La Russa: Live from Vegas

La Russa: Live from Vegas

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa answers 67 questions from the press at Baseball's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

Q. Do you have any updates on anything?

TONY LA RUSSA: I haven't seen Mo since I got here. You probably know more than I do.

Q. It seemed like coming out of the regular season and coming into this off-season that you guys were at least somewhat open to the possibility of not adding a guy for the ninth and going with what you had. It now seems like you all are aggressively pursuing somebody. Has there been a change in the priorities?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, I think -- I'm not sure where that impression came. I never said that. I don't know exactly how Dunc or Mo might have answered it.

But I can watch our season and not think that one of our key winter objectives would be to do something to improve our pen, and I just count on the guys improving that were there. Whether you do it or not, you've got to try, and it's just a question of priority.

I actually moved the bullpen and pitching even above what I had been talking about for two winters, which is the fourth-place hitter. Yeah, it's a priority. Now, if you can get them, you can get them. If you can't get them, you can't get them.

Q. How do you see that working ideally, Tony, if you do add somebody for the ninth inning but yet you have these young guys who have been groomed to be in that role eventually? Do you see anything to impede their growth there or do you think that would actually help them as opposed to being thrown in?

TONY LA RUSSA: It's just like -- say you have Colby Rasmus who's got a chance to be a real good Major League hitter and you had no Albert Pujols, so you've got to hit him third before he's ready to hit there. That would not be good for Colby. It would be much better to work at kind of -- at the right pace.

I played with Chris Perez last year. You look at him and it's obvious that he's got a lot of exciting ability, but there are things that you need to do to have a high conversion rate late in the game, but he's still learning. So you try not to put him there until he makes that improvement. I think if we can get a true ninth inning guy, it allows us to bring along Chris and Jason, and it will be better for all of us.

Q. I know this is not necessarily your job, but if that guy requires a large bulk of what y'all have left in terms of payroll room, would you still advocate doing that?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think it's the number one priority, so, yeah, I have no problem. I think if we can get that guy, it would be an important move for us this winter. But the way I look at it, you know, we're close to having a good club. We're close to having enough starting pitching, we're close to having enough relieving, we're close to having enough offense.

So if you take care of your first priority, you've done something significant, and then you keep looking and see if there's something else you can do.

Q. You say you're close to having a good club. Do you see this as right now as good as last year's club?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's better than last year's club because you have a whole year of at-bats for Ankiel, Ludwick and Schumaker. You also have Lohse that we know is with us. I think Pineiro will be improved this year. You got Wellemeyer with a year of experience and health. I think Khalil is a good fit for our club. So on paper we're better, and if we can just make a move or two, it will be significant.

Q. How big a variable realistically is Greene for you? If he is what he was two years ago, it would suggest one thing than if he were what he was last year. There's a huge swing there. How do you put him within the lineup and look at it whether he's good or not good? How do you look at it?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think the bulk of his career has been productive and exciting, the way he plays defense. He's got extra base pop in his base. I don't have any issue with a quiet player, him being quiet. I had Harold Baines early in his career, and the Chicago fans were slow to warm to him because he wasn't sliding at first. But after you watch him, you say, this guy is competing as fierce as anybody.

Quiet or whatever your personality is, I just think he had a tough year last year, and that's one reason we got him. But I talked to him. His anger and hurting himself, that's healing, and he's feeling great. I mean, I think he'll be what he's been most of his career, a productive offensive player and a sound defensive shortstop.

Q. If you get the pitching you need, you're going to have to maybe compromise those other places. Mo has been fairly straightforward saying he thinks Kennedy is your starting second baseman right now, and that's the way he projects it. Is that something that you can say you're comfortable with?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, all I know is that the difference between Adam last year and his first year was significant. His first year, for whatever reason, you know, he wasn't the same player he's been. I think he might have gotten upset, but, I mean, really, I probably played him more than I should have, showing patience because of what he did in his career. Last year he was more himself, so then it comes down to is he going to work as hard and be as ready this spring, which I think he will.

It's a competition. If somebody is better than Albert, we'll play him, but who's better than Albert? I think it's likely that on paper that Adam figures to be the best guy to play second base. I'm not sure what else we can do.

Brendan Ryan is in the club, he's on our roster. Brendan Ryan outplays Adam, if he outplays Khalil, he plays short. I don't think you can afford to get bogged down on something like that. It's supposed to be a competition, and the best guy plays.

