Tag:Tony La Russa
Posted on: November 13, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 6:50 pm
 

Matheny replaces La Russa as Cards manager

The Cardinals on Sunday named former big league catcher Mike Matheny as their new manager and will formally introduce him in a news conference on Monday morning in St. Louis.

Presumably, they've already handed Matheny a guidebook blueprint for replacing an all-time legend (Tony La Russa), taking over a World Series champion as a rookie skipper and making a managerial debut in the big leagues -- not in the minor leagues.

The truth? The only way Matheny's debut job could be any more difficult is if the club loses icon Albert Pujols via free agency.

Wait, hold that thought!

While Pujols was being wined and dined by the Miami Marlins over the weekend, the Cardinals whittled their short list of La Russa replacements to a final one.

The contrast between him and La Russa could not be more stark:

La Russa managed more games than any manager in major-league history after Connie Mack.

Matheny, 40, spent part of last season as a roving minor-league instructor for the Cardinals, and part of it in the St. Louis broadcast booth. He has never been a manager.

He has, however, managed games from behind the plate as a catcher for 13 years in Milwaukee, Toronto, St. Louis and San Francisco. He spent five years behind the plate for La Russa's Cardinals, from 2000-2004, and during that time forged a solid relationship and earned a tremendous amount of respect from La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

How much? As Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote earlier this month, La Russa once described Matheny "as the only big-league ballplayer he'd let one of his daughters marry." As Strauss noted then, the fact that the Cardinals would consider allowing Matheny to become their next manager might be nearly as impressive.

Matheny was said by industry sources to have been very impressive when he went through the Cardinal interview process earlier this month. That surely came as no surprise to general manager John Mozeliak and the club, given that Matheny was a clubhouse leader during his time in St. Louis whose leadership qualities were unquestioned.

That, and Matheny's familiarity with the Cardinals organization are the qualities that the club hopes make for a smooth transition. As a player, his attention to detail was evident, among many other areas, in the four Gold Gloves he won -- three of them while wearing a Cardinals uniform. He also helped mentor a young Yadier Molina, a relationship that should grow further and work as one of St. Louis' strengths in 2012.

One key for an inexperienced manager is his staff, and with Duncan expected to return, Matheny will have the game's most respected pitching coach at his right hand.

Another important hire will be Matheny's bench coach, presumably a veteran man with managerial experience. Colleague Danny Knobler is hearing that former Red Sox and Dodgers manager Grady Little is a possibility to join Matheny in St. Louis.

Matheny was chosen ahead of five other candidates: Terry Francona, who most recently managed the Red Sox; Chris Maloney, who managed St. Louis' Triple-A affiliate in Memphis last year; Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer and former Cubs star who managed Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate; Joe McEwing, who managed the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, and Jose Oquendo, the Cardinals' third-base coach.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:22 pm
 

Cardiac Cardinals win 11th World Series title

ST. LOUIS -- Forget "Go crazy, folks." This year, this autumn, this team, boil legendary broadcaster Jack Buck's famous phrase down even more than that. Strip it down to its base. To the one word.

Crazy.

The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions in a season in which things looked so bleak, they didn't even send advance men out to scout potential playoff opponents.

Champions in a season in which they were 10 1/2 games out of a playoff slot on Aug. 25.

Champions after general manager John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa in late August all but apologized to the Knights of the Cauliflower Ear -- a local civic club that meets to promote area sports -- for a lousy season.

Champions after whipping the Rangers 6-2 an anticlimactic Game 7 following a sensational Game 6 to win the 11th World Series title in franchise history, but please don't tell anyone around here about anticlimactic.

Kids, all that stuff your parents tell you about hard work and never giving up. ...

All true.

Ask Chris Carpenter, who was sensational in the first World Series Game 7 since 2002, working on short rest and extra guts.

Ask Albert Pujols, he of the record 14 total bases in Game 3, and David Freese, who delivered a two-run triple and game-winning homer in Game 6 that will be discussed for generations around here.

Ask Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday and a bullpen that provided the blood and guts that powered the Cardinals through one must-win situation after another during the month of September.

