Tag:Tony La Russa
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:22 pm

Will La Russa return to baseball as a GM?

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Just a few months back, Tony La Russa retired.

Now he's thinking about his next job.

La Russa's visit to the Tigers spring training camp this week gave him a chance to spend time with close friend Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager. But La Russa planned the trip just as much so he could learn from Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers general manager.

His next job, the 67-year-old La Russa figures, could be as a GM.

"I might get a shot," La Russa said Thursday.

If that shot comes, La Russa wants to be prepared. Thursday, when Dombrowski came off the field after the Tigers' workout, La Russa headed to the Tiger GM's office to talk.

La Russa and Dombrowski go way back together, back to when La Russa was the White Sox manager in the 1980s, when Dombrowski worked in the White Sox's front office in his first job in baseball.

La Russa said he also plans to talk to Reds GM Walt Jocketty, who he knows well from their time together with the Cardinals. But La Russa said that out of respect to the Cardinals, who play in the same division as the Reds, he won't be helping out the Reds this spring.

With the Tigers in the American League, there's no such conflict here. But La Russa's visit was based as much on allowing him to learn as it was on anything he could do for the Tigers.

"If I get a shot [as a GM], I want to be prepared," he said.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 3:04 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 3:13 pm

How Albert Pujols can help the 2012 Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. -- In the oddest of ways, perhaps Albert Pujols is helping the Cardinals this spring.

His presence is felt . . . because of his absence.

Let me explain.

Because Pujols is gone -- and because Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan are also gone -- the Cardinals have a strong sense that they're now being doubted. And a strong sense that they're the rare defending champions who come to camp with something to prove.

Instead of listening to everyone tell them how good they are, the Cardinals have listened to everyone ask about what they've lost.

If they win this year, it won't be because they had Albert or Tony.

"They want to make their own statement," general manager John Mozeliak said Monday.

"I see a lot of chips on shoulders that I didn't think I'd see," new manager Mike Matheny said. "And that's a beautiful thing."

Matheny said later that he didn't equate those chips simply to Pujols' departure, but it's easy to see that it plays into it.

Just in the first two days of camp, it seems that half the Cardinals players have felt compelled to say, "We have a good team," something that is normally just accepted with a defending champion.

"Not that they take offense, but they think they're not chopped liver," Matheny said.

The Cardinals certainly appreciate what Pujols meant to them, and they say they wish him well with the Angels. A few said they have kept in touch with Pujols.

"We're still good friends," pitcher Kyle McClellan said. "We've exchanged texts. I hope he goes there and has as good a next 10 years as he had here."

If Cardinals fans have come to resent Pujols for his decision to leave, that sentiment seems absent (or at least unspoken) within the Cardinal clubhouse.

"We know what he meant to this team, this organization," Skip Schumaker said. "But we have to move on. I'll keep up with him, because he's a friend. But we've still got a pretty darned good chance to win."

They do have a good chance to win. It feels funny that we even need to say that about a team that won the World Series, then lost one big star but added in Carlos Beltran and has added back Adam Wainwright, who missed 2011 after Tommy John surgery.

But that's what Pujols has given the 2012 Cardinals. He's given them a defense against complacency.

"There is none," Mozeliak said.

No complacency here. And the Cardinals can thank Albert (and Tony) for that.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:44 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 12:54 pm

Next stop, Cooperstown (with Cox and Torre?)

There's absolutely no doubt that Tony La Russa is headed to the Hall of Fame.

And what a Hall of Fame class it could be.

La Russa will be eligible for a December 2013 vote on the "expansion era" ballot for managers and executives, on a ballot that will also include Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and John Schuerholz, among others. The ballot for managers and executives is separate from the player ballot, but Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will appear on the player ballot for the first time that same year.

All of them could be part of the same induction ceremony in July 2014.

La Russa, Cox, Torre and Schuerholz would be voted on by a 16-member panel, and each would require 12 votes to be elected. There is no maximum on the number of managers or executives voted in in any one year (although each of the 16 voters has a maximum of five votes).

Posted on: October 31, 2011 11:35 am

Leyland on La Russa: 'Probably best of all time'

Tony La Russa goes out on top.

On top of the baseball world in 2011, because his Cardinals won the World Series. On top of the list of modern-era managers, with only Connie Mack (who retired in 1950) and John McGraw (who retired in 1932) ahead of him in total wins.

On top . . .

"He's probably the best of all-time," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Monday morning, after La Russa announced his retirement. "I think you could make an argument that he's the best."