Q. Is there anything that needs to be resolved with Adam?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, I mean, we talked about it at the end of the season. He just wants to play, and I think it was a mutual respect thing. I thought he handled himself really well the times he didn't play. He ended up on a plus note. I think he's been quoted as something, he said it over the radio or something, that he just wants to play, and if he has a chance to play in St. Louis he has no problem playing here.

Q. Have you talked to him?

TONY LA RUSSA: I have not talked to him.

Q. When you describe this team as better on paper, is it your impression or is it your hope that you can satisfy that number one priority without the moving from what you guys have in place right now?

TONY LA RUSSA: Signing a free agent, right?

Q. Right.

TONY LA RUSSA: I know we're talking to Fuentes. I don't know if we're going to get him. I know he likes our situation, we like him. It seems like it's a perfect fit. So I don't know. If we don't get him, we'll see what's next.

Q. You talked to him personally, right?

TONY LA RUSSA: I was in the room when he came in to meet us. Plus I had a couple All-Star experiences with him. I mean, I know he's first-rate.

Q. Did you get a vibe from him personally that the situation -- that y'all's situation appeals to him?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I think we had the advantage that we had three or four teammates that he spent time with that talked about playing for the Cardinals, pitching for Doug, Marty, et cetera. So I think that part of it is -- I just think it's an economic issue.

Q. Are you willing or able or both to call that guy first choice? Is that an accurate characterization?

TONY LA RUSSA: From day one. He's been the guy that fit us the best. You know, we have a strong right-hand relief core, whether it's a veteran like Ryan covering Kenny or Brad Thompson or the two kids. A left-handed reliever, quality like Ryan, from day one, he's the guy who was our first choice. And I'm excited that here we are and we're still in the hunt and he's still available.

Q. Just for argument's sake, if you get a quality free agent reliever, say Fuentes, and you have to commit significant money to him, that leaves you not a whole lot of wiggle room financially. There still seems a sense from some folks that maybe it would be good if you added depth to your rotation. Are you square with dealing from a strength, say your outfield, to get say a starting pitcher, or do you think that exposes you offensively if you were to do something like that?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think the two answers are, one, you keep paying attention to free agents, because as time passes, guys don't get the deal they want to and all of a sudden you might be able to get a guy for a year or two.

I think secondly, we do have outfield depth. So if it's a way to make a move for a pitcher using one of our outfielders, I think it's a smart move to make, as long as -- you've got to prioritize who's a guy that makes the most sense to hold onto versus make available in trade.

I mean, I said before, we were talking about Colby -- were you here when we were talking about Colby a minute ago? If our infield situation was our outfield situation, if we were leaning on the infield, Colby might have been a biggie last year. But we're not. He's going to be a big leaguer, but he's fighting more competition. So that translates into maybe being able to make a trade.

Q. The question I get a lot, and I answer it one way but I may be wrong, there seems to be a sense from people that you have a special affinity for Rick not only as a person but also as a player, and people wonder would you be torn about dealing a guy like that? If he was a guy who brought you what you wanted, obviously he's a power guy and a good outfielder, I don't know if you consider him a core guy, but how would you come down on a player of that significance having to go anywhere as a starting pitcher?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the Giants just signed a guy that I had an affinity for, Renteria, right? We lost him. You develop a respect and a relationship with players and sometimes it's free agency that they move or sometimes it's a trade because that's the business of baseball. So, yeah, I have a strong personal relationship and respect and affection for Rick Ankiel, but this will be the last year of his contract, so he goes out and hits 40 balls, he may not play for us next year. There's that business. I mean, I'll always feel the same way about him. I think what you look at is whatever outfielder that you figure you trade for the pitcher you get back, what that does to your club, so you want to get better.

Q. Do you think how you guys view Rick as a player then sort of colors the return you want to get on him? You talk about -- you guys talk about the player he could be, not the player he has been, if that makes sense. Do you think that colors what he'd have to get in return?

TONY LA RUSSA: I don't know how to answer that. I mean, I think what he's done since he's been a big league outfielder speaks for itself, what he is, and what you project, just a little bit of improvement. That's a very special package when you talk to defense, extra base pop and hitting for -- I think he'll hit for a higher and higher average.

