….and dingers!

(a loyal but possibly unintelligent animal. In the foreground, a cute doggy)

Cards skipper Tony La Genius spoke with the AP yesterday and offered a staunch defense of Hall Of Fame candidate Mark McGwire.

“I’ve believed in him from day one. I still believe in him,” La Russa said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

“I’ve watched him for years and years and years work out and take care of himself, and if any of us do that, we get bigger and stronger,” La Russa said.

For La Russa, it’s hard to gauge whether McGwire is being treated unfairly because of his refusal to answer questions at the congressional hearing.

“I know people are struggling with how to put it in perspective,” he said. “I don’t know where it goes. I don’t know how people weigh. I don’t know how the public feels. To me, the issue is the player that I saw for years and years. I believe in him. And that’s where I leave it.”

This isn’t the first time La Russa has stood up for McGwire ; in August of ’05, he claimed Big Mac’s prowess was the result of work and nutrition, along with blaming McGwire’s embarrassing showing before Congress on the ballplayer having been “over-coached.”

When the inevitable ESPN mini-series rolls around, I’d still like to see Jim Belushi playing La Russa, with the role of McGwire tackled by one of the more intense thespians of this or any generation, Val Kilmer.

On the other hand, reuniting Henry Rollins and Kilmer after their triumphant pairing in “Heat” might be too great a temptation for the producers to resist.