On a chilly Friday evening that pulled the curtain on a sensational final month to close the 2011 season, Carpenter held the Rangers to two runs and six hits over six innings.

It was only the second time in his career that he worked on short rest. The first? Game 2 of the Division Series in Philadelphia, when Carpenter was knocked around for five hits and four runs over just three innings.

La Russa said before Game 7 that he thought Carpenter learned something from his one other short rest outing. He wouldn't say what it was, but it was clear Carpenter did. Just one more example of the trust La Russa places in his elite players, and they in him.

That, along with the talent, has been an essential ingredient in the Cardinals' three World Series appearances since 2004, and two titles.

Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:02 am
 

Injured Holliday hopes to play Game 7

ST. LOUIS -- Slumping Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday left Busch Stadium following Game 6 with his right pinky finger encased in a splint and with his Game 7 status questionable.

"I should be able to play," he said.

The injury occurred when Holliday dove back into third base while getting picked off in the sixth inning. Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre "stepped right on" the finger, Holliday said, catching part of it with a spike.

"It bled a little bit," Holliday said.

And, he noted, "It's pretty swollen."

"We thought at first he had fractured it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "But I was told by the trainer later on that it's not a fracture.

"I think there's swelling, and he's got a pretty good bruise there. So it may be we need to replace him tomorrow."

Holliday said the biggest issue with it will be whether he can properly grip a bat. Already, he's been nursing tendinitis near the base of the middle finger in his right hand.

Though Holliday says that's better now than it was at season's end, and though La Russa predicted big things from him in Game 6 and/or 7, he's hitting just .158 in this World Series and was dropped from fourth to fifth in the lineup by La Russa in Game 6. Before leaving in the sixth, Holliday walked twice and reached on first baseman Michael Young's fielding error.

If Holliday cannot go in Game 7, Allen Craig likely would play left field in his place.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 7:55 pm
 

Pujols discusses fateful hit-and-run call

ST. LOUIS -- For the first time since free-lancing a hit-and-run call that backfired badly on the Cardinals in the seventh inning of Game 5, Albert Pujols discussed the play on a gloomy afternoon at Busch Stadium.

"I've been on this club for 11 years, and that's not the first time I've put on a hit-and-run," Pujols said. "I know there's been a lot of discussion of why did he put the play on and why didn't he swing.

"The pitch was high and away. I wouldn't have been able to touch it. And now I would have been 0 and 2 and you don't want to be in that situation."

Instead, Allen Craig was easily thrown out attempting to steal second on the play and, in a 2-2 game, the Cardinals not only didn't have a runner in scoring position, but the Rangers immediately moved to intentionally walk Pujols with first base open.

Manager Tony La Russa, during a passionate defense of Pujols that lasted four minutes a day earlier, said that Pujols has had the freedom to call a play like that hit-and-run for a long, long time because he trusts Pujols. He also said with Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando pitching Pujols so carefully, he would have told Pujols not to do it had the slugger asked him in the dugout before the at-bat -- which often happens.

"They're being very careful with him," La Russa said. "You can't really expect the ball to be around the plate. [Ogando] has a live arm."

Pujols is not the only star player who is given the freedom to use his judgment to make a call like the one he did Monday. La Russa noted some of the great base-stealers who have the green light and asked if you remove that just because it's the playoffs.

In Cleveland when the Indians had their championship teams of the 1990s, Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton had signals and often would call plays among each other. In Texas, Micahel Young has done it.

"I did it earlier in my career," Young said Wednesday. "If I was a manager, Albert Pujols would be the one player I'd give the leeway to do whatever he thought was necessary to win a game.

"Albert, in my opinion, is the best player in the game. Not only does he have great power, but he does everything well offensively. So if he wants to put on a hit-and-run, set someone in motion, I would absolutely give Albert the leeway to do what he needed to do."

Pujols estimated that he has called a hit-and-run like that probably "more than 200 times" in his career. He added that he does not "deserve special treatment", but noted it simply is a matter of trust between him and his manager.

