January 28, 2014

Is Tony LaRussa a real #Cardinal? His #Cooperstown move says no

Two St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnists, Bernie Miklasz and Bill McClellan, both weigh in on Tony LaRussa's decision for his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame to have no team logo.

Bernie notes that a majority, not just a plurality, of TLR's wins as a manager came in St. Louis, and that other stats say he should go in with a Cardinal logo. Hey, Joe Torre managed in St. Louis and Atlanta, and the Dodgers and the Mets but he's going in with a Yankees marker.

Bill aims for the personal. He says, anecdotally, that TLR wanting to give a hat tip, p un intended to Southside Chicago and the East Bay for his White Sox and A's days? Hardly remembered.

And, there's the issue of just how much of a St. Louisan he was:
A lot of people here see La Russa’s decision as a snub. That thinking has roots. La Russa managed here for 16 years, but never lived here. He never made much of an effort to connect with the community. He acted like the midnight man stuck in the 9 o’clock town.

That attitude stung because St. Louisans have an inferiority complex. There is nothing snazzy about St. Louis. We’re a comfortable shoe of a place. We are always ready to be snubbed.

Bernie Miklasz wrote last week that he does not believe La Russa is snubbing anybody. He knows La Russa, so I’ll defer to him.

Actually, that makes the story a sad one, and La Russa becomes a tragic figure. He thinks the fans in Chicago and Oakland would have been hurt if he went into the Hall as a Cardinal. Truth is, the only fans who care are right here.
Agreed. But, that's not all.

And, as I emailed Bill and Tweeted Bernie, let's not forget about that friendship he developed with Ozzie Smith!

Beyond his refusal to address the Mark McGwire issue in 1998 (helped by a bit of friendly flak from Bernie, too), how he handled Ozzie's last years, including trying to shove him aside for Royce Clayton in an unfair "competition" for shortstop, is his blackest mark on the field as a Cardinal manager.

I think LaRussa's aim was a control freak issue. He felt he had to show Ozzie, the last holdover from the Whitey Herzog days (Tom Pagnozzi was a partial holdover, but not a Whiteyball icon, and Willie McGee had just come back after a six-year peregrination with other teams), whose team it was and that was that. It was a crude gesture as a manager as a control issue, and as a player quality issue, it was simply wrong. Ozzie was the better player.  Check out the 1996 roster; Oz had equal WAR and much better WAA in less than half as many at bats.

In an email exchange, Bill references Andy Van Slyke, too. I forgot about the history between him and TLR, over LaRussa's knowledge of Big Mac's roiding. (Oh, a good sabermetric based piece here about how Mac showed TLR should have known.) That wasn't the only tangle they had, though.

His blackest off-the-field mark is a mix of his own DWI and apparent problems in handing drinking issues of David Freese and several other players, of course, such as Josh Hancock, with his DWI fatality accident.

LaRussa's overall record arguably makes him a Hall of Famer. But, I still can't believe that, between two of his three managerial franchises, he knew so little of what McGwire was doing, which is exactly why he got defensive. It's why I've said he and Torre shouldn't have been voted in the Hall. Not yet.

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