|La Russa: `I feel beat up'|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 01 October 2007 17:24|
``I feel like I've been beat up,'' the St. Louis Cardinals manager said Monday, a day after a 78-84 finish. ``It's been really, really draining. I've seen guys that I respect say, 'When you feel like you're this gassed, wait a minute.'''
La Russa has managed the Cardinals to seven postseason appearances in 12 seasons, winning a World Series title in 2006. His contract is expiring, and ownership wants to give him a new deal.
He said he'll discuss the situation with his family before making a decision, although he's certain his wife and two daughters, who live in northern California and rarely see him during the season, will vote for him to continue managing.
St. Louis might not be as attractive to La Russa as it once was. He complained earlier in the season of rough media treatment, especially surrounding his DUI charge. His wife may push for a change of venue.
``I think Elaine has been upset for a while, and thought I took more shots than I deserved,'' La Russa said. ``I think it makes sense to get home and talk to them before anything gets decided.''
But La Russa also knows he's no homebody.
``I can bet right now the worst thing I could say would be, 'Hey, I'm done,' because that would mean I'd be around home,'' he said. ``They want me to manage because after a short period of the offseason, I don't have a lot of use there.'
La Russa added he owes it to himself to not rush his decision.
``I don't want to say I'm back and then regret it because I wasn't ready to come back,'' La Russa said. ``And I don't want to think I'm done and then in a couple days say, 'Shoot, I was probably just tired.'''
St. Louis had just five fewer victories during the regular season than last year. But there was so much turmoil.
Reliever Josh Hancock's drunk-driving death shook the entire team.
There was La Russa's spring training DUI, Scott Spiezio's monthlong absence for treatment of substance abuse, the report that Rick Ankiel received human growth hormone before it was banned by baseball.
St. Louis never replaced three starting pitchers who became free agents after the World Series. Chris Carpenter had a season-ending elbow injury after opening day.
Juan Encarnacion sustained a career-threatening eye injury after being struck by a foul ball, and Scott Rolen needed season-ending shoulder surgery.
``It just never seemed like there was anything that was going easy for us,'' La Russa said. ``You woke up early. You stayed up late. You're always trying to work through something for the team. It's almost impossible to believe.''
Jim Edmonds said if he'd known all of the woes were coming, he might have ``packed up and gone home'' in spring training.
During a nine-game late-season skid that began with the Cardinals only a game out of first place, he suggested players were exhausted mentally as much as physically.
``It's been tough for different reasons. It's been tough for obvious reasons, and then tough for just the reasons we just can't seem to pull it together,'' Edmonds said. ``We've been playing against ourselves and for ourselves and chasing a title and everything all at once.''
St. Louis probably will have to spend more.
This year's budget free-agent pickups were disasters. Kip Wells lost 17 games and twice was bounced from the rotation, and second baseman Adam Kennedy became a platoon player with Aaron Miles before knee surgery ended his season in August.
St. Louis needs a power-hitting outfielder and a starter who'll fit at or near the top of the rotation. How much the Cardinals are willing to spend could depend on whether they exercise an $8.5 million option on closer Jason Isringhausen and sign shortstop and fan favorite David Eckstein to a new contract or go with rookie Brendan Ryan.
Isringhausen was 32-for-34 in save chances, making recovering from hip surgery that caused him to miss the Cardinals' postseason run last fall.
``One way to look at it is how do you replace him?'' La Russa said. ``I would expect that Jason would be here next year, unless you can find a better one, and I don't know how they would do that.''
Eckstein, the World Series MVP last fall, was hindered by injuries all year. During his frequent absences, the Cardinals took a long look at Ryan, who started at three infield positions and would be a much cheaper alternative.
``I don't know how many times I've been told this year on the streets, 'You guys have got to bring Eck back,''' La Russa said. ``It's clear he gives you everything he's got.''
The rotation remains muddled. Mark Mulder needed a second operation for his rotator cuff in September and might not be ready for opening day. Carpenter isn't expected back from elbow reconstruction until midseason at best.
That could leave Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper, a pair of converted relievers who both had successful years, at the top of the rotation. The Cardinals would like to re-sign trade deadline pickup Joel Pineiro. Stand-in starters Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson are other options.
Wells combined with Anthony Reyes to go 9-31. Something needs to change.
Edmonds expects to be much healthier entering the final year of a $19 million, two-year deal and figures to anchor an outfield that also could feature Ankiel on opening day. Last offseason, Edmonds had surgery on his left foot and right shoulder. This time around, he anticipates no operations.
``I'm going to go home and get in the best shape that I can,'' Edmonds said ``And not just say that this time because I hopefully won't have a surgery, and come back and play and see what happens.''