What he liked about being aggressive in that particular situation, Pujols said, was that the Rangers had just tied the game at 2-2 on Adrian Beltre's home run in the bottom of the sixth.

"I felt if we could put pressure on right there, maybe we can switch the game a little bit," Pujols said.

He said he did not put the play on for the first pitch because he was thinking Ogando would start him out with a ball. Instead, he got a slider for a called strike.

Then he called for the hit-and-run, Craig took off, and Ogando threw the fateful ball one far enough up and away that Mike Napoli was able to throw Craig out at second.

"People can throw rocks at Tony and me," Pujols said. "But I can tell you, out of 200 hit-and-runs [that Pujols has called], or maybe 150, believe me, we've won a lot of those games, too."
Posted on: October 24, 2011 1:33 am
 

Cardinals: Wild Bill, meet Wild Edwin

ARLINGTON, Texas -- You won't find this in the reams of scouting reports St. Louis' advance guys produced on Texas. But trust me, it's in there -- in spirit, if not in black and white.

Anytime your walk rate soars anywhere close to that of a Cardinals pitcher named Wild Bill Hallahan in a World Series game, it's not a good thing.

Though he kept his team in the ballgame until his sixth-inning departure, Edwin Jackson walked the high wire all evening. His seven walks equaled the franchise record for walks in a World Series game set by, yes, Hallahan, in Game 2 of the 1931 World Series against the Philadelphia A's.

Though the Cardinals trailed only 1-0 when Jackson left, they instantly were down 4-0 just one pitch later. Rangers catcher Mike Napoli crushed Mitchell Boggs' first pitch, and the two batters Jackson had walked in front of Napoli -- Nelson Cruz and David Murphy -- scored on the homer.

Jackson said he mostly "made pitches when I had to" but acknowledged battling his location much of the evening.

"It's just one of those things," Jackson said. "You tell yourself, 'Just focus on the next batter.'"

Four of Jackson's walks came to the 6-7-8 hitters in the Texas lineup: One to Cruz, two to Murphy and one to Napoli.

"I actually thought, in his almost six innings, he deserves a lot of credit," manager Tony La Russa said. "I thought he pitched really well."

La Russa acknowledged the Rangers scoring just three batters into the game on Josh Hamilton's RBI double, but noted, "that's all they get, really. He missed a few times, walked a couple of guys, but he kept making pitches.

"Overall, I give him a huge plus for keeping us in the game."
Posted on: October 21, 2011 7:30 pm
 

Berkman, Young will line up as DH's

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- The World Series changes venues, and you know what that means: As the only sport that changes rules in its championship event, Game 3 here brings with it the designated hitter Saturday.

For the Cardinals, it's a chance to get Allen Craig into the lineup following his two RBI pinch-hits against Alexi Ogando in Games 1 and 2. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he will play Craig in right field and move veteran Lance Berkman to designated hitter.

"It really comes down to just respecting Lance," La Russa said. "He's a pivot on that, and talking to him, I think we'll play Allen in right field and Lance will DH and we'll go day-to-day with it."

Rangers manager Ron Washington did not publicly reveal his plans because, as he said, "we just arrived at the ballpark and I haven't had a chance to tell my guys yet."

But later in the day, he told the writers who cover the Rangers that Michael Young will be his DH, Mike Napoli will play first base and Yorvit Torrealba will catch.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:13 pm
 

Rangers draw blood against Cardinals bullpen

ST. LOUIS -- Lighting does strike twice in the same spot. We just saw it. Right here in St. Louis.

One night after Allen Craig pinch-hit and slapped an RBI single to right field against Texas reliever Alexi Ogando to win Game 1 ... he did it again in Game 2. Reruns? So soon?

Hold on -- not quite. In a tense and taut game as crisp as an autumn leaf, Craig's seventh-inning hit didn't quite win it for the Cardinals this time. It spotted them a 1-0 lead ... which only gave the heretofore vaunted St. Louis bullpen the chance to cough it up. Which it did.

Texas 2, Cardinals 1, and this World Series is tied at a game apiece and heading to Texas.

