Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ozzie, Larussa Discuss Their Rift

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ozzie, Larussa Discuss Their Rift

Article excerpt

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa smiled and said, "I'll always feel like there's a little edge in our relationship. I don't think that ever will go away."

La Russa was referring to his relationship with sometime shortstop Ozzie Smith, who on Wednesday announced his retirement effective at the end of the season. Smith has been playing just once or twice a week behind Royce Clayton, 26, who is 15 years Smith's junior.

"I'm playing one game a series and that's the way it is, whether I like it or not," Smith said.

"But it wasn't so much about my playing time as the way it was done. I was under the impression I was going to have every opportunity to do what I do."

Smith said La Russa misled him in spring training. "I was told that the position would be earned in spring training," he said. "And I thought I did that. I did everything that was asked of me.

"This was the most disappointing thing in my career in St. Louis. All I can go by is a person's word. Going into spring training, I knew I had a j ob to do and I did that job."

A miffed La Russa said, "It doesn't go away. It's a constant irritation for him and for me - his misunderstanding of that. I was real clear - the guy who plays the best, plays the most.

"I think it's fair to say he misunderstood how he compared to Royce in spring training. He felt like he won the job.

"I was going to start him on opening day but that was not to say he was going to play the majority of games. I did exactly what I said I was going to do. And if Royce ever starts playing poorly and Ozzie starts playing better than Royce, then Ozzie will play more than Royce."

Smith suffered a hamstring injury on a wet field in Nashville, Tenn., late in spring training and, except for a couple of appearances, missed most of the first month of the season. By the time he returned, Clayton had seized the moment.

In Smith's mind, La Russa said, "he thought it was a job he deserved to have because he played himself into such good shape" after shoulder surgery last year. …

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