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Tony La Russa on Colby Rasmus’ outside help

Offensively, St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Colby Rasmus’ third season as a major leaguer has been a consistent downhill slide. After batting .301 in the season’s first month, he has fared progressively worse with each turn of the calendar since. The left-handed hitter batted .253 in May, fell to .213 in June and is .147 (5-for-34) in July.

The 24-year-old has also experienced periodic lapses defensively, including not always taking charge as the centerfielder, letting balls get past him, pulling up short at times along with not always throwing well, whether uncorking worm burners or missing the cutoff man.

In each of the final two games before the break, Rasmus was caught in between diving at soft line drives and catching them on the bounce. With him unable to knock them down, the balls shot past him and rolled toward the wall. Three runners came home during Saturday’s second inning on a play scored as a single and an error on Rasmus.

Perhaps the four days off for the All-Star Game are coming at a good time for the former first-round draft pick, both because of his slump as well as comments from his manager, Tony La Russa.

La Russa, with whom Rasmus clashed last season, spoke extensively about his centerfielder during his weekly show on KMOX Radio on Sunday morning. The following comments from the manager are transcribed directly from the audio.

The skipper began his review of Rasmus with understanding.

“He is a developing player,” La Russa said. “He’s got really good ability and he’s in his third year. There is a lot to learn and I do believe that lately when he has been struggling – after that nice little flurry of stuff on the road – he’s trying really hard. He is not throwing at-bats away. He is really trying to work it.”

Rasmus received support from his manager for his recent defensive play.

“Yesterday, when that ball in the first inning or whatever inning it was, he wasn’t trying to… he charged that ball hard,” the manager said. “I am not sure he had a great jump. It was twilight and all that stuff…”

A transition in his remarks had begun when discussing Rasmus’ plate approach.

“The point I am trying to make is, he is working hard, but you’ve got to work smart,” La Russa explained. “We talk two-strike approach to everybody and it is an important part of being a winning hitter. There is a definite stroke that would be more productive for… more like if you watch Albert, and if you watch Berkman and you watch Holliday. Those guys all try to get on top of the ball and through it. They don’t try to just scoop and lift it.”

The manager acknowledged the need to take care with a slumping player.

“You know what? At this point, if a guy is struggling, you don’t want to bury him and you don’t want to make him not want to come to work because he keeps hearing things he doesn’t believe in,” said La Russa.

La Russa clarifies what he thinks the player is hearing.

“He’s getting his help from other places,” La Russa asserted. “Our guys don’t stop. They don’t walk away from him giving him work. They give him all the work he wants. As far as the mechanics and what he is trying to accomplish, that is not coming from our guys.”

The skipper wishes Rasmus was not trying to hit home runs, but instead would hit for average.

“…We try to talk to him about that,” said La Russa. “The guys that hit a lot of home runs hit it because they are just trying to put solid contact with a real good swing. He should try that… He should try to be as close or above a .300 hitter as you can because all the hits… If you hit 30 home runs, that’s only 30 hits. But if you want to get closer to 150 or 200 hits, the base hits – the singles, the doubles – start rallies and continue rallies. It’s out there. We’ve talked to Colby a lot about it.”

La Russa again delineated what his hitting coaches do and what they don’t.

“At this point, the situation we are in is that our hitting guys, which are Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete, they pretty much just provide work for Colby,” the manager said. “When he wants to take soft toss or tee work or batting practice in the cage or outside, they are there to provide the work for him.

“But as far as the teaching, he is getting it someplace else. We don’t force anything on anybody. In the end though, I think it is important that if he does real well, then whoever is giving him the outside teaching should get the credit. But if he struggles, they should take that responsibility,” La Russa concluded.

La Russa was not specific as to the source of the outside assistance, however, the player is said to have private batting cages at his St. Louis-area residence. His father, Tony, is a successful prep coach who has worked extensively with his son on his hitting in the past.

Rasmus did not start Sunday afternoon, entering the game in the sixth inning. He went 0-for-1 as his batting average dipped to a season-worst .246. That is lowest among Cardinals regulars with only reserve catcher Gerald Laird carrying a lower average among St. Louis’ active position players.

