La Russa says Cards will do what's right for team, not player

Updated: December 6, 2007, 5:48 PM ET
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wants third baseman Scott Rolen back.

But only on the team's terms.

Scott Rolen
Rolen

"He's got a contract to play, and we need him to play," La Russa said Wednesday at the baseball winter meetings. "And he's going to be treated very honestly. If he plays hard and plays as well as he can, he plays. And if he doesn't, he can sit. If he doesn't like it, he can quit."

La Russa and Rolen have been feuding at least since the 2006 postseason, when Rolen was benched while struggling with a shoulder injury. The spat lingered last season, and La Russa said Rolen was the lone dissenting voice when the manager was deciding whether to return for another year.

There's absolutely no intention to accommodate Scott [Rolen]. I mean, that's not how you run an organization. The idea is to accommodate the St. Louis Cardinals, our team, our responsibility to our players and to the competition.

-- Tony La Russa

"It was unanimous that everyone was for me except him," La Russa said. "It's gotten to the point where I don't care. What I care about is that he re-establish his stature as a major league productive star."

La Russa said the organization has gone out of its way to show Rolen respect, and "it's time for him to give back."

"Scott's got a lot of goodness to him. ... I think he has been a team man. He plays a team sport. I don't think he's going to want to be the one guy and the 24 guys on the other side of the room."

Rolen issued a cool statement through his agents, Sam and Seth Levinson.

"These are matters that I never discussed publicly and are matters that should have remained private," Rolen said. "I will not dignify Tony's comments with any response at this time."

Rolen was fighting fatigue and soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder when he hit .188 without an RBI in the first two rounds of 2006 NL playoffs. Saying Rolen's swing didn't look right, La Russa benched him for Game 2 of the NL championship series.

Rolen wasn't happy about it, and the two stopped talking to each other.

In the World Series, Rolen hit .421 with a homer, three doubles and two RBIs as the Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers in five games.

La Russa said Wednesday that Rolen asked for a trade, and the Cardinals are exploring their options. But he insisted that the team won't "accommodate" Rolen.

"There's absolutely no intention to accommodate Scott. I mean, that's not how you run an organization," La Russa said. "The idea is to accommodate the St. Louis Cardinals, our team, our responsibility to our players and to the competition.

"So, no, I don't want to accommodate Scott. But somebody doesn't want to be part of the situation, you investigate it."

The Los Angeles Dodgers are among those interested.

"They can make their inquiries," La Russa said. "But the whole idea isn't to please Scott; it's to take care of the St. Louis Cardinals."

Seth Levinson made it sound as if a trade was inevitable.

"It is entirely disingenuous for Tony to claim to be mystified when last year, the organization in a conference call apologized for his highly inappropriate behavior," he said. "This year, Tony wrote a letter and left a follow-up voicemail which would prove to any reasonable person that the relationship is irreparably damaged."

After batting .296 with 22 homers and 95 RBIs in '06, Rolen dropped to .265, eight homers and 58 RBIs this season. Even so, La Russa said he wants him back.

"Nobody has more often said that I don't think Scott should be traded than me," La Russa said. "I think he should be with our club. I think we need him. We need him to reassert himself as an impact player. I don't care what anybody wants in a trade. We need him and we expect him to be productive."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE