La Russa closeup

Tony La Russa wants intensity and grittiness. And maybe he has a point.

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Bernie Miklasz has a story about Tony La Russa and the Cardinals in the Post-Disptach today.  In it he talks about how some of the Cardinals’ moves — Lance Berkman in right field, letting Brendan Ryan go and replacing him with Ryan Theriot, etc. — may have the statheads going crazy, but that La Russa doesn’t care. He’s all about intensity and grinders and scrappers, you see, and whatever the latest conventional wisdom is on the part of the sabermetric community can go to hell.

Those of us who skew more toward the statty side of things may scoff, but La Russa has a message for us:

He constantly recurs to one intangible intensity … playing little ball, scrambling to manufacture runs, “looking for just 90 feet every once in a while,” La Russa says, energizes a team. It puts a team on the balls of its feet, ready to run. And that intensity carries over into its defense.

Oh, wait.  That’s not a quote from Miklasz’s article at all.  It’s from George Will’s Sports Illustrated profile of La Russa from 1990. A profile that, while far more expansive, has La Russa hitting all of the same notes.  That article was written as his Bash Brothers Athletics team was about to win 103 games and a third straight AL Pennant. Except they weren’t all bash. They were second in the league in stolen bases too, despite all that power.

I know some Cardinals fans who are worried about the 2011 season. I’d probably be a bit worried if I were them too.  But La Russa has always done it his way. He has always bucked expectations of others, often stubbornly so. And he has always won.  He’s probably entitled to a little benefit of the doubt by now.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.