Cardinals manager Tony La Russa participated in an interview following Friday's 6-2 win over the Rangers in Game 7 of the World Series.
Q. Is there any better feeling than what happened here at Busch Stadium tonight?
LA RUSSA: Well, not if you're a professional baseball player. I mean, this is what you dream about. There isn't anybody on this team, the other team, too, that when you're a young kid you don't think about winning the World Series, and it's always in Game 7. Truly a dream come true. It's hard to really imagine it actually happened.
Q. After the rainout, did you really have any doubt that you were going to start anyone other than Carpenter?
LA RUSSA: Well, I did, because that's not the way we do it. You like to look at all your options, and last night with Dave there was so much going on after that game, and I said, "Let's be smart and I call you in the morning." I called him and said, "Let's lay out the options." And he said, "It's Carp," and he hung up on me. So it's Carp.
Q. Earlier tonight, the Commissioner was talking about a moment you guys were up in Milwaukee and it might have been mid-August and he was basically congratulating you on a season, and you said to him, "Well, it's not quite over yet." Do you remember that moment? And could you just talk about what was going through your mind at that time as we go forward.
LA RUSSA: Well, you've got to practice what you preach, what you preach to your team. Especially if you think you've got a legitimate chance to compete. It's a long season. If you watch the history of baseball, teams come back, and sometimes they could have come back but they give in or give up. And I knew the character on our team, the coaches knew the character. We just challenged them to don't give up. Started winning some games so we can regain some respect, and then it got better and they just grabbed that play every game like it's the last game and relentless until the end.
The only thing was as we got close to the trading deadline, Mo asked us if we made some changes, and we had asked, this is where we need help. Do we have a chance to win? And we said, yes, and he went out and put his neck on the line and made the changes. The first couple weeks with a better ballclub we weren't playing well, and we kind of avoided Mo for a while, but then we started showing that he had given us more weapons, and this is where we ended up.
Q. We asked you a lot about Game 6 before, but now that everything is over, can you wrap your head around the past 24 hours, to go from one strike away twice to now being World Champions? That must be a lot to absorb.
LA RUSSA: I mean, I heard several players say it. We made an effort today led by the veterans, went to everybody and just said, "Look, let me rephrase it, we're going to put Game 6 in a box and put it away." Because you just can't come today feeling great vibes about last night, Texas is too tough and we've got to make sure we're ready to compete because if we got beat tonight, then it was a good story. Now that we've won it, it makes yesterday greater.
It's just typical of our club. They really embrace something that is legitimate, and they embrace the fact but now it's time to think about Game 6, and that's part of this historic run. I mean, it's hard to explain how we made it happen except the club has great guts. Really we have more talent than people think, but we have great guts.
Q. This is your third one, but everything you guys have gone through this year with the injuries and 10 1/2 back in August and the things you went through, what does this one mean not only for you but for some of those guys who haven't won one in the locker room and for this franchise?
LA RUSSA: It's just about us as an organization. I mean, this one is just different. It was really hard and it was different. As I said a couple days ago, it's like your favorite dog, favorite cat. They're just different. They're still your favorites. But in the end, I mean, as a staff, a lot of us have been together a long time, and we have always gotten turned on by guys veterans who have a chance to win a world championship. So it's really special for some of those guys that paid a lot of dues, great players, never get to the World Series, some get there and don't win it. We share that with -- even the young guys, this may be the last time you play in it, you don't have any assurances. You know that turns our staff on and has for years, and it's part of what we try to talk to the players about, and today, this year, it worked. I'm really happy for all the organization, but I'm especially happy for the first-timers.
Q. Can you talk about what it was like to go through this seven game series, all the twists and turns, different stories for each game? What was that like?
LA RUSSA: The only thing we tried to it's not selling, it's just telling the truth. The season is so demanding, it really challenges everybody on a club and the entire organization because you get hurt, you have to bring guys up. But when you get to October, there's no more fun and excitement that you can have, the last eight teams standing. We really talked about how the only way you don't enjoy it was if you don't compete to the best of your ability, and if somebody beats you, tip your cap.