La Russa went from the White Sox to the A's to the Cardinals, and he was successful at all three stops. He won a World Series with the A's, and he won two with the Cardinals.

Along the way, he and Leyland became the closest of friends. They managed against each other in the minor leagues. La Russa hired Leyland as his third-base coach with the White Sox. And La Russa's Cardinals beat Leyland's Tigers in the 2006 World Series.

They nearly met again this year, but Leyland's Tigers lost to the Rangers in the American League Championship Series. So Leyland watched from home as the Cardinals won.

"You talk about capping off a brilliant career," Leyland said.

Yes, Tony La Russa went out on top.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 6:47 pm

Best game ever? How about best month ever?

The Yankees don't think it was such a great month. The Phillies are sure it wasn't a great month.

Oh, and the Red Sox? No, the last 31 days weren't exactly pleasant for them.

But it sure was great for the rest of us, the best month of baseball most of us have seen, or will see, in our lifetimes.

If it gets better than this, I won't complain. But I'm not planning on it.

We had the best single regular-season night ever, on the final night of the regular season, and maybe the best game ever, on the next-to-last night of the World Series.

We had so many great games that the best individual offensive performance in World Series history barely makes the list. So many that Chris Carpenter's three-hit 1-0 shutout in a winner-take-all Game 5 wasn't even his most important performance of the month.

This is the third year now that I've written a postseason recap, and it's the first time that the best game of the month wasn't the first game I saw. Nothing against Tigers-Twins (Game 163 in 2009) or Roy Halladay's no-hitter (Division Series 2010), but it's a better month when the drama builds.

This month, we saw Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, Nelson Cruz and David Freese. We saw squirrels. We saw Na-po-li. We saw history.

We saw Game 6.

What a month.

Here's a look back:

Best game: Some people are insisting that Game 6 of the World Series can't be called great, because there were physical errors early and possible managerial errors late. Sorry, but that's ridiculous. So it wasn't the best-played game ever. Fine. It had thrills, it had drama, it had plenty to second-guess, it had great performances and gritty performances. You go ahead and say it wasn't perfect. I'm going to say it was the best game I've ever seen.

Best moment: The flashbulbs going off when Albert Pujols batted in the seventh inning of Game 7 were great. Yes, it could have been his final Cardinals at-bat. But the best moment of the postseason -- Pujols' best moment -- was when he called time out to allow the Miller Park crowd to honor Prince Fielder, who very, very likely was stepping to the plate for his final Brewers at-bat.

Best chant: In the end, maybe this wasn't the Year of the Napoli, after all. But it sure was the month of the "Na!-Po!-Li!" at Rangers Ballpark. Mike Napoli became such an instant hero that I saw a Rangers fan who had altered his year-old Cliff Lee jersey, adding "Na-po" above the "Lee."

Best crowd: It was incredibly loud all month in Texas. It was louder than ever in St. Louis for the final outs of Game 7. But everyone who was at Miller Park this month came back raving about the atmosphere and the Brewers' fans (and everyone who was at Chase Field said there was barely any atmosphere for the Diamondbacks' two home games).

Best player: Tough call. Freese was a revelation, and not just in the World Series. Cabrera was outstanding. So was Ryan Braun. But Pujols was the guy I'll remember most, from his great defensive play against the Phillies to his historic three-homer game against the Rangers.

Best movie review: Moneyball took a beating every time Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took to the podium. La Russa went to see the movie the night Game 6 was rained out, and the next night he said that it "strains the credibility a little bit." La Russa, like others, complained about the portrayal of scouts, and about the lack of mentions of Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. "That club was carried by those guys that were signed, developed the old-fashioned way," La Russa said. "That part wasn't enjoyable, because it's a nice story but it is not accurate enough."

Most disappointing team: The Red Sox. The Phillies didn't make it out of the first round. Neither did the Yankees, who then apologized to their fans for their "failure." But Boston's collapse was so bad that it led to the departure of the manager and general manager who broke the curse. The Red Sox will recover, but they'll never be the same.

Best prediction: It's well established by now that I can't pick winners. But when the postseason began, I jokingly wrote that every series would go the distance. Turned out I was almost right, as 38 of a possible 41 games were required. Three of the four Division Series went the distance (and none were sweeps). Both League Championship Series went six games. And the World Series went seven, for the first time in nine years. Oh, and I even picked the World Series winner, Cardinals in 7, even if I did it because Rangers officials demanded that I pick against them.

