Cardinal Nation is one of the more celebrated fandoms in baseball. St. Louis is known nationwide as being one of the biggest baseball towns around. We take our baseball very seriously and we hold our players in high esteem. The truth of the phrase “once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal” cannot be disputed. Even when players leave the Cardinals for other teams, we can’t seem to let them go. One of our former Cardinals left us under a cloud of controversy and some bad feeling about his time with the Cardinals. Colby Rasmus was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays last season and his leaving stirred up a lot of feelings from Cardinal fans, both positive and negative. Some of those feelings were and still are focused not only on Colby, but on Colby’s father, Tony Rasmus, who has been the subject of much controversy in the media for his participation in his son’s development as a major league player. Tony Rasmus was kind enough to agree to answer some questions for me, as a sort of way for him to speak to Cardinal Nation about his family and their experiences with the Cardinal organization, both past and present. The following is Tony Rasmus, speaking to Cardinal Nation.
1. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. My first question is how is Colby doing? Does he enjoy playing for Toronto?
Colby is doing really good for the first time since probably the year he spent in Double A ball. That was the last time I remember him actually enjoying playing the game of baseball. Easy answer…. he loves it. But in all honesty he would have loved playing for the Iraqi national team if it meant getting out of the situation he was in. I haven’t heard him say one negative thing about Toronto. Loves the town, loves the people there. It’s obviously been a big time positive move for him.
2. One of your sons, Cyle, recently suffered a terrible injury playing college baseball. What happened and how is he doing?
Cyle was hit in the mouth while sliding into second to break up the double play. His jaw was broken in 3 places I believe, maybe 4. His jaw was wired shut for 4 weeks and he had two plates put in to help put everything back together. He actually came back and finished out the year and ended up leading his team in hitting I believe in the conference championship tournament. He’s a tough kid, and probably the best baseball player in the family if truth be known.
3. Another one of your sons, Casey, plays for the Cardinals’ Class A organization in Quad Cities. Is he enjoying it and how would you assess his chances of making the big league club some day?
Case was a kid who didn’t really start focusing on playing baseball at a high level until he was maybe an 11th grader. He was always fast, but small. I had to put him behind the plate on my high school team in 2006 when I didn’t have a catcher that could handle catching the two guys I had that touched 97 mph. You want to talk about being thrown into the fire. I rode him hard to get good quick and he eventually stuck and ended up being as good a catch and throw catcher as I had ever coached. Case absolutely loves playing baseball for the Cardinals. With Colby having been on the Cardinals, Case had always wanted to be a part of them as well. He was a late round selection and signed for little if anything. I’m not actually sure what he got to be honest but it was irrelevant, he wanted to play pro baseball and he’s getting his chance. His chances are probably not good but he’s a worker and he wants it and I’ll never be the one to tell him he can’t accomplish anything in this life if he battles and works hard for it. If he doesn’t make it it won’t be for lack of effort. It will just be he wasn’t good enough. I believe everyone of us can handle that.
4. I read recently that Colby’s coaches have made some adjustments to his hitting approach. What were the changes and how have they helped him?
In my opinion Murph [Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy] has looked at Colby and tried to get him back to the way he hit in the minors as far as his approach. Colby was always more of a pull guy and he’s just allowed him to use his strengths to get back to just seeing the ball and hitting it verses Colby trying to be something he isn’t. I believe everyone who coaches the game would like to turn every hitter into Joey Votto who can hit to all fields and do it with power but unfortunately every player can’t do that. Colby felt like trying to get him to be more of a guy who hit the ball the other way took away from his strengths as a hitter. He has told me many times that he has just tried to the best of his abilities these last three years to be that guy that the Cardinals wanted him to be but just wasn’t successful doing it. Murph just said, hey, let’s go back to when you were mashing the ball and see if you can find the swing that got you to the Big Leagues.
5. There is a perception among many in Cardinal Nation that you have micromanaged Colby’s baseball career, that you are in essence, a “stage dad”. What do you say to that?
Well this is certainly a case where perception and reality are 180 degrees in opposite directions. This stage dad stuff was a creation of the media in St. Louis, nothing more. I never one time in Colby’s entire time in St. Louis ever went against Tony LaRussa when speaking to Colby Rasmus. Not once. Now I’m definitely not afraid to voice my opinions on any topic and I don’t feel there is a topic that is off limits as far as me commenting on it goes. Have I on message boards made comments that I personally don’t agree with something that is going on? Most definitely. But I supported Tony LaRussa every time I would speak to Colby, which caused him to quit speaking to me. Have I thrown batting practice to Colby over the years? Yes I have. My total baseball involvement with Colby over his three years in St. Louis consisted of me telling him from time to time that I believed he could do certain things better and throwing BP to him. If that makes me a stage dad, then color me guilty.
