FanDuel - WFBC

October 28, 2004

Tony La Losa?: "Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has now taken three teams that won at least 103 games to the World Series and lost with all of them, winning one game in the process."

posted by rcade to baseball at 08:09 AM - 23 comments

Text of my email to a friend on Tuesday: Goal: Win World Series Subgoal 1: Destroy the Cult of LaRussa Subgoal 2: Shit on Joe Morgan & Harold Reynolds' smallball == playoff wins theory There was a post here a while back that presented two interviews with Michael Lewis about various "Moneyball" topics. I thought it was telling that Lewis dismissed LaRussa's number-crunching ability by saying that LaRussa gloms onto weird small sample sizes and discerns "trends" from them. I can't understand why he was ever deified, except that the vast majority of sports writers are the kind of people who look down on the players they cover but then turn around and sniff the glove of anyone who comes on like an authority figure. LaRussa's law degree probably wows them too.

posted by yerfatma at 08:37 AM on October 28

LaRussa should have been fired immediately after telling Larry Walker to bunt in the first inning of game 4. The guy's last sacrifice bunt was in 1991. Why was La Russa giving the Red Sox free outs?

posted by rcade at 09:16 AM on October 28

Let's not misplace the blame, the majority of which has to be taken by the Cardinal players who choked and couldn't hit Red Sox pitching. No manager in baseball would have had enough of an impact to turn this series around.

posted by mayerkyl at 09:32 AM on October 28

Other than the bunt you mentioned, what could he have done differently? It's really predictable to blame the manager, but I blame the players. Sanders, Rolen and Edmonds went 0-for-whatever, and none of them hit well. Do you think Francona could have won with his players performing like that? The middle of the order, cleanup hitter Rolen and No. 5 hitter Edmonds, hit a combined .033 (1-for-30) with no RBIs.

posted by dusted at 09:58 AM on October 28

It's funny how a guy leads a team to the best record in baseball, and then wins two postseason series, then his team absolutely chokes on him and he sucks. I'm not the biggest LaRussa fan in the world, but I don't think he deserves to be dumped on when his power hitters completely failed him and the starting pitching was atrocious. During the season everyone was oohing and aahing over how LaRussa and Duncan had gotten so much mileage out of a bunch of retreads. Well, all four of them had crappy starts in a row and it lost the Cardinals the title (that and a great effort by Boston -- take nothing away from them). As for the Cult of LaRussa, I have no idea where that thought even comes from. If you live anywhere near St. Louis, you know he gets roasted constantly for his strategic choices, despite the fact that a great number of them seem to work out pretty damned well. Do we all like smallball? Hell no, not under Tony, although we ate it up under Whitey Herzog (who had an admittedly less powerful team). It's just like all complaints about managers -- they're wonderful when they win and horrible when they lose. As for the Walker bunt in the first, rcade, did anyone say in the press conference later LaRussa told him to bunt? On the Canadian feed, Rick Sutcliffe said he thought Walker bunted on his own because he was 0-4 with almost no knowledge of Lowe, and so he was trying to help set up the Big Three by moving Womack into scoring position. It didn't look to me like he immediately squared around, either, so maybe he was even trying to bunt for a hit.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:59 AM on October 28

It's funny how a guy leads a team to the best record in baseball, and then wins two postseason series, then his team absolutely chokes on him and he sucks. A classic case of "What Have You Done For Me Lately". It happens to players (*coughNomarcough*) and managers alike. And it will keep happening until the end of time.

posted by grum@work at 10:08 AM on October 28

I think it would have helped LaRussa immensely to not wear sunglasses. How can he make good decisions if the field is a dull hazy grey?

posted by kokaku at 10:08 AM on October 28

As for the Cult of LaRussa, I have no idea where that thought even comes from. That wasn't in reference to the Cardinals fan base, it's more sour grapes from listening to every media member in the world give him a handjob from '88 to '90 whilst his A's trounced my beloved Sox. Agreed on the Blueblockers, kokaku. The discussion of which got us through the Game 1 nerves in my house.

posted by yerfatma at 10:19 AM on October 28

As for the Walker bunt in the first, rcade, did anyone say in the press conference later LaRussa told him to bunt? According to Knight-Ridder and the Chicago Sun-Times, La Russa made that call. Other reporters claim it was Walker's decision. Looking into it further, I found the post-game press conference where La Russa said it wasn't a sacrifice attempt. So that dumb decision was Walker's. Bunting sent a message that the Cardinals didn't think they could hit Lowe, which helped take the fans out of the game and boosted the Sox. You can talk about players choking, but managers make decisions that affect the outcome of games, and La Russa made other mistakes in Game 4. Hanging on to Marquis too long. Pinch-hitting the hapless Hector Luna in the ninth. A manager playing for his season has to bring the quick hook.