Five who helped themselves: 1. Pujols. I'm not saying it makes a difference in his final free-agent price, but a great postseason reminded all of us how good he really is.

2. John Mozeliak. You think Cardinals fans will finally admit that it was a good idea to trade Colby Rasmus to help this team win now?

3. Mike Napoli. The Angels traded this guy for Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays then traded this guy for Frank Francisco. The Rangers will not be trading him.

4. Ryan Braun. MVP voting includes only the regular season, and not the postseason. But anyone who chose Braun over Matt Kemp in the National League race had to be happy to see him hit .405 with a 1.182 OPS in October.

5. David Freese. He was the best story of the month, the hometown kid who quit baseball after high school, and came back to become the World Series MVP. Now everyone knows him.

Five who hurt themselves: 1. C.J. Wilson. He's still going to get overpaid on the free-agent market, but imagine how much he might have gotten if he'd had a good October, instead of a lousy one.

2. CC Sabathia. He's still going to get a great new contract, too, but imagine how much he might have gotten if his postseason ERA was 1.23, instead of 6.23 (and if his waist size didn't expand just as fast).

3. Cliff Lee. The team he left went to the World Series without him. And the team he couldn't beat in Game 2, after his teammates gave him a 4-0 lead, went on to win the World Series.

4. Alex Rodriguez. Two years ago, he had a nice October and shed the label of postseason choker. This year, he went 2-for-18 against the Tigers and appeared on the back page of the New York Post as one of the Three Stooges (along with Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira).

5. Tony La Russa (for about 48 hours). I'm guessing Cardinals fans will now totally forgive him for the phone/noise/bullpen mess from Game 5. He's now the guy who has won two World Series in St. Louis, to go with the one he won in Oakland. Still one of the very best managers in the game -- in the history of the game, that is.

Posted on: October 26, 2011 6:27 pm

Rainout edge, if any, goes to the Rangers

ST. LOUIS -- Will Chris Carpenter start for the Cardinals if the World Series goes to Game 7?

I'm not sure about that, but I do know that Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and the rest of the strong Rangers bullpen is better rested and more prepared now that a rainout delayed Game 6 by a day.

"That's a huge advantage for us," Adams said Wednesday. "It can only help us. We've pitched a lot, and now [on Thursday], we'll be fully rested.

"Any day of rest, we'll take it."

And more rest for the talented but heavily worked Rangers pen makes the rainout a slight advantage for Texas, no matter whether it puts Carpenter in play for Game 7 or not.

The Rangers will also have starters Derek Holland and C.J. Wilson available out of the bullpen for Thursday's rescheduled Game 6, as well as for a Game 7, if needed, on Friday. Manager Ron Washington repeated Wednesday, for the third straight day, that Matt Harrison will remain his Game 7 starter.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, for the third straight day, was mum on his Game 7 plans. He said he discussed it with pitching coach Dave Duncan, but that they opted not to make a decision until after Game 6.

"[They'll] want a probable," La Russa said. "Bob Gibson's here, so we'll send Bob."

With the schedule pushed back a day, Carpenter becomes a possibility, but the Cardinals ace would be starting on three days' rest. He has started on short rest just once in his career, in Game 2 of this year's Division Series against the Phillies, and he allowed four runs in three innings.

The recent history of starters used on short rest isn't good.

"I was told by Carp he'd be ready to go," La Russa said.

It's possible that La Russa could stick with Game 3 starter Kyle Lohse as his starter for a Game 7, with Carpenter available at the first sign of trouble. By doing it that way, he could shorten the innings Carpenter would be asked to throw on short rest.

La Russa said Wednesday that he expects Game 4 starter Edwin Jackson to be available in the bullpen for Game 6. As for Carpenter's availability out of the bullpen Thursday, La Russa hedged.

"No chance," he said, before pausing and then adding, "little chance."

La Russa said that in his opinion, the rainout won't be a factor in who wins the World Series.

"I don't think it adds anything to our competitive chances, or theirs," he said.

If the Cardinals win Game 6, Washington will no doubt face another round of questions on starting Holland, who was brilliant in the Rangers' 4-0 Game 4 win. Don't expect Washington to make a change, though.

"Harrison is my seventh game pitcher," he said emphatically. "I am not changing the things we've done all year. That's why we're here."