Craig's was an amazing, incredible moment given that pretty much the exact same thing occurred 24 hours earlier. Only difference was, the Rangers and Cardinals were 2-2 in Game 1 when Craig batted with two out and runners on first and third in the sixth.

Game 2, it was 0-0 with two out and runners on first and third in the seventh.

But instead of allowing Craig to become the hero on consecutive nights, Texas' AWOL offense showed up in the ninth with two runs on back-to-back sac flies from the aching Josh Hamilton (groin) and Michael Young.

Talk about eeking one out.

Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus greeted Cardinals reliever Jason Motte with singles to start the ninth. Then, in a move revealing why he never did name Motte as the club's official closer, Tony La Russa hooked him for matchups. Veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes was summoned to face Hamilton, and the Texas lefty hacked at the first pitch and tied the game.

Then Young poked a fly ball deep enough to score Andrus against Lance Lynn.

The Cardinals had been three outs from seizing a 2-0 lead in this World Series and knocking the wind out of the Rangers.

Instead, the Cards were left to wonder what hit them instead.

And this, folks, is just getting good.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 2:26 am
 

Few curves, but Carpenter throws Rangers for loop

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter has had more memorable games. He's had more dominant games. He's surely had more enjoyable games.

But for 87 pitches over six innings in Game 1 of the World Series, Carpenter reached the bar he's set for pitching on guts and determination.

Given the degree of difficulty on this night, it surely was one of his most impressive outings for the Cardinals. And with a 3-2 Game 1 win over Texas, it surely will stand the test of time, too.

As if 49 degrees at game-time wasn't unpleasant enough, Carpenter admittedly received treatment on his elbow for swelling and discomfort following his NLCS Game 3 outing against Milwaukee. Both Carpenter and the Cardinals were adamant that he was fine, that he wouldn't have started otherwise.

But one clue as to the condition of his elbow is this: He threw only seven curveballs in 89 pitches, about 8 percent, according to the pitch-by-pitch feature on MLB.com's GameDay.

According to the web site FanGraphs.com, Carpenter threw his curveball 20.4 percent of the time in 2011.

What he did in Game 1 was feed the Rangers a steady diet of sinkers and cutters. And though he only got two 1-2-3 innings of the six he pitched -- the third and fourth -- he left after six with a 3-2 lead and the lethal Cardinals bullpen picked him up from there.

"When you throw Carp on the mound, you expect a quality start," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said in response to a question regarding Carpenter's elbow. "You expect him to be Chris Carpenter.

"I don't think he'd be out there if he couldn't do what he's been doing."

Because the Rangers and Cardinals have only played once in Interleague play, several years ago, very few of the Rangers have faced him. Michael Young, for example, had only six lifetime at-bats against the right-hander, and two hits.

Because of that, Young said he didn't notice Carpenter's curve count. But he did notice a few other things.

"He was keeping the ball down and getting strike one," Young said. "That was a big thing right there. A lot of balls down. He got ground balls. We did not have a lot of line drives, like we usually do."

"He was pitching, you know?" said Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who went 1 for 3 with a walk after being moved up to sixth in the lineup following his six homers in the ALCS. "He makes pitches when he has to."

Carpenter was not asked about his elbow during his appearance in the post-game media interview room. Of the weather conditions, he said that the balls "were a little slick with the breeze and the lack of humidity. But besides that, it's the same. It's another game, and we've pitched in weather like this before. I grew up [in New Hampshire] pitching in weather like this, so it was no big deal."

The fact that he threw so few curveballs, hard to say definitively whether that is a big deal. But Carpenter did exactly what the Cardinals have come to expect and appreciate on the latest biggest night of their season.

Plus, what his pitching line does not show is his fabulous defensive play in the first inning, when he made a diving catch of an Albert Pujols toss while covering first base two batters into the game. Carpenter caught the toss and tagged first to get the speedy Elvis Andrus on a sensational, athletic play.

"Great performance," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "They're a great hitting team. If you don't make a lot of pitches, they're going to bang you around. ...

"The thing about Carp, he was exactly what we needed."
 
 
 
 
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