Admittedly, I’m not the biggest Tony LaRussa fan. I said it here on March 4 in our 30 Teams in 30 Days and I’ll say it again on July 10th as we get many Cardinal’s fans filing through the website because of the attention the Pujols letter has gotten. I’ll start with his scowl. Who can like a man who is constantly in a bad mood like LaRussa? I know that with the grind that Major League players go through in the 162 game season, an enjoyable, happy manager can inspire his team and provide the loose feel necessary in a clubhouse to remain sane. Not only is his demeanor potentially dragging his team down, I can honestly say, his managerial career is in need of a makeover.
LaRussa is credited as the inventor of the modern bullpen with specialty relievers and identified roles of closer, setup, etc. It’s really a great system and LaRussa should be applauded for his innovation but, at this point, he’s carrying it too far. A few weeks ago, the Phillies went off for 9 runs in the 8th inning against LaRussa’s vaunted bullpen . He went to right handed Jason Motte to face Ryan Howard. Ryan Howard is left handed everyone. Motte proceeded to hit two consecutive batters, forcing in the tying run. So, LaRussa abides by the specialty reliever Bible unless he doesn’t feel like it. In the inning, he used 5 pitchers who gave up 9 runs, 5 hits, 2 HBP, and 4 walks. That didn’t work.
The other thing that totally kills me about LaRussa is his apparent lack of loyalty to players. He didn’t play Colby Rasmus at times last year despite Rasmus’ .859 OPS. He took Ryan Franklin out of the closer role after 4 games. He didn’t play Pujols after activating him from the DL. He’s publicly argued with Jim Edmonds, Ozzie Smith, and even had an expletive laden spat with King Albert in 2010. LaRussa even prompted trades of some guys (cough Ryan Ludwick cough) because he wouldn’t play them! The Ryan Franklin thing turned out to be the right call as Franklin can’t get MLB hitters out anymore but, as manager, LaRussa is supposed to be loyal to his guys until the very end and as a bystander (I’m no fan of the Cardinals or any of their rivals) I don’t see LaRussa as being all too helpful.
His holier than thou attitude, aviator glasses, and general way of life rub me the wrong way. It would be one thing if LaRussa was wildly successful but, his .534 career winning percentage averages to about 86 wins per year. Batting the pitcher 8th, or taking advantage of platoon splits may gain you favor from the sabermetricians of the world but, I see LaRussa using it as a publicity stunt. LaRussa’s self arrogance makes me think he could have done it just to get some publicity. He wants people to know how great, and smart he is. He doesn’t mean enough to the teams win total to justify his stuck up attitude. I wish aliens would have abducted him years ago. The world would be a happier place without him.
If I’m Albert Pujols, and I’m not, I would seriously consider what life would be like without LaRussa mopping around over your head all day. Pujols has to wonder what it’s like playing for a different manager, one who works to keep happy players or at the very least knows how to smile. Albert has the upper hand in negotiations and may well request a change in manager, or LaRussa could just step down into retirement. That would not fit his M.O. He’ll stick around until he gets kicked out as he moves up the ladder for most managerial wins (he’s 3rd all time) or most games managed (he’s 2nd). Pujols can’t possibly hold the same disdain for the guy as I do but, I wouldn’t blame him if he wanted to play for a slightly more chipper skipper.
Stat of the Day: 3,003 career hits by Derek Jeter. 28th all time to accomplish the feat, 2nd shortstop and his career has truly been impressive. Whether your a Yankees fan, or even a baseball fan, you should appreciate a truly great, and historic career when you see it. In 40 years, I can tell my kids I watched Jeter play and that’s something special.