Q. When you look at Rasmus, a year ago it seemed like there were ways it wouldn't be true, but he was either going to go to Memphis and play or he was going to come to St. Louis and play. With him having not a full year but however many at-bats down there, is that equation different? Could you envision him as -- I don't want to put a number on it, but is that equation different? Could he be not an everyday guy and be on your roster this year?

TONY LA RUSSA: That's a real good question because he is a year older. Last year we discussed this, he had no AAA experience, so now he has some AAA experience, so that changes things some. It doesn't change the fact that this guy had a chance to be an impact, everyday outfielder.

So the way I would answer that right now is you always remember that, and for the good of the organization on down the road, you don't want to do anything that takes away from him making his mark as soon as possible.

But you're also balancing -- we want to be a contending ballclub next year, so if he helps us contend and he's still not going to get 600 at-bats, I think you consider it this year, as long as you feel like you're getting him enough playing time.

I mean, this is me answering. I don't know how Mo and ownership and our development would feel about it. I also believe that if you have the ability to bring along a young player or a young pitcher at an appropriate pace that that's really good for them.

What that means -- when you translate it, it means if he's playing well and if he struggles you can back him off, you don't have to keep playing him or pitching a guy, and I think with our setup we'd be able to do that. But it's going to come down to does he get enough playing time, and if there isn't enough playing time, AAA has got to consider that.

Q. Would you want him to be in a situation like Skip was in a couple years ago where he would come up and play if you needed somebody, but if he wasn't playing all the time you would ship him back to Memphis, that he would be more of a transitional player?

TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, I would hope -- this guy, because he has a chance to be a very special package, you would try to avoid that. You'd avoid disrupting a guy, either send him to AAA, send him to the big leagues and not do that to him if you can help it.

Q. Do you look at the outfield kind of like the second base situation from a competitive standpoint? Is that a delicate balance? In the event you guys don't make a move, trading from that depth, how do you handle that outfield situation? Seems like you've got some talented players there.

TONY LA RUSSA: It's a real plus but challenging situation. If you just take the six guys, I think Chris is going to be back in there and he's going to be really good, got Ankiel, got Schumaker, got Ludwick, then you've got Mather and Rasmus. That's deep. I mean, those guys are true extra outfielders that you sit there and pinch-hit them. Every one of those guys is a starter. That's a major strength. I mean, it might get a little uncomfortable at times, but it's better to have that kind of depth, see what happens.

Q. What's your understanding where Chris is and the work he's been doing?

TONY LA RUSSA: He's doing well. He's excited, we're excited. He's on time at the beginning of the year to jump right into the swing of things and everything else.

Q. You don't expect him to be limited?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, he's feeling great.

Q. Regardless of how he feels, though, are you comfortable basically going all in on a guy like that, that he's going to be able to give you 32 starts in a year, or do you think you have to have some sort of safety net --

TONY LA RUSSA: 32 starts?

Q. I'm sorry, I'm asking about Carpenter.

TONY LA RUSSA: I was thinking 32 starts, wow (laughter).

Q. With Carp, no matter how he feels, and we were given an optimistic read last week, how much can you bank on that? Y'all kind of got burned that way last year.

TONY LA RUSSA: Did we get burned? I mean --

Q. Counting on him and Mulder at some point.

TONY LA RUSSA: Who do we pass on? We couldn't have had guys. We got Lohse. I mean, at some point, I think Carp will do everything possible to get back. And so far everything is plus and go forward. But he is a pitcher, so we get to the first year when he starts throwing, I think that's really the next realistic test. It's nice that he's been making improvement and passing what he's doing, but the throwing program is going to be the next test. I just count on him to give you the best shot.

Half full, half empty. Half full is I expect him to be back, but you can't work any guarantees in there.

Q. Dunc was pretty blunt saying I can't count on the guy until I see him go out there and do it.

TONY LA RUSSA: Right, until he starts throwing. But what does that mean. Does that mean we go out and sign -- who are we going to sign? There's only so much money available.

Q. Do you have a viable, for lack of a better description, No. 6 starter, already on that roster, that you go with Carp as slow or not ready out of the gate?

TONY LA RUSSA: You look at what Boggs looks like in spring training. I think if we did something with a right-handed reliever, I think Dunc has spoken about McClellan.

Q. Do you view Thompson in that?

TONY LA RUSSA: You could think about Brad that way.

Q. Could you characterize the team's discussions to date so far here in Vegas in terms of attempting to make some moves?

TONY LA RUSSA: John has been very active, a lot of groundwork for what happens now is things start moving along. So now it's just -- he's got a good plan. He's just got to get some cooperation from the other side, whether it's a trade or free agent move.