Note: The article on La Russa’s weekly radio show is posted on KMOX’s website, but as of Sunday night, the audio link provided there is to a different interview.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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42 Responses to “Tony La Russa on Colby Rasmus’ outside help”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    TLR’s remarks seem fair and analytical. The team encourages Rasmus to hit for a higher average by making solid contact (in all directions). Pujols, Holiday, and Berkman are around to provide three great hitting role models.
    As a practical matter, they are also stronger, so can hit some out to opposite field, unlike Rasmus.
    Lots of hitters and pitchers have had prior coaches and its fine if Rasmus gets input from his father, there is nothing wrong with it.
    At AA, Rasmus had a batting average in the 270s and at Memphis he hit .251 for average. If he is hitting about .250 now, he is still the same guy. Jon Jay, in contrast, hit for a higher average in the minors, so does so also at the ML level. No surprise.
    Rasmus will keep working and improve his batting average in future years. He is following a typical career progression.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Rasmus tied an Alabama state record for HRs when in high school. He clears the RF wall via a quick bat and by pulling. He has not muscled up like McGwire once did.
    Its the kind of hitter Rasmus has been and it may take him a few years at the ML level to expand his repertoire.
    Tony Rasmus and Tony LaRussa may draw more attention to Colby’s hitting techniques than the topic deserves.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    When Molina was in his 3rd year with the Cards, he racked an OPS of 595. Some fans hated him and thought he would never amount to a hill of beans. Now Yadier is an all star.

    Curt Flood was a fine defensive CF, but in game 7 in 1968, misplayed a line drive from Northrup. Misplays happen to CFs, even to Flood and to Rasmus.

  4. T8Ball says:

    Brian, thanks for getting this to us, much appreciated.

  5. crdswmn says:

    Thanks for providing the text of the interview. Of course the PD guys are zeroing in on the outside help stuff because hey we can stir up some more shit with this. And of course everyone draws their own conclusions about what is going on and the manure go round continues on. I say a pox on everybody’s house on this one. Stop the melodrama and let the kid play. And leave him alone he ain’t a Slinky. Grrrrrr.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      There are problems here…………..

      • crdswmn says:

        No kidding.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          I would remind everyone that this is all happening in a war zone………. Tony wants things…….CR has always been DeWitts pet project…………… I described it as a chew toy issue pre- season…………. he’s caught now……and they’re a chewing………………

          I have to believe RC is playing a part here………….. but he is likely aware of some issues that are somewhat beyond normal considerations……….. In my experience, when the PR apparatus of a club turns against you…….life isn’t so good……….. Colby has made adjustments that have pretty much resolved his problems……………. it is his tendency to attempt to revert back to his accustomed patterning that is drawing everyones ire……………….. I could tell you what I think…….but it’s none of my business………….. I hope RC and Colby find what they’re looking for…………… I will keep that positive thought………….

  6. Leebo says:

    Does this Colby stuff remind anyone of the JD Drew situation. The “PR apparatus” as WC calls it was against Drew from the beginning. It is impossible for me to know the source. Was it the media taking cues from the coaching staff? In Drew’s case it manifested itself in several articles implying that Drew was soft and feigning injury trying to get out of the line-up.

    Whatever the source, the media began writing these articles and it didn’t take long for the fans to turn against Drew. At the end of one season it was determined the Drew had been fighting what turned out to be a dead tendon in his knee. This fact didn’t deter the fans or media from hating on Drew until he was run out of town.

    I can’t help but sense something similar is happening here. I share crdswmn frustration and it is obvious if you read the above article and the one on stltoday that the tone of the STLtoday article makes TLR sound a bit more antagonistic towards Colby than the interview suggests. Reading the quotes above it sounds as though TLR is less anti-Colby (or even anti-Tony Rasmus) but pro MM and his teaching approach.

    I am a Colby Rasmus fan. I believe he was made sort of an outcast when brought up 3 years ago. Why that happened I am not in position to know. Things seem to have improved the past year, but now things are being stirred up again. What is the source of this? I for one hope Colby reaches his potential here in St. Louis.

    I must say that I disagree with RC that Colby will never be accepted by the fans of St. Louis. He has a lot of fans and if things get turned around he will be a hero in Cardinal Nation. Call me the eternal optimist but I still think its going to happen.

    Go get em Colby!!

    • JumboShrimp says:

      One reason Drew had problems was he hired an aggressive agent who drove up signing bonuses for amateurs. Drew went high in the draft yet spurned the Phillies, signing the next summer with the Cards and getting a ML contract. He bucked the system, for those days. Traditionalists and MLB toadies felt threatened.

      The Cards probably did not see how they could afford Drew after he reached free agency, since they had Pujols to pay. TLR and company may have exaggerated Drew as hypochondriac to help justify trading him. Or maybe they had it right.

      Tony Rasmus is a colorful character and helps sell newspapers. The P-D is irresistably drawn to him.