6. I think it is fair to say that you have had a somewhat strained relationship with the St. Louis media. What would you say accounts for that?
I got along good with Joe Strauss because I believed Joe to report the facts while embellishing things a bit. ha ha. [Derrick] Goold also would report facts. And Rick [Hummel] as well. Bernie [Miklasz] and [Jeff] Gordon were so far off on their opinions of the situation that it was pure fiction. Do I feel the need to temper my comments on any topic? Nope. Do I speak for Colby Rasmus? Nope. My opinions are my opinions and Colby has his. We are not connected at the hip and I do not speak for Colby. But my comments on message boards would cause some in the St. Louis media to have 10 hissy fits. Well if Tony Rasmus thinks this then Colby must surely feel the same way because Tony obviously thinks for Colby. That line of thinking was totally inaccurate. But from my viewpoint many people in St. Louis read those opinion pieces and consider them fact. It sold newspapers and got hits on their website so its all good for them. And those comments really ended up getting Colby traded so I believe we’re all thankful here for them as we sit here today. But I will say this, controversy sells and every time Colby was struggling it was just good copy to say that it was because he was listening to me. But unfortunately that wasn’t the case. But at this stage it really is irrelevant and I believe everyone involved feels everything happened for the best. Colby got out and Cardinals fans got rid of him. Alls well that ends well.
7. You had some very critical things to say about former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa with regard to his treatment of Colby. Can you explain the genesis of that relationship and how it became so problematic?
Tony made a comment to Colby way back in 2008 referencing Walt Jocketty’s firing and Colby being Jeff Luhnow’s boy and that he wasn’t going to do Luhnow any favors. From that moment on Colby didn’t believe Tony had Colby’s best interests at heart, and he wanted to be anywhere but around Tony. I said way back that Colby would never be able to get along with Tony after that comment. And everyone involved knew it was going to be a train wreck at some point. So when Tony and his staff tried to change Colby’s approach at the plate and Colby would begin to struggle Colby always appeared to feel like he felt that Tony was trying to sabotage him. Right or wrong that was the way he felt. After the trade I was talking to Colby and I would say Tony LaRussa wanted to win, there is no way he wouldn’t want you to do well. Colby responded that nothing he ever told me made me a better baseball player. Enough said.
8. How was Colby’s relationship with his teammates in St. Louis and did his issues with Tony LaRussa affect those relationships? If so, how?
Well Colby would tell us that things were tough being the youngest guy in the clubhouse those first years. As more and more young guys came up I believe it got easier for him. I know Colby had David Freese, Jon Jay, [Joe] Mather, [Jason] Motte, at his wedding and really always spoke really highly of those guys. I was at Colby’s house right there at the end in St. Louis and most of the younger guys would come over to his house and they would cook out from time to time so I would say he got along with them pretty well.
9. What positives, if any, did Colby take away from his time in St. Louis?
I believe you learn more in this life from failure than you do from success. Colby obviously failed in every way while in St. Louis. But in my opinion the most important thing he learned was that he had to learn how to figure out his swing because he alone was the only person that could fix it when it went south. He had relied on every person in a Cardinals uniform to help him correct every flaw he had and what he ended up with was a bunch of confusion. He learned that he alone is responsible for himself and that you have to do what you have to do to be successful. If you are not hitting its not the hitting coach’s fault, it’s your fault.
10. Have you participated at all in any online communities for Blue Jays fans like you did when Colby was in St. Louis?
Not at all. There just really wasn’t a big need to do that.
11. In conclusion, what is the one thing that you would like Cardinals fans to know about the Rasmus family’s experiences with the Cardinals?
I believe Colby loved every minute of every day while coming up through the minors and Springfield treated him like St. Louis treated Albert Pujols. I never once saw anything from Cardinals fans but support and enthusiasm for their Cardinals players and Colby was treated as good as any player would hope to be treated. Ultimately Colby didn’t live up to the expectations Cardinals fans had for him and that’s unfortunate but it’s reality. Colby needed to be elsewhere and Cardinals fans needed him elsewhere. We just wanted him to get back to playing the game with some enthusiasm and wanted him to play up to his capabilities, neither of which would have ever occurred while playing for Tony LaRussa. Colby just wasn’t good enough to play for Tony. That’s on Colby, not Tony.