La Russa: McGwire in no-win situation

Updated: February 25, 2005, 10:32 PM ET
Associated Press

JUPITER, Fla. -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa doesn't advise Mark McGwire to take legal action against Jose Canseco for accusations of steroid use in his book.

La Russa passed the bar in 1979, the year he got his first major league managing job with the Chicago White Sox, but never has practiced law. But he said it would be a no-win situation for McGwire, who played for him in both Oakland and St. Louis.

Tony La Russa
"Anytime you get accused, being on the defensive is something to avoid," La Russa said.

"I vaguely remember law school, but I remember that when you start getting into libel and slander, that's one of the toughest proofs in the world," La Russa said Friday. "It is so difficult. ... The players can do whatever they want to, but you've got to think long and hard before you make that investment."

Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro has left open the possibility of taking legal action against Canseco, who claims he introduced the first baseman to steroids in 1992 when both players were with the Texas Rangers. Palmeiro issued a statement last month in which he denied using steroids and said Thursday he's considered hiring the law firm of Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

McGwire also has denied Canseco's charges.

"In Mark's case, I just think if somebody accuses you of something and you try to explain it, you come out so defensive," La Russa said. "It's a terrible position to be in."

La Russa compared the situation to one he found himself in several seasons ago when former Cardinals player Ron Gant accused him of racism.

"Having to defend the fact I've had black players as some of my best friends, it was really uncomfortable," La Russa said. "Anytime you get accused, being on the defensive is something to avoid."

La Russa didn't think holding a news conference would be "fair" to McGwire, either.

"I know he would handle himself well and it would be OK," La Russa said. "I can't imagine it being fair. I think some people would take stuff out of context, they'd take bits and pieces of answers. ... I don't know what you'd accomplish by doing it. He's smart, got a family, got advisers, they're thinking long and hard on this."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press