The veteran Phillips wisely remained quiet on the subject. Cueto, though, spoke out about his exclusion, and showed his immaturity in the process.
"I see that I have great numbers," Cueto said. "I thought the way I pitched this year, I'd have a chance to go to the All-Star Game. I don't know what happened. I don't if know the manager of All-Star Game is pissed at me because I went out with one of his girlfriends."
That was all on Sunday. On Monday, a clearly irritated La Russa offered his explanation for not selecting the outspoken Cueto, specifically, and it goes as follows:
"If Dusty had been more interested in Cueto being on the team, then he wouldn't be pitching him on Sunday. Cueto probably would be on the team if he wasn't pitching Sunday.
"The comments Dusty made clearly disappoint me and are attacking my integrity. The All-Star experience is too important to let anything stand in the way of a decision like that.
"No way am I going to penalize anybody for any kind of past history. The fact is that Cueto is going to be pitching on Sunday. Some other day, he's probably on the team."
In review, we have a denial on holding a grudge, a shot back at Dusty Baker for attacking his integrity, and in the opinion of the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay, a flimsy excuse for not selecting Johnny Cueto.
In his article criticizing La Russa's response, Fay explains his position by pointing out that during the offseason, there was an update to the policy for using "Sunday Pitchers" in the All-Star game in the new collective bargaining agreement. The rule now states that any pitcher who starts the Sunday immediately proceeding the All-Star game, if selected, will be allowed to pitch if he chooses to participate, but with a strict one inning limit (or a reasonable team-imposed pitch limit).
Basically every pitcher in baseball is once again eligible to be selected, regardless of when their last start or appearance was, and every pitcher should be considered equally based on the new rule. I can't imagine La Russa was not fully aware and in complete understanding of this change, so by clearly using the "Sunday Pitcher" excuse, he's either playing dumb or lying about ever really taking Cueto into consideration.
Had La Russa offered a better excuse, such as having the responsibility of making sure every National League team is represented — yes, even the San Diego Padres, whose lone selection was reliever Huston Street — or having to take the players and coaches vote into account, it would be far more difficult to accuse him of sticking it to Cueto and Baker.
Had he said nothing at all, the situation simmers for a couple days before fading out of the headlines. But you know old Tony La Russa. If there's a chance to fan the flames, he'll fan them. And of course he's not going to resist in what could possibly be his last real opportunity to make headlines and ruffle feathers with his old rivals.
It's just Tony being Tony, in response to Dusty being Dusty, with Johnny Cueto's All-Star status in the middle. There are no real winners here. Just a lot of noise and too much attention being paid to men who love getting attention.
Related MLB video from Yahoo! Sports:
- Sports & Recreation
- Johnny Cueto
- Dusty Baker
- Tony La Russa