SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The Giants meet the Cardinals in St. Louis Saturday in the first game of the National League Championship Series.

“It’s very easy to handicap them — flip a coin,” former Cardinal manager and Hall of Famer Tony La Russa told John Madden and the KCBS Radio morning crew. “They are both excellent examples of what -for a while – was a lost art, and they’ve resurrected it, and now so many other clubs are starting to clue in. And that is that you take the talent that you have and you play the game with a lot of energy and urgency and you execute — (using) John’s term — on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. And you will beat clubs even when they have more talent and bigger payrolls that are sloppy and don’t understand that a lot of close games are decided by playing hard and playing the game right. Both these clubs are very, very similar. It should be a textbook series between two teams that really execute the game… It’s not a coincidence that both of these teams have appeared so often in October.”

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Madden asked La Russa how you get the best effort out of players.

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“You really have to have a coordinated effort,” La Russa said. “I’m talking right down through when you scout amateur players. You have to scout character as well as talent. And you bring them into the organization and you say, hey, we compete, and the reason you signed was not to be famous and make a lot of money. That just comes out the bottom. You just seek excellence as a player and as a teammate. And you just promote that from the day you sign right through the levels up to the big leagues… You make that a daily priority.” (7:40)

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(Listen to the John Madden segment live weekday mornings at 8:15 and Monday and Friday mornings at 9:15 on KCBS All News 740 AM/106.9 FM.)