I didn't realize until maybe the day before yesterday, first series we won in five games, right? Second won we one in six. You start looking for anything that will make you feel optimistic. So I say, crap, that's they way it's going to be, we're going to win in seven. Usually I'm wrong, but five, six, seven. It's a competition, highest level, the Phillies were great to play against they're so good. The Brewers everybody expected nonsense and we both played each other as tough as we could, really good games, very exciting. And then you have the Rangers, two time American League Champions, they're very good. I think a lot of us -- I heard Ron say it, too, we're evenly matched, so it just comes down to who gets the final victory, and we got it.
Q. I've heard you say this week, I think, that you're enjoying yourself more in this World Series than at other times before. Could you give a few examples of things you say, I can do this or don't have to do that anymore, the kinds of things that liberate you?
LA RUSSA: What I meant was this is the latest one. The last time we got into the playoffs in 2009 I enjoyed that. Because every time you get in, it's the immediacy of -- you lose three games in the first round, you're out. I mean, that's fun. During the regular season you're always kind of weighing -- you show confidence, you have to protect this, be careful with that, and now in the playoffs it's just -- I mean, literally you try to separate every inning you play, and that goes back to the Oakland A's in the '70. You ask Sal Bando and those guys, that's what they used to teach. You can literally play every inning times seven games. The inning you're playing you can win or lose that game that you may win the Series, and if you adopt the attitude the urgency is all around you and guys play better.
Q. We saw last night just how difficult it is to get those final outs of a championship. What did it mean for your bullpen to come through the way it did, not just tonight but down the stretch in general?
LA RUSSA: Well, I mean, I can't -- I mean, I think this is the way all pitching coaches and managers operate. There wasn't anything that happened last night that surprised Texas. The game is just too hard, and there's too much talent. It's a fine line. Today when Carp came out and we had that first inning -- you know, if Dotel does not retire Andrus, then we were going to have to use Rzepczynski against Hamilton, which meant we had to play the two innings without a left handed reliever. That was scary and that was a big out.
Then you have Lance and the middle of the lineup and you think, okay because now, we've got a shot because Rep is there. So now we've got a four run lead and I told Dunc or Joe Pettini one of them, a four run lead and they had some right handers and then they were gonna have some left handers. If Motte struggles, I don't know if I'd do it, but I was going to play him in the outfield. I've never done it before in my life. Take him out, bring in Rzepczynski for the left hander and bring him back for Kinsler. When you're doing all that, because you know it can get away from you, and that's part of the stress of those last innings, because it's a real small margin of getting those last outs. It didn't happen yesterday, it happened for us today.
Q. Did you know you were going to put in a lefty?
LA RUSSA: No, man. I was going to ask him, do you like left or right better? I mean, I don't know if I would have done it. That would have been I've never done it, but it has been done, it would have made sense because we didn't want to use Salas because he threw a lot yesterday, and we were worried about Murphy and then Moreland was a tough guy for us, so...
Q. We've talked so much about the bullpen in particular over the course of this series. Is there any substitute for an ace for a guy who can pitch like Carpenter did tonight, especially on short rest?
LA RUSSA: I'd have to go back over the game. This was unusual because the bullpen was such a factor so often. Normally the way you get here is you have a good, solid rotation. That's how we got here, but just right there at the end, just got a little sluggish. So normally they pitch six or seven, bullpen gets the last two or three, and that's how you win. That's a really tough way to win over the long haul, but a lot of our relievers are young guys. And you mix in Arthur and Dotel and the experienced guys, and I mean, it really worked. I can't give them enough credit. Derek Lilliquist, first year with us. It's a different way to win.
Q. You wear the uniform, you know the relationship between this city and the players and manager. Can you imagine a Cardinals world without Albert in it?
LA RUSSA: No. No. I mean, I know it's a great organization, he's a great player, and part of their greatness is their conscience, their intelligence, and they're going to try like heck to make it work. We never talked about it. The season is over, now it's time to start talking about it. They're going to try and make it work and we'll see if it can work or not.
But they're both great, and the organization is going to try to keep him here, and Albert wants to stay here, and best effort, we'll see if it comes off or not.
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