The St. Louis Cardinals have already clinched the NL Central title. Tony La Russa just does not see it that way.
With their manager waiting for them to secure the division title on the field, the Cardinals open a four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
Those results guaranteed that the Cardinals will finish no worse than tied at 97 wins with the Cubs, who also would be guaranteed a playoff berth. Under baseball’s rules, St. Louis would be awarded the Central title because it won the season series 11-8, and Chicago would get the wild-card spot.
La Russa wants to clinch it on the field and will not acknowledge the division title until that point. Following a 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks on Sunday, La Russa angrily stormed out of his postgame news conference after responding to a question about delaying the traditional champagne celebration.
“Yeah, we’re celebrating,” he barked. “What the hell kind of question is that? That’s a rule for the thing when you’re tied at the end of the season. We’ve got another 14 games to go, man.”
With the Cardinals set to embark on a 10-game road trip, the clubhouse was unusually subdued following Sunday’s loss.
“The formula says we clinched, we clinched,” Cardinals pitcher Jason Marquis said. “You’ve got to be happy about that. But it does seem a little depressed in here.”
On the message board just inside the clubhouse door, La Russa wrote: “Magic # Is 1. Championship Won On Field. Not Some Formula!!”
“It’s legitimate,” La Russa said. “You don’t win things because of a formula, only if it comes down to the fact that you can’t do it on the field. We can do it on the field.”
Milwaukee is five games behind Pittsburgh for fifth place in the NL Central.