Q. You have your outfield depth and you're one of the teams looking for numerous pitching. Would you be opposed to trading some of the outfielders to acquire that pitching?

TONY LA RUSSA: I don't know that we'd do plural, but I think we can -- we were thinking plural when it came to somebody like Holliday. So if a guy is really a true impact, middle-of-the-lineup hitter. We talked about it here a little bit ago. We'd think seriously about trading an outfielder to obtain some pitching.

Q. Is there anything about your situation that can be said this year that you haven't said previously? Obviously you're older than those times before and there seemed to be some deliberation you had to make last year. Is there anything different about going into this season than any other one you've gone into?

TONY LA RUSSA: I feel so much the same. I've said it but I really mean it. I don't feel any different right now in almost every respect than I did at the first of two years or the first of three years or the second of -- you know what I mean? It's all the year you're going into and it's all about what you do that year. The only thing I am aware is that the years are piling up and I'm not going to manage forever. But that doesn't distract at all from what has to happen to get our club ready. I don't think about it beyond that.

Q. I think some folks maybe perceive that there might be an extra factor here, though. You obviously had a very close working relationship with Walt when he was here, and there seems to be some perception that Tony is going to have two years to manage this team under a new front office. To what extent do you evaluate how that goes when you make a decision going forward? Is that something that's in play now that maybe wasn't in play before?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, because we only went through one year. Mo was part of Walt's immediate staff, so we've worked well all year long. I'm not going to get to the year and think, well, I don't want to be a part of this organization. That's going to be more when is it time to stop managing. I don't even think about it because I'm ready for 2009.

Q. So lame duck is kind of a heavy description?

TONY LA RUSSA: Lame duck? Spry chicken is how I feel, a chick. I feel like a teenager.

Q. Is there any cause, reason, priority to have a left-handed starter? It's my understanding that maybe there are some of those guys at least in the picture for you guys.

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, pick the best five. We've talked about pitching, whether it's right or left, who's the best guy.

Q. Do you think you're good enough offensively?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think we're going to have some guys with a year of experience that will be a little bit better because they're pretty good already. I think Khalil will respond. Offensively we were competitive last year in a lot of categories. We could do better converting, which I think we have a chance to do with some experience. I think we'll go about the at-bats really well. My other priority is pitching.

Q. Do you see a specific benefit given that conversion thing to having a guy like Khalil with some pop that presumably bats somewhere down in your order, to have another potentially RBI guy hitting wherever it is, six, seven? Is that beyond his ability or is there something specific about how he might fit in your lineup?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, the game today, if you go 1-4 and your one hit is an extra-base hit, it seems to have more significance now than ever, and he has that ability.

One thing that we preach and preach and preach and preach as an old-time Cardinal, you play the scoreboard. I was just talking about it to somebody. I don't care if you're Albert or Troy Glaus or Khalil or whatever or Rick Ankiel, you've got the runner at third and you get two strikes on you, the winning play is to put the ball in play.

So we teach making some kind of concession. You just can't swing once, twice, three. So that's what we teach, and I don't see any reason why -- I've talked to Bruce and Kevin about it. I think Khalil or whoever in our club, I expect you to play the game that way.

Q. Is it a fair question to wonder if Rasmus were to be on your team, at least initially, do you think it's possible a guy like that could be a lead-off type of guy?

TONY LA RUSSA: I think he's a unique, remarkable kind of talent from what I saw in spring training. I saw he had a good strike zone, and when he got the ball -- he's shown it. He got some home runs, he runs really well. I probably would prefer him at the top of the lineup.

Q. The way you've described your lead-off guys in the past, he's a potential impact guy, too, who could do damage quick, and I just didn't know if you thought that was out of the box?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, my guess is he could probably do more damage after he's had a couple, three years to get a little bit stronger. He's a baby, a young guy, so he'll do better after he gets stronger and gets some experience. His talent will be in the first or second spot, or ninth, or seventh, depending on who you hit.

Q. But keep him out of a production spot early?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, if we didn't have -- if we didn't have those guys, but we have Glaus, got Dunc, Ankiel, Ludwick.

Q. (Question about Khalil Greene)?

TONY LA RUSSA: I don't know. He has had some punch-outs. I just know he's got live ability and I'm anxious to see how he fits in. Who knows where you put him.

