10/23/06 7:45 PM ET
Tigers, Cards dish on the dirt
Rogers claims innocence; La Russa defends reaction
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
Rule 8.02 says a pitcher cannot "have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such an infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game."Dodgers reliever Jay Howell was caught with pine tar on his glove during Game 3 of the 1988 National League Championship Series against the Mets and was immediately ejected. He was then suspended for the remainder of the series. La Russa acknowledged that he spoke to his players on Monday about how he handled the situation and there might be some who felt he should have been more aggressive in challenging Rogers. "I briefly explained where I was coming from and I said, 'Anybody felt like I should do different, then I'm disappointed in you,'" La Russa said. "But I went to sleep at night and I looked in the mirror. You've got to live with yourself. And they didn't raise their hand and say, 'Hey, I disagree.' They just didn't say anything. "But it's very possible there were guys that disagreed. It's not the way we want to win." Tigers manager Jim Leyland declined to get involved in the debate, saying, "I'm not going to chew yesterday's breakfast." But other members of the Tigers organization came to Rogers' defense. "He hasn't done anything wrong," said longtime Tigers scout Dick Egan, who is one of Rogers' closest friends in the game. "I have no problem. They know everything about what he does and how he does it. They can write all the stories they want about that stuff, but there's nothing there. There's nothing there that's illegal." Said Tigers first-base coach Andy Van Slyke, "It had no bearing on how he pitched, at all. The camera can zoom in the hair in your nose. They created this issue. There's a plaque in Cooperstown right now of a guy [Gaylord Perry] who wrote a book about how he cheated, and I'm not accusing Kenny of cheating, that's not what I'm saying. To me, it's like yesterday's breakfast. I want to throw it back up." Reliever Todd Jones said he wishes the umpires had gone to the mound and checked Rogers. "It would've cleared it all up," Jones said. "It's unfair to have it like that. Either check him or don't." La Russa was also asked if his close friendship with Leyland kept him from having Rogers checked by the umpires. "If somebody tells me that that's what I was thinking, it's really a personal insult, and I would take it personally," La Russa said. "I'm just telling you that in 20-plus years of competing as a manager, that's how I've handled every one of these controversies, against whoever the other manager was. "So it had nothing to do with Leyland. We're friends. The competition isn't about friends. This is about the Tigers and the Cardinals. And if somebody seriously accused me of that, then I would get very upset and confrontational." La Russa's players didn't appear to be too upset about it on Monday as they went about preparing for Game 3 on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. "The fans feel we got cheated," outfielder John Rodriguez said. "But he pitched a good game. Obviously, if he cleaned it off, or whatever it was, he pitched good from the first inning all the way to the eighth. So I guess it really wasn't that." Said second baseman Aaron Miles, "What can you say? He pitched a good game." La Russa added that he has no regrets on how he handled the situation, "because we got it fixed and we still couldn't beat them."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Staff reporters Tom Singer, Matthew Leach and Jason Beck all contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.