posted by rcade at 10:47 AM on October 28

I don't want to sound too contrived here, but it's almost as if these two teams changed positions in the WS. Everything that happened to the Cardinals is what normally happens to the Sox. Personally, I hate hearing the blame game too because it takes away from the great season the Cards had. Bottom line, Boston had the pitching and the St Louis' power guys didn't show up. The strangest thing to me, is how the Cards never responded. Even after being up 3 games to none, I thought this thing was going 6 games. With that being said, I just bought my roundtrip ticket to Boston for the weekend. All it took was for my friends to tell me to "get your ass up here!" And if you're scoring at home, since I moved from Boston to Atlanta in 2001, the Sox have won the Series and the Pats have won two Super Bowls. And all I've got to show for it is a foam hatchet used for the tomahawk chop.

posted by usfbull at 10:48 AM on October 28

The other day I read a better article that discussed his past playoff failures in a reasonable way, about how a good manager takes heat off the players and loosens them up in pressure situations, and he does the opposite. I wish to God I knew where I found it (coulda sworn it was here) or in what paper it was...

posted by Bernreuther at 10:52 AM on October 28

I feel for Bob Knight,who is good friends with LaRosa, he had tickets for game 5. That was the only game that would fit Knight's practice schedule. Bottom line the Sox's pitching was better and deeper than the Card's.

posted by daddisamm at 12:19 PM on October 28

I saw read that article too, Bernreuther, but I can't find it now. All of my friends pretty much agree with the assessment: La Russa's a master strategist, but he wigs out in situations like this and it wigs out the players. I think he's had teams in the series something like five times and has won only one? It can't be the players' fault entirely. I also think some of it had to do with the position the players found themselves in outside of the game itself: if you lose, you lose and if you win you lose because the rest of the world's rooting for the Sox. I don't know if I would've been able to deal with that and the normal pressure associated with playing in the WS.

posted by mannocchio at 01:32 PM on October 28

I also agree with the person in the other thread that said it looked like someone had replaced the Cards with another team.

posted by mannocchio at 01:38 PM on October 28

So... agreed that maybe La Russa isn't the Greatest Manager Ever, but... 1 out of 5 in the WS is a lot better than the zero of zero in the WS 95% of the guys who have ever managed in the bigs have done. Some perspective is in order.

posted by tieguy at 02:09 PM on October 28

Someone once said that baseball is the only profession where a guy could be considered an intellectual because he has a law degree from Florida State. La Russa made some moves in this series that didn't work out, but if they had, he'd have looked pretty astute. Fact is, his hitters didn't hit, and his pitchers got hit-- and in the end there wasn't a thing he could do about it.

posted by outside counsel at 02:26 PM on October 28

He's no Grady Little either, who never got to be Bill Buckner, at least not for long...and thank god that is likely over for those two, among others. LaRussa will still have his worshippers after this, but the criticisms are valid. That is not to say that its his fault, more like his co-fault, in many ways. His team imploded and you can't win the race riding dead horses. Maybe LaRussa is too low key/laid back in those situations, watching too much instead of trying to make something happen? He did say that Walker decided to bunt on his own, so consider it to be one of those moments for Walker like when he flipped the ball in to the stands with only two down a few years ago...that sort of thing. Hey, its not like Red Sox stormed back from 0-3 in the ALCS and won 8 games in a row to sweep out the rest of the post-season, right? I'm not sure he could do much.

posted by chris2sy at 02:31 PM on October 28

Someone once said that baseball is the only profession where a guy could be considered an intellectual because he has a law degree from Florida State. He's a USF Bull as well. (Undergrad: University of South Florida). My alma mater a.k.a The largest school you have never heard of.

posted by usfbull at 02:38 PM on October 28

In baseball terms, as they've applied it here, "intellectual" probably means smarter than Rickey Henderson not necessarily smarter than Moe Berg.

posted by chris2sy at 02:44 PM on October 28

His team imploded and you can't win the race riding dead horses. There's an undergrad physics class at CalTech just waiting to prove you wrong.

posted by yerfatma at 02:47 PM on October 28

Someone once said that baseball is the only profession where a guy could be considered an intellectual because he has a law degree from Florida State. Well, it is the only profession where one is considered a star for doing well 30% of the time ;)

posted by scully at 02:49 PM on October 28

My alma mater a.k.a The largest school you have never heard of. The largest school I never heard of that beat my school like a red-headed stepchild.

posted by rcade at 03:20 PM on October 28

Y'ouch: Tom Boswell calls LaRussa "The Cooler"

posted by yerfatma at 07:40 AM on October 29

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