      • Leebo says:

        I was simply commenting on and trying to make sense of how the “PR apparatus” works in St. Louis. You are correct that Drew was being overpaid for what he was producing and the trade won us the 2006 world series. We don’t win in 06 without Wainright closing. We even got decent production from Marquis and King. Great trade for the Cardinals! It will keep paying dividends as long as we have Wainright. That was Jockety that made that trade. I wouldn’t feel the same about a Rasmus for Heath Bell deal where we only keep Bell for 2-3 months.

        • Kansasbirdman says:

          Yeah, I would not think CR for HB would very a very good bargain at all, even if we had HB for years. Its also bad business to not stick with players through slumps or any other issues for that matter (think about Grienke and how the royals stuck with him and how he ended up, or Jose bTista coming out of nowhere to realize hsi potential) I know MLB is a business but good teams (that don’t have huge payrolls) have to deal with these things with a more wise, player as human approach I don’t want the cards to be the souless yanks

  7. CariocaCardinal says:

    Tony blaming the fans for his trashing of Rasmus. Downright hilarious.

    Fans aren’t down on Rasmus for his offense as much as his defense. Not sure either side (Rasmus or management realize that).

  8. JoeyD says:

    It appears that RCWarrior has convinced about a half dozen people that poor old Colby is just a misunderstood child. He is a child that has taken the money without any real performance for three years. IF he shows no maturity by the end of this season, I say ship him out. I don’t care if he becomes an annual all star for someone else. He has shown, as a Cardinal, that he is worthless in the field and a strikeout king at bat. Let the Yankees or Red Sox have him..

    • Kansasbirdman says:

      Normally I wouldn’t respond to unhelpful comments that don’t add anything intelligent to the discussion here but I do take exception to the fact that you insinuate that “about a half dozen” people here can’t or don’t think for themselves or can’t or don’t acquire outside evidence upon which to base opinion or argument. Take a thoughtful look at the comments here by our learned posters and get an adequate sample size upon which to base your statments regarding those who post here and you will realize the error of your assertion.

  9. crdswmn says:

    It’ s called being played. Like a piano. Certain people are very good at it. Most people are susceptible to it.

    I don’t like the music, so I’ve put my ear plugs in.

  10. Kansasbirdman says:

    Things I learned over the weekend:
    TLR is not infallible – exhibit a, the lineup card mixup on friday
    Dan Descalso is our 4th string catcher (probably will help to keep him around, which I like bc I like DD)
    Tony Cruz can play outfield (which will probably help to keep him around, which I like bc I like TC)
    The team is still having fun; exhibit a – the mobbing of TC after his walkoff hit
    Let’s come back after the rest guns blazing, nothing like a series with the reds to get the team energized

  11. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Westbrooke against Cueto to open the Reds series………………….. Tony has offered Dusty this first “preemptive gambit” …………. of the second half…………… and it is provocative ………. Johnny against Jake would make the Reds a Prohibitive favorite…………. does Dusty take the momentum and then face CC and then Garcia? Or does he match up and contest Carpenter with his ace, where ever that might fall……………… that is the best course to the sweep for the Reds………..finesse the opener, contest Carp, and then use the momentum for a sweep…………. his team is flat right now….does Dusty take the easy kill?????? does he need to? or does he try to play for a sweep?…………….. Tony has his own problems…….. Jake is his weakest arm at this point……. he is pushing him into a position of esteem, of confidence in his ability to lead…….. so he gets to inject those positives in what otherwise…….does not look like a good situation………………….. Lohse and Kmac in NY is about something…….maybe the real motivation? Mets will have a number of players over preforming to attract trade interest………. half those guys what to jump that sinking ship……….

    AP made some dramatic adjustments to close the half………….I couldn’t help but notice that, brimming with confidence…………………………he reverted back to his old setup on that last AB……… almost as an attempt at invalidating that invasive input that had finally gotten through his wall of invincibility…………… showing that it wasn’t their adjustments that was actually source of his “hot streak”………………………….. the result was of course obvious……………. his attempts at coming to grips with this issue… it always has……..holds playoff future of this team………..

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      So the same guy who all but said we were going to get swept by the ‘Backs now is debating whether we will lose 2of 3 or get Swept by the Reds. I like our chances!

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      Black Helicopters spotted in New York. I hope the spooky guys don’t find out that Albert went to Kansas City over the break.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        This story has to many easy and obvious resolutions CRD…………. to many holes for the valuables not to just leak out……….. someone is plugging them………. dutch boys can’t keep there fingers in the dike for every………………… Colby is a poor actor……… they want out …….they have leverage because of the stalemate between the combatants…………… its a fair play because its all about returns for BD at this point…………..Tony has just put a time limit on these negotiations by declaring an “accounting” next week………Colby is on the market………this is how it happens………….. Hope it ends well for everyone……….

