Tony LaRussa on improvements needed: “It probably comes down to starting pitching and offensive help”

Prior to the start of the 2010 MLB season, the St. Louis Cardinals made some changes, but they were viewed as positive and as such that they would once again repeat as NL Central champs. Instead, the Cincinnati Reds stepped forward and claimed the division, as the Cardinals failed to make the playoffs for the third time since winning the ’06 World Series.  To say that the Cardinals’ 2010 season was a disappointment would be an understatement to Tony LaRussa.  For a manager that is 3rd all-time in managerial wins and one that has been in the major leagues for almost 50 years, both as a player and as a manager, he takes winning seriously and hates to lose just as much as anybody. But he keeps it in perspective and realizes that he can’t win the World Series every year. Tony LaRussa joined KFNS in St. Louis to talk about whether he dwelled on the disappointment of this season or whether he immediately looked ahead to next year, what’s his view on what Albert Pujols said about his contract situation and how important  it is to get it done during the offseason, and whether there is one area of the team that he would like to upgrade this offseason.

Whether he dwelled on the disappointment of this season or whether he immediately looked ahead to next year:

“In our club we were analyzing right along, this is part of, if something is not working, what do we need to do to get better?  So we kind of had a hands-on, I know that it is popular to talk about base running and get a lot of attention when we had a base running miscue, we were treating that stuff as it went a long but the point is, that something that you hear a lot as a young manager is, that is the importance of spring training.  There is a lot of stuff fundamentally that if you don’t get it really down and solid in spring training, once the season starts you’re playing so many games.  It is not like the minor leagues where you can bring the guys out at for a morning workout, do the Dr. Pepper, We were treating stuff all along.  In the end you look back, and I hope the fans understand that I am not making excuses, but I think overall, we were 10 over, so there were more good things we were pleased about as a staff than not and we think rightly or wrongly, it’s opinions, we were pretty close where we should have been record-wise with the cards that were dealt to us.  There is no doubt that some execution things can be improved, but some of that stuff is going to be experience…”

Whether he is completely sold on Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumacher as their middle infielders of next year:

“I think that Skip has done an amazing job.  We won 92 games with him at 2nd base his first time out there.  This year he was more comfortable making routing plays and he is still getting used to the position.  I think what we said at the beginning is the truth.  Here is a guy that, you know, he rebounded to have a respectable season.  He gets to the top of our lineup a lot.  To be able to get his bat in the lineup and to be able to play 3 other outfielders, for the personnel that we have makes sense.  I think we’re always looking whether it is manager or coaches or players, is there somebody better?  So that is the issue that you face…  Is there somebody better than Skip at 2nd base?  Well we’ll see but I think Skip is a very competitive guy and we’ve won with him.  Brendan is a different case.  Brendan really came backwards, mostly because he is so emotional and that is something where the last couple of years before, he was growing up and doing better about controlling those emotions and was more consistent.  Last year, when he struggled at the plate, like Skip did earlier.  Skip he bent a little bit but never broke.  I think it broke Brendan quite a few times.  Those at-bats would drive him nuts and he would take it out defensively.  There again, if there is somebody better than Brendan’s job is at risk…”

What’s his view on what Albert Pujols said about his contract situation and how important  it is to get it done during the offseason:

“I just read that and actually I talked to Albert in the Dominican and we didn’t talk about his contract.  I came before he made those comments.  I think he is probably talking about that he would like to get it done because he wants to stay in St. Louis and the organization wants him to stay in St. Louis.  Now that is a question of the business, whether it gets done or not, I don’t know.  I think what Albert is probably saying that if it doesn’t get done he is going to play baseball.  He wants to play baseball, he is not going to be messing around contract-wise during the season, I mean that is my guess.  Everybody wants him to stay, the fans want him to stay, we want him to stay, the economics are the thing and we will let that play out.  I don’t know how all of that is going to work out.  I think that is what Albert is saying, once he gets into the season he is not going to be messing around with the contract.”

Whether there is one area on the team that he would like to upgrade this offseason:

“The way that it was always described to me, you want to be really good then you take every piece of the roster and the way that you get to 90+ or 100 wins is that you are as complete as you can be.  We don’t know about Denny Reyes, we are looking for a left-handed reliever.  That is an important move.  We don’t have Jason Rouse, so what we do is need a backup catcher.  That is an important move.  It is hard to put a priority but obviously we want to be able to not rush our young pitchers, so we are looking for a starting pitcher.  If we can get Jake Westbrook in a good deal that is definitely near the top of the list.  Then offensively, we would like to get deeper.  Whether it is improving how we get on base or in our lineup or somebody that can drive in some runs in the middle.  I think that first answer is what I like the best, which is be aggressive in trying to improve as much as you can everywhere but it probably comes down to starting pitcher and offensive help whether it is the top of the lineup or middle or both…”

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