Tigers, Cards dish on the dirt
Rogers claims innocence; La Russa defends reaction
ST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa and Kenny Rogers both dug in on the defensive Monday afternoon, one day after the Tigers left-hander was caught with a mysterious brown spot on his left hand in the first inning of Game 2 of the 2006 World Series.Rogers continued to insist that it was a combination of mud and dirt. Said La Russa tersely at a Busch Stadium press conference, "I don't believe it was dirt. It didn't look like dirt." Rogers said the stuff came from rubbing up his baseballs in the bullpen warming up before the game. "I'm a mudder," Rogers said speaking to a crowd of reporters around his locker before the Tigers workout at Busch Stadium. "I don't mind getting dirty," Rogers said. "I like dirt. I like mud on [the ball]. Nobody likes to throw a brand new baseball." The Cardinals saw the spot on the base of Rogers' thumb during the first inning of the Tigers' 3-1 victory on Sunday night at Comerica Park. La Russa was alerted to the situation by Cardinals inactive infielder Jose Vizcaino, who was watching television in the clubhouse, and home-plate umpire Angel Marquez asked Rogers between innings to wash the stuff off. Rogers did so and proceeded to throw seven more scoreless innings without the smudge on his hand. He has now thrown 23 scoreless innings in the playoffs. La Russa declined to speak about it after Sunday's game, but had much to say during the press conference as he was questioned why he didn't have the umpires check Rogers on the mound. La Russa said he wanted to respect the competition going on during the World Series and did not want to make a big issue of the situation as long as it was handled properly. "There was an indication from the clubhouse that something is going on with the pitcher," La Russa said. "I have a decision to make, and I decided that I was not going to be part of [the garbage] where I was going to ask the umpire to go to the mound and undress the pitcher. Now, what was I going to do? I alerted him. "I said, 'I hope it gets fixed, if it doesn't get fixed then I'll take the next step.' Because I do think if someone is abusing ... the way we handle this is, quit doing that, before this becomes a big deal or ugly or whatever. I mean stop it. That's what was done last night." A pitcher who has been caught with a foreign substance can be ejected from the game and suspended.
Rule 8.02 says a pitcher cannot "have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such an infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game."Dodgers reliever Jay Howell was caught with pine tar on his glove during Game 3 of the 1988 National League Championship Series against the Mets and was immediately ejected. He was then suspended for the remainder of the series. La Russa acknowledged that he spoke to his players on Monday about how he handled the situation and there might be some who felt he should have been more aggressive in challenging Rogers. "I briefly explained where I was coming from and I said, 'Anybody felt like I should do different, then I'm disappointed in you,'" La Russa said. "But I went to sleep at night and I looked in the mirror. You've got to live with yourself. And they didn't raise their hand and say, 'Hey, I disagree.' They just didn't say anything. "But it's very possible there were guys that disagreed. It's not the way we want to win." Tigers manager Jim Leyland declined to get involved in the debate, saying, "I'm not going to chew yesterday's breakfast." But other members of the Tigers organization came to Rogers' defense. "He hasn't done anything wrong," said longtime Tigers scout Dick Egan, who is one of Rogers' closest friends in the game. "I have no problem. They know everything about what he does and how he does it. They can write all the stories they want about that stuff, but there's nothing there. There's nothing there that's illegal." Said Tigers first-base coach Andy Van Slyke, "It had no bearing on how he pitched, at all. The camera can zoom in the hair in your nose. They created this issue. There's a plaque in Cooperstown right now of a guy [Gaylord Perry] who wrote a book about how he cheated, and I'm not accusing Kenny of cheating, that's not what I'm saying. To me, it's like yesterday's breakfast. I want to throw it back up." Reliever Todd Jones said he wishes the umpires had gone to the mound and checked Rogers. "It would've cleared it all up," Jones said. "It's unfair to have it like that. Either check him or don't." La Russa was also asked if his close friendship with Leyland kept him from having Rogers checked by the umpires. "If somebody tells me that that's what I was thinking, it's really a personal insult, and I would take it personally," La Russa said. "I'm just telling you that in 20-plus years of competing as a manager, that's how I've handled every one of these controversies, against whoever the other manager was. "So it had nothing to do with Leyland. We're friends. The competition isn't about friends. This is about the Tigers and the Cardinals. And if somebody seriously accused me of that, then I would get very upset and confrontational." La Russa's players didn't appear to be too upset about it on Monday as they went about preparing for Game 3 on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. "The fans feel we got cheated," outfielder John Rodriguez said. "But he pitched a good game. Obviously, if he cleaned it off, or whatever it was, he pitched good from the first inning all the way to the eighth. So I guess it really wasn't that." Said second baseman Aaron Miles, "What can you say? He pitched a good game." La Russa added that he has no regrets on how he handled the situation, "because we got it fixed and we still couldn't beat them."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Staff reporters Tom Singer, Matthew Leach and Jason Beck all contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.