10/19/06 6:45 PM ET
Tony La Russa pregame interview
La Russa talks about preparing for Game 7
By / MLB.com
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I like the positive opening question, that's for sure. (Laughter.)
Trying to figure which one of my superstitions I'd screw up if I answer the thing. (Laughter.)
It's just I follow it religiously, we get beat, I do the opposite, I mess it up.
We've talked a little bit about it. Whether it would be Jason or Anthony, that's the question. Only add one guy unless you have to.
With so many different players on your team kind of scuffling at the plate right now, has it made it a challenge on a day to day basis to figure out who to play and who not to play? And particularly, it looks like I know Scott had a double, but overall, he's really been scuffling.
TONY LA RUSSA: That's a great question, because it's kind of a unique situation. If you look at our lineup, we've got a bunch of guys on the bench, like Miles got his when he's played a little bit, Taguchi has gotten hits, Duncan has had great swings, Spiezio. I think Rolen is interesting, and I actually looked at that last at bat 20 times when I got to the ballpark because I'm convinced in my own mind that his struggles are more needing to make an adjustment in his approach than they are his shoulder. Because he's got to that stroke area, however you describe it, and that's a good looking swing that he can repeat productively.
Just, you know, he's like all hitters. When you're used to doing something, it's tough to change. You know, in his case, I think it's more making an adjustment, a swing adjustment, than it is a shoulder. The other guys, you know, they have had their moments. I mean, every guy has had something they have done, whether it's the second baseman, shortstop, centerfielder, the right fielder, the left fielder, they have all had their moments, but we really haven't had a game yet in the first six where right through the game, offensively, it looked like we were stringing a lot of great at bats.
Certainly when guys pitch well against you, that's part of it. But just the quality at bats, and today is our last chance in this series, and it would be -- I think it will be an important part of how we have to win the competition.
We're going to have to better approaches and better results. You just can't count on shutting these guys out again.
Did you personally do anything different to prepare for Game 7 today? And maybe could you talk about how your past experiences in Game 7s that you've been involved in have prepared you for today?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, actually, briefly, I really don't think that the coaches or the manager, they are not it's not really important how we prepare or what's going on with any of us.
I will say, the only thing I will say because it directly affects the lineup, I spent a lot of time last night, early this morning, you know, this is our last shot to win this series, trying to figure out what's the best lineup. I've played around with a bunch of them and that's mostly how I spent my time.
Now, as far as going into the game, you've got to win four times. So I approach this one as far as concentration all that stuff, just like the other ones. But I think the biggest thing was, I really was not pleased at all with the way we competed at the plate yesterday. Gave serious thought to what that should mean for today's lineup, and then you see what I came up with.
You have a number of guys on your club who have been through Game 7s, a bunch of them with you a couple of years ago. In what way do you think having participated in a Game 7 before can serve a player in a game like tonight?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think if you're more excited than you've ever been in your life, and you've been through it once, I think it's a great, great help. If you've been in it once, and you ho hum your way into this thing, oh, okay, I'm a veteran in this game, I think it works to an advantage to other guys you're playing against or disadvantage to your teammates who play like it's the neatest thing they have ever experienced. I think the key is you have to understand how special this is and you should be more excited, just like going into the postseason.
A lot of us feel like this is the most fun we've had and I don't care how many you've been in before, the next one, you know how great it is. If you lost that enthusiasm, that experience ain't worth nothing.
You talked about reevaluating your lineup, what went into progress, going over game tapes, at bats, talking to coaches? What went into that process?
TONY LA RUSSA: The only tape I watched was I watched Scott's double. I wanted to see a better vantage point. Other than that, just review the game, the way guys are swinging. There are some guys I thought, just did not have their game ready yesterday, and they deserve to play today. It was really tough because, you know, here's one of my favorite answers throughout the season: When in doubt, you play your hardest playing guys. I don't care what the matchups are. I don't care if it's lefties against lefties or righties, they are going to be out there treating it like the seventh game of the World Series. At least you'll feel good the way you want to go about it.
I want to be sure about that today, and the reason it's tough is that the guys on the bench, there are a lot of those guys: You take Taguchi, you take Duncan, you take Aaron Miles, you take Spiezio, Gary Bennett, John Rodriguez, every one of those guys would have I literally have one lineup where that part was covered. But I feel confident that the guys that are playing are going to have that same intensity.
Scott Spiezio has these tremendous numbers with runners in scoring position in the post season. How much, if any, do you take that statistic into account when you think about today's lineup?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I take that into account during the whole postseason. If you remember, we played Game 3, he played left field against Perez. So the matchup, I don't think it's a great match up for him. Really came down to So or Preston and I chose Preston.
I think that Scott was in there yesterday because of that, and it also means that if this becomes a game of moves, we've got a lot of options on the bench.
I was wondering, the decision between So and Preston, to what extent was that a jump ball or was that something you really had to give a whole lot of thought on? And also another question, to what extent did seeing Rolen's final at bat last night perhaps alleviate another question that might have been there about him?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, So and Preston, just getting So in the lineup, it's hard; the guy's got a base hit every time he's gone to bat here in October. One of the lineups I had him playing center, because Jimmy didn't feel as good as he does today, but he was our fourth place hitter so I went with him. He feels good. Basically he goes, so now it come to So or Preston. I go for the energy that Preston's given us and the possibility he can run into something, and with his live bat, it would be special. Plus, you know, very close call, and we've got So off the bench.
With Scott, like I said, that swing showed me, in my opinion, that it's more an adjustment that he needs to make in his approach than it is with his shoulder. If I thought it was his shoulder, he wouldn't play today.
Pujols has not had a monster series, but you look down, he's still hitting .350. The history of post season play is just littered with great, great players at some point having a struggling series, you look at Bonds, Stargell, and he's managed to avoid that, how remarkable is that?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think it's remarkable for several things. No. 1, those great players carry the pressure, the expectations, the attention from fans, the media, and the other side. You know, guys that are the primetime hitters, when they go to bat, the other side, they are pitching those guys very tough. So to be productive when you're getting that much attention, it's really special.
And you understand sometimes, if you really want to take somebody out of the lineup, just don't throw the ball up the middle and they either hit or walk and they expand their zone. Mets have a good situation, because you can't do that very much because they are deep. But Albert, that's part of his greatness. He's fought through all of that and he's still as productive as any man can be.
The Detroit Tigers, what do you like and admire about that team?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I admire the franchise. It's just a great history. It's great to see the place packed again. It's obviously personal relationships with the general manager, the manager and I know their coaches well. The second baseman is one of our favorites since the time he's been with the Cardinals. So there's a lot there. And I'm a baseball fan, the story of the Tigers this year, it's just a great story and it was a great story to see them in contention. They carried it into October. It's one of the better ones I can remember in a long time, and it didn't matter if you didn't know anybody. I hope we have a chance to see it firsthand.
Willie Randolph is one of those guys who got stuck at a plateau for a long time and went through a lot of interviews to finally get a job, does it say anything to you about the way the process works, if people should take more chances? Does it say anything to you about how long, because obviously he's good at what he does?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think I said that a couple years ago when he got hired. I've watched Willie personally, I know his background in winning. I would never be able to you had to be there to understand why the opportunity wasn't there before. But he's as well qualified as anybody I can remember in a long time and shouldn't have taken that long. But I don't know what it says about the process. Because everybody's trying to win. Nobody can afford to take less than what they think is the best, nobody that good.
The great excitement that you talked about in any Game 7, how do you balance that with the fact that ballplayers are such creatures of habit and they lose themselves in the daily routine?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, in the end, the way you get through it is you go about your habits. You just want to appreciate the moment, and what you don't want to do is have a regret when the night is over oh, I didn't realize how wonderful or special this was going to be. Like I said, I should have gone to bed earlier, I should have woke up earlier, I should have worked out, I should have taken a sauna, I don't know whatever it is. You just want them to be aware.
But when you get into it, you really get into just doing the things that make you a good pitcher or a good hitter all year long. You just can't there isn't another knob you turn, and if you had it, you should have turned it a long time ago.
In a game in which there's no tomorrow to lose, how tough is the call with your starting pitcher, whether he does or doesn't have it? And is that the hardest part, having to pull the plug on a guy who might otherwise work into it a little later?
TONY LA RUSSA: It's hard in the sense that if you have legitimate starting pitcher like Jeff is, if he starts out a little off, there's a strong likelihood that he'll start working. It's a lot harder during the season when you're kind of saving for tomorrow or next week. That's the beauty of the post season, especially today. You're not worried about anything. Just, how can you get three outs that inning and then you go to the next one and you've got enough pitchers to pitch 20 innings. So, this game is not it's a lot easier from that angle than most of the others that you go through.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.