"I think the opposite is the reputation I've established," La Russa said. "I've had a number of times to play that -- tricks and [cheap shots] -- and we don't ever get into it. I trust our players, and I have for a long time.
"I trust our players. Somebody has an issue, whether it's [saying that] the balls are slick in Cincinnati or whatever, and it's guys like John Smoltz and Chris Carpenter, I don't say, 'You've got to be kidding me. Who are you to complain?' When you've established what they've established ... I trust our players. If you trust your players, you're responsible for following through with it. That's what I do. But the people who know me, I shy away from that stuff, because the game is supposed to be played between the white lines, so you try to avoid it at all costs."
He also disputed the idea that heated exchanges necessarily result from a closely contested pennant race.
"I think it's just the nature of, if you look around, the nature of the game," he said. "If both clubs are competing, it doesn't have to be, but once in a while, you have some sparks. And you can have two clubs that are having a tough year. You can have a club that's having a good year and [one having] a tough year. I think the whole key is just a competition. If both sides care, they always believe their side of it, you know?"