October 31, 2011

#StlCards manager TLR retires

I wondered about this a week ago, as it looked like the St. Louis Cardinals had a shot to win the World Series. I thought that, even though he had a chance to pass John McGraw into No. 2 on the all-time managerial wins list by staying one more season, Tony La Russa had a chance to go out a winner.

And now he has.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a full roundup of stories, starting here.

Several issues.

GM John Mozeliak mentioned the team's desire to resign Albert Pujols. Given that Pujols was perceived as a TLR player, even a Tony La Russa-babied prima donna (over the post-Game 2 media no-show) will this further decrease the odds The Machine returns? I'd say yes, by 5 percent or so, depending on how soon a new manager is named and who that person is.

La Russa didn't mention his long-time "caddy," pitching coach Dave Duncan. But, given Dunc's wife's health, surely he's moving on, too. In fact, he may already have privately hinted that.

And, theoretically, the Cards have a good lineup in 2012 without Prince Albert. David Freese at 3B for hopefully a full, healthy year. Lance Berkman is your 1B. Matt Holliday, Allan Craig and John Jay are your OF. With Adam Wainwright back, the pitching staff is solid indeed in starters, and Jason Motte, starting the year as closer, is going to get better.

So, Mo could spend the "Pujols money" on stabilizing the middle infield with an A-list SS or 2B. I've previously suggested Jimmy Rollins IF the price is right. But, his initial demand show that the price is currently far from right.

Next, and, it's got to be said ... steroids. More below the fold.

La Russa managed "ground zero" of the modern steroiding era, the Oakland A's and admitted roiders Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. La Russa has said, in recent years, he now understands that steroids were in the clubhouse (whether metaphorically or literally) but that he had no knowledge of what was going on.

To be blunt, I don't believe him for a moment. Question: If roiding is going to be a black cloud over the Hall of Fame chances of top players (take away the roids, Mac is below 500 HRs and still below 2,000 hits and doesn't deserve entry anyway) like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, shouldn't the same standard apply to Tony?

I say yes, at least to him coming more clean on the issue, just as with players. He's a HOF manager, but let's have him get more honest.

Reid Forgrave "goes there" in more detail. (Like him, I also don't believe Big Mac's claim that TLR knew nothing.)
And it only took a few smart baseball people with powerful voices — people like La Russa — to look at the game with eyes wide open, use that common sense, and speak up. La Russa did none of the above. He was present in the beginning, present at the height, and is now leaving during what we can only hope is the end. Yet he never took responsibility for his sins, whether they were sins of omission or sins of commission. That is where La Russa is most culpable.
Finally, back to Tony the Pony, and the question of his legacy. Including that, but also his overall managerial legacy.

I rank him as a very good to great evaluator of player talent. I rank him about that high as a developer of player talent.

As a field manager? I rank him moderately above average but not much higher, especially in the postseason.

I kind of compare him to Kansas/North Carolina hoops coach Roy Williams. I think he got too intense at times during the postseason and that rubbed off on his players. He shouldn't have lost the 1983 ALCS when he was still managing the White Sox. He shouldn't have lost so badly, at least, the 1988 and 1990 World Series. He shouldn't have blown a 3-1 lead over Atlanta in the 1996 NLCS. His "surprise, you're pitching" with Rick Ankiel in the 2000 NLCS is simply inexcusable.

From the first part of the paragraph above, I think he would make a great GM, but he says he's not interested. He's a HOFer, but like Bonds and Clemens, should have to cool his heels over the roiding issue.

And ...

His replacement? Third-based coach Jose Oquendo has been suggested but doesn't jazz me up. Recently-fired Bosox manager Terry Francona got a shout-out from the Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz. And ... they could put one over on the Cubs and go Ryne Sandberg!

Flip side is ... he's going to be a tough act to follow. And, other than a Francona, who's already been in a pressure cooker in Boston, who would want that? That said, for Francona, it's a chance to join TLR and Sparky Anderson as winners of the World Series in both leagues, and to add at least a third title to his belt.

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