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posted: 9/28/2012 5:03 PM

Tony LaRussa talks baseball, vegetarianism and statues

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  • Tony LaRussa will be signing copies of his memoir, "One Last Strike," at 7 p.m. Monday at Anderson's Bookshop in downtown Naperville.

      Tony LaRussa will be signing copies of his memoir, "One Last Strike," at 7 p.m. Monday at Anderson's Bookshop in downtown Naperville.
    File Photo

 
 

Longtime baseball manager Tony LaRussa says it may be fun trying to predict the winner of this year's World Series, but your chances of being right are about the same as seeing him sit down to a steak dinner: not very good.

LaRussa, who retired last year after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to an improbable World Series victory over the Texas Rangers, recently talked about baseball, steroids, the arts and being a vegetarian during a wide-ranging chat with the Daily Herald in preparation for his appearance Monday, Oct. 1, in Naperville to sign copies of his memoir, "One Last Strike."

The former manager of both the Chicago White Sox and Oakland A's will sign copies of his book chronicling the Cardinals' 2011 season at 7 p.m. at Anderson's Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave. Organizers say he only will sign copies of his new book and not other books or memorabilia. For details, visit andersonsbookshop.com or call (630) 355-2665.

Q. Who will be in and win the World Series this year?

A. If you're good enough to get to October, and this year there will be 10 teams and then eight after the one-game playoff, anyone can win a short series.

I think the team that has an edge would be the Texas Rangers. They've had another outstanding year and they've gotten to the Series twice in the past two years (and lost both times). I think they're on a mission to get back and win it.

You can predict all you want, but you can never be serious (about it). The teams with the best records (sometimes) lose. No one ever knows who's going to get that key hit or make the play that does it.

Q. Do players from the "steroid era," like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

A. That's a really good question. My only strong opinion is that you can't pick and choose. You can't take a couple of poster boys and say "I'll never vote for them" and then vote for the other ones.

I saw recently where (former pitcher) Eric Gagne said 80 percent of the (Los Angeles) Dodgers were doing it. So the bigger issue is how do you handle that several-year period? Either you exclude them all or you make some kind of accommodation or asterisk. But I don't know the answer to that. I just would not pick and choose.

Q. Would you rather manage a team of intelligent players or a team of athletes?

A. I know exactly what you're talking about. The fact is that you can keep your plan real simple and be productive.

But if you really want to be special, you want a smart guy who uses his smarts for baseball and is playing the game and understanding what he's doing and why. You've got a better chance to win with guys like that.

Before you get too smart or too slow, you want to make sure the guy is a tough competitor. Then you break down whether he's smart or slow.

Q. You've gotten a reputation over the years of being bad with young talent. Do you deserve it?

A. Well, I've won a few World Series and have coached more Rookie of the Years than anyone else. So how does that work?

People say what they want. It's a bad position I've been trying to defend for years. All I can say is look at the facts and make your own decision.

Q. Shortly after your retirement you were replaced by former major league catcher Mike Matheny, a guy you managed from 2000-2004, but who had never managed in the big leagues. Were you surprised by his hiring?

A. I was packing up some things and I saw Mike the day before he interviewed for the job. I was impressed, surprised actually, about how serious he was about pursuing it. After the interview, the general manager told me they were impressed with him as well. They gave him a shot and it worked out.

Q. Did the Cardinals make a mistake by letting a future Hall of Famer, Albert Pujols leave for the Angels?

A. I think the system is set up to a point where you can't blame Albert or the Cardinals. I think 10 years (at $254 million) is not smart for a team like the Cardinals but it made sense for the Angels. They just got a big TV contract so they needed a franchise player.

I don't think that deal could have gotten done with the Cardinals and I understand why. I could never take a risk longer than five or six years on any player.

Q. Do you deserve a statue outside Busch Stadium?

A. No. Those are for players and (the late announcer) Jack Buck. I ain't no Jack Buck.

Q. What's the best baseball movie of all time?

A. I like "Major League." I thought a lot of the dialogue, clubhouse stuff and action had some legitimacy to it.

Q. You're a vegetarian. What meat-based meal could get you to give it up for a day?

A. My mother made some great pasta and every once in a while I'll smell something that reminds me of her cooking. But the answer is none. I wouldn't give in to it. I'm a tofu man and I like my hummus a lot.

Q. Could you manage the Cubs to a World Series win?

A. That's an odd question because I'm not managing anymore. I always tell my players to be a big dreamer. I've been fortunate to live that championship dream a few times. But right now the biggest dream out there is for the Cubs to win. And it will happen some day.

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