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          This one was intend for CRD…………this one below belongs here…….

          Deal with this situation Brian ……….. We know what happens when WC makes trouble……….its a damn blood bath. I still admire the psychological attack that got me banned for the scout group………. I’m stating to feel kind of nasty ………… I ask such small devotions……………… me from my bad side………. help me hide it from the world…………..

  12. blingboy says:

    IIRC, Colby has heated up in the past after hitting work with his dad. But it doesn’t last. That’s the bottom line. He has to be able to find it within and keep himself on track with the help of resources available to him day in and day out. So far, there is no indication of any progress toward self sufficiency.

    The defense is another thing. A runner took third on him on a rather shallow fly just the other day. Although Colby had time to get under it in a position to throw, he didn’t, he mosied over to where it was coming down and caught it flatfooted in no position to throw, so the runner took what was given. I wonder if RC has a cure for that.

  13. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    The Bottom Line: ……….Maybe Tony Rasmus will help solve the most glaring problem player in this lineup; I sincerely hope so. And let me say this: even if La Russa isn’t thrilled about this privately, publicly he has signed off on Colby working with Tony Rasmus. And La Russa is the boss. If Don Tony is OK with it, that’s really what matters. If the controlling La Russa has eased the border restrictions to let Tony Rasmus take charge of Colby’s hitting, then his decision will stand. More than anything, I think La Russa is desperate to find any solution to Colby Ramus; he doesn’t care who unlocks the key as long as someone gets it done. A confident, productive Ramus can be a tremendous asset for the Cardinals in the second half. And if this works, then this soon will be forgotten. That’s the way it goes in sports. But if Dad can’t fix Colby, then who will Tony Rasmus blame this time?

    Read more:

    That Bernie……………………… As this thing heats up………….don’t neglect to follow this dialog. Consider this……….if Colby stinks when he comes back……….. its not TLR’s fault……..or his staff……ask yourself………who is he talking to?????????? Who is the judge of this?????? what are the consequences????? And most importantly, who is suffering this loss of value………… if they slam Colby in to Memphis…….. he isn’t come out………. he didn’t the first time………. All possible trade partners are thinking “what”? about this “experiment”……….. with all its empirical truths………..

    Be honest……….we love RC………….. he has something in mind here…….how not…….. there is big money involved in this………. and RC’s adjustments aren’t the solution……..I know that………. I’m watching the Braves for a number of reasons…………….there must be a guarantee somewhere in this….. the stakes are monstrous…………on all planes of perception/reason………….

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      I don’t hear a blessing of the RC as hitting coach as much as an acquiescence that TLR can’t do anything about it and a dumping of responsibility because of it. And if he simultaneously is able to trash Colby/RC at the same time all the better? Bernie is way off base on a couple things. Lot’s of players have private hitting coaches. Colby’s just happens to be his dad – that is different than running to daddy.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Some “Cards fans” are disappointed in Colby. TLR is saying McGwire and Aldrete are not responsible, since they help Colby as much as he is willing. TLR was defending MM and Aldrete. Sounds fair.

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          Yes, I would agree that that was part of it as well. But Tony has been around long enough to know how to defend one person without throwing another under the bus…..unless he wants to.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            TLR gets interviewed. Rasmus has been slumping in the field and at the dish. TLR cannot decline to speak about him. So he says Rasmus has been working at improving, true. And he consults folks in addition to McGwire and Aldrete, also true. I don’t think he threw Colby under the bus. It just is what it is. After the break, Colby will probably go on a hot streak. He’s a streaky hitter.

  14. Nutlaw says:

    I’m not too worried about Colby. His strikeout to walk ratios have dropped (2.64 in 2009, 2.35 in 2010, 1.83 in 2011) so he’s being selective. His BABIP and HR/FB rates are down this year from last year (.291 vs .354 and 7.1% vs 11.7% respectively) so there’s some amount of luck at work. He is hitting popups at more than double his normal rate and he’s putting the ball on the ground a little bit more often, which isn’t great, but he should be fine.

  15. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Holiday is too shy to win this competition…………… I like Gonzales……..he takes a phone pole up there, he doesn’t care………..big long swing just to get it going…………..

  16. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Cano is a real man…………. and I like his dad a bunch too ………….. It reminds us what classic technique can do………….. Gonzales was a good tactician………. but hitting 12 to beat 11 takes character…….

  17. […] taking hitting instruction from his father rather than his coaches. La Russa touched on the subject here, on July 10 of that […]

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