If you are like me, you were relieved that the 2011 All-Star break came to a close for the St. Louis Cardinals.
One of the biggest news stories across the Cardinal Nation during the All-Star break – and briefly across baseball when a bogus Tampa Bay trade rumor circulated on Tuesday – has been the outside hitting instruction received by St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus.
Last Sunday, prior to the final game before the break, manager Tony La Russa was widely quoted about the subject, defending his hitting coaches Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete from any responsibility for Rasmus’ prolonged slump.
The skipper skillfully avoided directly naming the source of the external instructor(s) he instead holds accountable. The assumption was that the reference was to Colby’s father Tony Rasmus, the 24-year-old’s former youth coach and long-time batting mentor.
That the elder Rasmus reportedly threw batting practice to his son in the Busch Stadium cages following at least one recent game could be a source of some of the irritation.
Interwoven in the unhappiness of many fans is Tony Rasmus’ prior outspoken comments posted here and elsewhere on the internet. Though the elder Rasmus had said little to nothing publicly in recent days, he remains a flashpoint for criticism affecting his son.
Taken together with Colby’s skirmish with La Russa and reported trade demands last season, this snowballed into last week’s renewed and expanded trade backlash.
Following the break, on Friday afternoon, Tony Rasmus went on the Bernie Miklasz show on 101 ESPN radio in St. Louis. It seemed an attempt to clear some of the considerable amount of bad air not only from this week, but from the past as well.
I encourage you to listen to the entire interview at 101Sports.com as it provides a much clearer view into how Tony Rasmus sees his son and his internet commenting than one can glean from a few stray quotes that may or may not be offered in their intended context.
Much of the furor in recent days focused on Tony Rasmus’ hitting instruction, which he says like all of his baseball-related contact with his son, has been greatly diminished since Colby’s rookie season.
Also noteworthy is the fact that there is a new player recently added to the coaching staff of Team Rasmus.
Back on June 28, Tony Rasmus, posting here as RCWarrior, made the following remark on this blog in the midst of a conversation about his son’s swing.
“…My intel tells me that he has a guy that is going to be hitting with him once a week from here on out…”
To be honest, I didn’t think much of it at the time, as there are formal and informal hitting coaches all over baseball, employed both internally and externally. Rasmus receiving local help seems logical since his father is employed and lives hundreds of miles away.
Still, it seems noteworthy that this was given no attention during the intense magnification the subject received in recent days.
Tony Rasmus again noted his son’s use of an external hitting coach, this time in a much broader forum – during his on-air discussion with Miklasz on Friday. Yet the subject passed without even an acknowledgement, let alone a follow-on question.
“He’s working with somebody else, not me,” the elder Rasmus told Miklasz.
Now, I am not suggesting this is at the core of La Russa’s concern. Given the dates involved, it seems likely that only a handful of hitting sessions may have occurred between Colby and his new coach. Yet it is a clear indication that the story may have more angles than some have portrayed.
Tony Rasmus declined to comment when I asked for the identity of Colby’s St. Louis-area swing doctor. Frankly, given all the negative publicity and over-reaction out there, I can understand why he didn’t. Even if other players are using the same coach, given the current climate, Rasmus would likely be singled out.
Remember that this most recent flare up began when La Russa moved to defend his coaches from outside criticism that they weren’t doing more to help Colby through his slump. In his radio interview, Tony Rasmus clearly laid down the olive branch on that subject no matter who else is working with his son.
Hopefully all parties can let this pass and move ahead. Of course, the best way for this to happen would be for Colby to perform up to his capabilities.
If this resurfaces going forward, however, assessing blame (or perhaps later on, heaping praise) on Rasmus’ hitting instructors will apparently become even more complicated than today – assuming people ask the questions and consider the answers before the overreactions resume.