Q. If you have a shortstop who can hit 20 home runs as opposed to Cesar who is a different type of player, does that change how you do your batting order?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, as long as -- I just don't like to put a label on one of our players, because whether you're Duncan or Khalil Greene or Ankiel or Ludwick, if you can hit 20 home runs, you're going to be asked to play the game to just put the ball in play or get the guy over to second base or just tap the ball to the shortstop with a runner on third.

So the fact that he has 20 home runs, it just tells me he's got some pop. We want our hitters, Khalil and all these guys, to play the game according to the scoreboard. That's what we teach.

I mean, I think one of the things that we've done (knocking wood) really well is we've cut strikeouts down over the years, and that's just a matter of playing the game. That tells me we have all spring to look at him and try to see how our lineup is shaking out.

Q. So it's premature to ask whether --

TONY LA RUSSA: I think I'll pitch him eight because it makes for a better offense for the team. I'm going to pitch him eighth.

Q. Could you use Hoffman?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, we're trying to sign Fuentes. I mean, I love and respect Trevor Hoffman, but I don't know that that's the guy we've talked a lot about. Mo could answer that better than I could.

Q. Is there any particular reason?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, because we don't want a left-hander that pitches better.

Q. Maybe this is too specific of a question to ask, but do you see it as Fuentes or the young guys?

TONY LA RUSSA: If we don't get Fuentes and we don't get somebody else? If we don't get Fuentes then we don't get somebody else.

Q. Then you'd consider going to the young guys?

TONY LA RUSSA: No, we'll continue searching. We've got a couple, three other ideas. I just talked to Dunc today.

Q. (Question about Todd Wellemeyer)?

TONY LA RUSSA: When he was a reliever he was impressive, and then when we looked at him he started for them in the minor leagues. So that gives us the indication we could use him as a starter, and he likes to start. He's learning to pitch. He can really let go, and now he's moving the ball around and getting different movements to different parts and places, pitching more than just throwing.

Q. Safe to say or assume if you were to miss on Fuentes that the two or three options that you discussed with Dunc are not internal but outside options?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah. I mean, we know what we've got internally, right? If we don't do anything else, then we're going to go with what we've got. Anything else, all the creativity, has to be external.

Q. It was a few years ago at this time that you said, well, Looper is a starter now. So there's no outside the box thinking here?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, there is.

Q. There is for this ninth inning?

TONY LA RUSSA: Sure, absolutely.

Q. So Hoffman wouldn't be one of the options if you don't get Fuentes?

TONY LA RUSSA: I mean, we really haven't talked about Trever that way. I don't want to say something that hasn't been part of the discussions.

Q. Carpenter?

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, Carpenter, but again, we don't want to factor Carpenter into the discussions other than keeping our fingers crossed.

Q. But you're willing to go that far outside the box and say maybe he's the answer in the ninth inning?

TONY LA RUSSA: If he's available, could be. I mean, I don't know how much he'll be able to pitch. We just want him healthy and ready to do something, and then we'll figure out something else. Like I said, the conversations Dave and I have had did not involve guys in our organization.

Q. So what do you think about the Hall of Fame ballot?

TONY LA RUSSA: I'm glad you asked that. Well, this did come up because there's a writer back home who's doing a piece in anticipation of Ricky, so I gave him my Ricky stuff. And then Mark's name came up.

I thought about something that I have never vocalized before, verbalized. This steroid issue, right, that's a matter of integrity. That's one way to describe it, right? Well, it occurred to me, I know that I've never spoken much about it at all, but this guy did something that screams integrity. Who did I talk to about it? I talked about it to Mo on Monday, Sunday -- Monday. How many guys do we know that had a contract like he had? He had a contract in his hand for $15 million over two years, and he walked away from it because he didn't feel like he could play to that level. That, to me, there's a certain integrity for the sport, for self-respect and everything.

Now, our guess, and people that I've talked to, our guess is that a whole lot of guys, just being normal, would be figured some way to either talk to the organization, like let's get a buyout, give me $5 million instead of 30, whatever it is, or go ahead and play less than their best and collect a check for two years. He walked away from two years of $30 million, and I thought to myself when I told this one writer, man, I think that speaks to the public or the voters about his integrity. You've got to be a pretty solid character guy to not -- am I reading that wrong?

