La Russa Expects McGwire to Retire

Thursday, November 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday he expects slugger Mark McGwire to retire.

``I don't expect him back,'' La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from his California home. ``Until it's official, he can change his mind. But I believe he's sincere in this. And he's earned our trust.''

McGwire recently referred to himself kiddingly as La Russa's ``former first baseman.'' He strongly hinted of retiring several times this year, when he batted just .187 with 29 home runs.

This spring, he agreed to a two-year, $30 million extension, but La Russa said McGwire never signed the document. The extension technically would pay McGwire $14 million next year and $16 million in 2003, with much of it deferred.

``He's got it in a drawer at home,'' La Russa said. ``I don't think some of the owners even know about this.''

La Russa said he had been in touch with McGwire as recently as Tuesday. La Russa said McGwire didn't mention retirement but instead spoke of his belated birthday celebration. He turned 38 on Oct. 1.

La Russa said he believed McGwire would make public his decision in the next month.

``He's not going to let this linger,'' La Russa said.

La Russa, who has managed McGwire for all but one year since McGwire broke into the major leagues in 1986, is among those who believes McGwire still can play. McGwire has 583 career home runs, fifth on the career list.

``But who knows what he goes through better than him?'' La Russa said. ``Nobody deals with the frustration he does. Nobody deals with the rehabilitation and nobody deals with the expectations that he does.''

McGwire labored through the 2000 season with a bad right knee, missing virtually all of the second half. He had surgery to correct patella tendinitis but again struggled with the knee this season.

McGwire played in four of the Cardinals' five playoff games and was 1-for-11 with six strikeouts and a double-play grounder.