KANSAS CITY -- Tony La Russa and Ron Roenicke made for strange National League teammates at the All-Star Game on Tuesday, two managers who battled to the end in 2011 and two men who most definitely did not exchange holiday cards.But there is mutual respect -- and perhaps a budding relationship. While accepting La Russa's invitation to be a coach for the NL All-Stars, Roenicke initiated a series of discussions about their differences. Both men say those talks will continue through the summer. It's a start. "Well, those would be personal conversations, but I knew exactly where he was coming from, and it's a good conversation to have," La Russa said before his final meaningful game in uniform. "I mean, he's a man that earned a lot of respect when he was in the American League and conducted himself great last year." Roenicke was a member of Angels manager Mike Scioscia's coaching staff through 2010. The Brewers hired him to manage for 2011 and Roenicke led the Brewers all the way to a Game 6 of the NL Championship Series against La Russa's Cardinals.
That series was devoid of sideshows, but the regular-season series was different. There were the dueling plunkings of Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun, La Russa's assertion that the Brewers were manipulating the lighting at Miller Park to favor home hitters, and confrontations between the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter and the Brewers' Nyjer Morgan. In September, Morgan referred to Pujols as "Alberta." In October, Zack Greinke called Carpenter "phony."Those were only the public instances of the teams' mutual dislike. More simmered under the surface. "I think there were some things that weren't real clear on both sides," Roenicke said. "I would just like to know a little bit more. ... Little things happen from time to time. I have a ton of respect for Tony and what he does as a manager, and because of that, when things come up, I want to know what he's thinking, for my satisfaction. It may help me as a manager." La Russa was not upset when Roenicke raised his issues. "That's what you're supposed to do when you have a question; talk about it," La Russa said. La Russa involved both of his honorary coaches -- Roenicke and Mets manager Terry Collins -- in the National League's 8-0 win. Roenicke coached first base in the second inning, then made the game's final pitching change in the ninth. It will go in the books as the last of the thousands of calls to the bullpen in La Russa's long career. "When he started, some manager did it for him," Roenicke said. "That was fun." Roenicke had hoped for more discussion during All-Star festivities, but La Russa's lengthy list of obligations prevented it. There will be other opportunities. La Russa is working as a liaison for Major League Baseball, traveling to ballparks around the league in a still-evolving role. He already has been at Miller Park this year but arrived close to game time. When he visits next, the men plan to make time to meet. "I'm sure he'll understand where I'm coming from," La Russa said. The good news for both sides was that when the Brewers and Cardinals met in the NLCS, they played distraction-free baseball. "It was nice," said Roenicke, whose Brewers dropped the series, 4-2. "It was about baseball. And they outplayed us. That's what it should come down to -- not this other stuff that goes on."