Do you think that's a good sign of character, that you would walk away from $30 million if you didn't think you could play to that level? How would you take that decision and not make sense of it.

Q. I'm not sure that you're comparing apples to apples.

TONY LA RUSSA: So how would you describe a guy that walks away from $30 million?

Q. I'm agreeing with you that that's a sign of character, not to have a debate that's going to be transcribed here. I would agree that that's a sign of integrity. But I think we all do things that show integrity in one parallel and make questionable moves on another parallel.

TONY LA RUSSA: I'm just saying that the fact that he walked away from that money has been an under-discussed, under-publicized -- I know I have not discussed it, and I think that is a hellacious sign of the type of person he is, and that should translate into knowing that he's a special guy. I just never talked about it. I thought I had the chance so I'd mention it.

Q. So you'd consider it as an intangible for his Hall of Fame.

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, he's got this cloud over him.

Q. Character is an issue?

TONY LA RUSSA: So I think that showed great character because there's not many guys that I know that have said I'll just stumble along and take those checks.

Q. Do you hope to have him in spring training this year?

TONY LA RUSSA: I had a wonderful dinner with him during the general manager meetings, and there was another friend there, so the three of us had a good discussion, and I mentioned to him that we haven't -- and I haven't pushed it. I need to follow up. So I don't know what he's thinking.

Q. I just wondered, given he had some things to say around the anniversary last year, I just didn't know if he was maybe getting more comfortable to put himself in that position?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, there's no doubt because he was on his way last spring, and then he had an issue. He was within a week of coming to camp. But it's still the same. His two boys are demanding a lot of his time, and he's having a great time being around them.

Q. Give your Ricky address.

TONY LA RUSSA: Ricky, I said -- well, he started with the A's in '79 was the first year I started managing, so up until he retired, Ricky was a part of almost every competition I was in. So the ten years from '79 to '89 going against him and then watching him with us for that four- or five-year period, he was the most dangerous player of our generation. That includes all the great sluggers and Hall of Famers. He was the most dangerous. And then I also added, because I think this is important, I think there's a certain perception of being a troublemaker and not a good teammate, and there were times -- Ricky took care of himself, and there were times when what was good for Ricky went against what the manager or the organization thought was good for the team, and he and I had a couple issues about that, and that got a lot of publicity.

But the point, he's probably one of the best teammates of about any superstar you're going to find. His teammates really enjoyed him. He wasn't one of those guys that was arrogant and separated himself. The guys all walked in the clubhouse and Ricky was right in the middle of the dominos and messing around. So he really was well liked by teammates, and I don't think that part of him is known publicly a lot. He was always a dynamic figure, and his grammar sometimes got him in trouble. But he was a much better teammate than some of the guys who get publicity and are really kind of phony about it. That's one point. Ricky was overall a very popular teammate.

Q. He was probably the most -- I mean, Canseco was a great player, Mark was a great player, but Ricky may have been the most dominant postseason player you had, right?

TONY LA RUSSA: He was dominant. He'd take a one-run lead in the ninth, he was the one guy you didn't want to face. He was really, really good. He was a marked man. We all tried to stop him, and he still succeeded. He still stole a base, got on base, tiny little strike zone, throw it in there, he'd hit it, walk, steal second. Took care of himself, played long into his career.

So I thought that character -- in my opinion, that he was dangerous, fit his status. Sometimes you have stats, but the other thing I want to say, he's a much better teammate than the public understands, and I bet you his teammates would all stand up and say, you know, I had a lot of fun with Ricky.

Q. Most of his stuff all happened around contract talks.

TONY LA RUSSA: The most famous quote, that they're going to pay me like Gallego, I'm going to play like Gallego. Gallego is one of the fans' favorites.

You're exactly right, contract was a big problem for him. But then during the season, he was just probably smart, he was laying an egg or something, he'd take a series off. But then he'd come back and -- he was amazing.

Q. All the sliding he did, it's amazing he didn't tear up his legs.

TONY LA RUSSA: What a specimen. He always said, I thought he was kidding but now I know he wasn't, that ring, you wouldn't have that without me. I don't know if that's true because we had other great players and great pitchers, but he certainly had a wonderful postseason.

Q. How many guys have played the majority of their career for you to go in? Would he be the first?

TONY LA RUSSA: How long did he play with me? He was ten years against us, '89 through '92.

Q. You only had him for --

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, because '93 we traded him to Toronto.

END OF INTERVIEW

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