game was over and we're down 2-3, he would pitch on three days' rest. But we're not in that situation, so right now it's just all about today.

Before you took the job here in St. Louis, there were other offers that you were considering. You had some discussions with Baltimore. How serious were those talks ever and do you ever think about how your life might have been different if you had made a different decision?

TONY LA RUSSA: I was in the American League, I wanted to stay in the American League. As I said before, Sparky, who I respect as much as anyone, told me, "Before you leave, you've got to manage in the National League. You'll enjoy it." I did everything else Sparky said, so I assumed I was going to do that. Biggest problem in Baltimore, and I was intrigued by that history, not to go back too far, I had a good relationship with Cal. But the day I met there, I would never discuss a managerial job unless that job was vacant. And I thought it was and when I found out that Phil Regan was still under contract, I got back home and said, I better not be considering it.

If you guys win the World Series, do you think that would do anything to change the perception of the National League compared to the American League right now?

TONY LA RUSSA: You know the way I'd like to answer that, we get the next win, I would look forward to considering that. But right now consistent with what our club is saying, what our coaches are saying, what I'm saying, there's no if. This is continue to play and find a way to win a game, and then we'll happily look at stuff like that.

We didn't have a chance to follow up on this last night, I don't remember the exact wording, but you said something like Eckstein has more guts or more heart than you've ever seen in a uniform. What goes into that characterization?

TONY LA RUSSA: That's not to disrespect other guys that -- I can remember Carney Lansford in Oakland was -- go back and back, guys over the years, but to me what separates David is his stature. He's not especially big and especially strong, and he gets beat up. And if you're bigger and stronger, maybe, it still hurts, but you have a chance to deal with the blows a little more. And he is just a man of iron. I look at way guys slide into him and the way they beat him up and everything else he does and the way he responds, I think he's the toughest guy I've ever seen.

What have you been told about the weather, if anything?

TONY LA RUSSA: Haven't heard from MLB yet. I've heard all throughout the day that there's a good chance that by game time we won't be dealing with significant rain, we'll be dealing with a lot of wind, a lot of cold and the field will not have had a chance to dry out.

Arguably on paper the '04 team was more talented than this one, why do you think this one has had success in the World Series where the other one didn't?

TONY LA RUSSA: You know, one of the neat things about this, and that's why you go into it, you realize it, baseball repays the team that plays the best. And that's why sometimes you get this, sounds like sour grapes, and the team that loses, look at their talent, they beat us, but we're the better team, kind of on paper. But you play better, you win. I forget, I was talking to somebody the last couple of days and I knew I had a little understanding of it, but they really kind of trotted out all these teams with the best record that didn't get the final prize, and it just proves it. You get into October, three out of five, four out of seven, a game or two a pivotal. If it goes against you, you can get beat. I'll never forget my first experience with that, in '83 I thought we were a really good club against Baltimore. Baltimore had a really good club and we got beat. In '88 it wasn't that the Dodgers weren't good, they were beat up. Gibson didn't play, Scioscia was hurt, they couldn't pitch Hershiser right away. We had a really good team and they beat us in five. I watched that game, and every time they had to execute, they executed, and we couldn't. I remember, oh, yeah, I learned. The team that plays the best wins. And that means they're the best in that game or that series. So that's the mystery of these short playoffs. You play better baseball, you have a chance to win. That's what we've got to do tonight, we've got to play better than the Tigers.

They say you never are supposed to ask a parent who their favorite child is, and maybe time has to be part of the element of the conversation as well, but do you think ten years from now or ten years when you're done, there might be a team that you actually will look upon and not the end result, but the team itself, be one you'll be able to deem the one you had the most fun with or the team you enjoyed the most?

TONY LA RUSSA: That's a great question. I know one answer is even teams that haven't played in October, I've had great respect, great affection for, and I could name several, because I think they over -- we shouldn't have been .500, we were .500; we should have been .500, we were over .500, you know what I mean. Some of these teams that have played in October, there was no bad memory. And each one is special. So if you're leading up to, with one with 83 wins, where does it rank, just different categories. I've been really lucky over the years.

Have you enjoyed a year more, if not the team, take the team element out of it, have you ever enjoyed a year maybe more than this one, still with something left to accomplish?

TONY LA RUSSA: We lost 23 in a row one time, and that wasn't too enjoyable. I tell you what I've enjoyed, and it wasn't stuff about the underdog, because those are just labels and people have to make picks. I've enjoyed the first day in San Diego to last night. I mean the club has really gotten into it. The bench has been alive as good as I've ever been on a team, encouraging, and that's been exciting, that's been fun, to see the guys really pulling hard, trying everything they can. So in the end you have no regrets, if somebody beats you, you tip your cap. Sometimes you get discouraged and that's really been a neat part of this club. And that's why I'm confident tonight. You're going to see our best effort and they're capable of beating us, but you will see our best effort.

Are you aware that you're more emotional or at least it looks that way on TV?

TONY LA RUSSA: It's just because there are more cameras and they catch you. I'm pretty much the same as I've been.

On a daily basis you probably had to do more maneuvering and shuffling of your lineup with this team than any other postseason team you've had. Would you talk about the challenge of that and it must be rewarding to this point, because it's worked, so many different parts of it and so many different guys have stepped up and done things, it hasn't been the same people day after day?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, a good example is today. It's literally flipping the coin between So and Preston. Either one of those guys can go in there. It really hasn't been too much strategizing. Our situation is a little bit different. A lot of times the teams that get into October and then you win a series of two, your core is larger. And those are the guys you have to play, unless there's an injury or somebody is really, really off, you rest them one day. The series is too short to be messing around. With us it's been different. We've had a different situation here, and more guys were a part of it and so we've just tried to keep the same style that -- it's what our club represents.

Would you suggest Oquendo be considered for some of these managerial openings?

TONY LA RUSSA: My first experience with him several years ago, this is a really, I'm not just talking about smart, but instinctively, he's got great insights. I think he communicates real well. He loves to work. He's a great teacher. I think there's a lot to -- the guy is a great third base coach, and can be -- because you've got to manage when you coach, so that you have a feel for the game. I saw Jim do that, Rene Lachemann, so there's no doubt in my mind that Jose would be an outstanding manager. I think the key is asking Jose, because there's some baggage that attaches, and you have to make a decision where you want to go with that. But as far as qualifications, without a doubt.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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