Washington knows that as good as Holland looked on Sunday night, the 25-year-old left-hander's season was marked by inconsistency. Remember, this is a guy who threw a four-hit shutout on July 30 in Toronto, then followed it up five days later by getting knocked out in the second inning against the Indians.

Besides, Washington believes that the best thing a manager can do is to show his players a consistent front, and not be seen to be uncertain or panicky. He chose Harrison before the World Series began to start Games 3 and 7, and he won't change because Holland outpitched Harrison the first time around.

The Rangers players don't expect him to.

"Harry's been a massive part of our team," Michael Young said Wednesday. "He's earned it. But that's getting ahead of ourselves."

Up three games to two in the Series, the Rangers would obviously prefer that there isn't a Game 7.

They also would have preferred that Game 6 wasn't rained out. But if there's any advantage that comes from the rainout, I'm saying it goes to Texas -- Carpenter or no Carpenter.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 4:54 pm

AL coach: La Russa 'noise' story could ring true

Maybe it really was the noise.

I'm still not sure I believe the story Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was selling about Monday night's mess of an eighth inning, but this morning I talked to an American League coach who believes it's entirely possible that the noise at Rangers Ballpark really did lead to the mixups I wrote about in Monday's column.

Here's why: According to the coach, Rangers Ballpark is the only one in the American League where you can't tell from the visitors' dugout who is warming up in the visitors' bullpen. In other parks where the bullpen is hidden (such as Cleveland's Progressive Field), there is a television in the dugout which allows a manager to see his bullpen.

The coach agreed that Rangers Ballpark can get loud enough to make it hard to hear on the bullpen phone. He said that when his team gets in a situation like that, he always has the bullpen coach repeat back the instructions, to make sure the message got through.

"I'd say 'Rzepczynski and Motte,' and then have them say, 'OK, Rzepczynski and Motte,'" said the coach, who preferred that his name not be used.

Another AL coach said the same thing, although he was somewhat less willing to accept La Russa's explanation.

Even with all that, it's still hard to understand why La Russa, the master of stalling to get a pitcher ready, made no attempt at all to waste enough time to get Jason Motte ready to face Mike Napoli. And it's hard to understand how the Cardinals could have a second communication mixup so soon after the first one.

If you already know there was a problem, don't you make absolutely sure the next time?

I'm still not sold. But to at least one AL coach who has worked at Rangers Ballpark, there's a chance the story is true.

Posted on: October 20, 2011 7:27 pm

Rangers GM Daniels defends Washington

ST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa is a great manager. He's had a great postseason.

But is he the reason the Cardinals won Game 1 of the World Series? Or is Ron Washington the reason the Rangers lost it?

I don't think so. Neither does Jon Daniels.

The Rangers general manager couldn't wait for the question before Thursday's Game 2. He couldn't wait for a chance to defend his under-fire manager.

"For me, that game was not about managerial decisions," Daniels said. "They executed in a couple of situations with the game on the line, and we didn't.

"I read where it was manager vs. manager, and that's crazy. The game is about the players. Did Wash beat Jim Leyland [in the American League Championship Series]?"

For all the La Russa love, the moves the Cardinals manager made in Game 1 were fairly straightforward. He got six innings out of starter Chris Carpenter, he used his best pinch hitter (Allen Craig) to hit for Carpenter with the go-ahead run on base with two out in the bottom of the sixth, and he went right-left-right-left-closer out of the bullpen.

Nothing against him, and it worked in large part because he has set up his bullpen well through the postseason, but it wasn't exactly revolutionary thinking.

Washington's use of his bullpen was fine. The game-winning hit scored on Craig's single off Alexi Ogando, but Ogando was the perfect reliever to have in the game at that point.

I believe Washington erred in using Esteban German to pinch-hit with two out in the seventh, and that's the move he has been most criticized for. He should have used Yorvit Torrealba.

More than that, if he thought German was the best guy in a game-on-the-line situation in Game 1 of the World Series, he should have given German at least one at-bat sometime after Sept. 25.

But if Nelson Cruz catches Craig's slicing fly ball in the sixth inning (and he did come close), we're not having this conversation now.

If Albert Pujols doesn't make a nice play on Michael Young's ground ball to strand the go-ahead run on third base in the top of the sixth, maybe we're not having this conversation.

They didn't, and we are.

"I don't think I can win a chess game against Tony," Washington said Thursday afternoon. "But you know, the best I can do is try to put my players in a position to be successful and hope that they execute. I think the chess matches take care of themselves."

And when they don't, Washington's general manager will be there to defend him.
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