Tony LaRussa went out on top. An admirable move. I say that without my usual tinge of sarcasm. Lost in my vitriol for LaRussa is the fact that he is a competent manager that has guided winning teams for a long time. You could attach a bit of the Phil Jackson argument to him. LaRussa’s never really saddled himself with the biggest challenges–at least not after that first World Series–but, the Cardinals aren’t the Yankees and you can’t just rely on one player in baseball. In the stat, 3 World Series titles in 33-years, it’s the long tenure that is more impressive. You could easily argue he should have won more.
What you’ve got to admire about LaRussa, especially toward the end is that he was built up to the point where he was almost impossible to fire. Who was going to have the balls to can him? Like you could do better? That’s the perception that was created by the media and it gave him that stature and also created the backlash from his haters, like yours truly. On the bad side you’ve got a guy who is responsible for a lot of the “over-managing” that people hate and think makes baseball more boring, but on the positive side, I’m sure the fans of his team never went into a big series worried about getting taken advantage of by the opposing skipper.
I read an article right after the Cardinals won talking about their chances to repeat. It was all contingent on both LaRussa and Pujols returning. I think the Cardinals would rather have Pujols, but LaRussa’s exit might make it that much harder to bring Albert back. The 3-time MVP seemed especially fond of old Tony. Of course, he could probably name the replacement if he signs with the Cards. His cousin or someone might be managing the Cardinals next year if they can keep him away from the Cubs.
Maybe the Cardinals could get Ryne Sandberg. I bring that up, because I wanted to touch briefly on the fans’ obsession with Ryne Sandberg in Philadelphia. Sandberg has become the most valuable commodity in the organization according to some people. They want him as the bench coach. They want him as the hitting coach. They want him in there for Charlie right now. They are absolutely terrified that he’ll end up in Chicago, or with another team. It’s one of the more remarkable things I’ve ever seen. People are equating losing Ryne Sandberg, the AAA manager, to losing Ryne Sandberg the player. There are actual, “Here we go again,” articles out there about Sandberg fleeing for the Cubs, just like he did when he was a prospect stuck behind Mike Schmidt.
I don’t want to discredit Sandberg’s managerial skills, but this is one of the more ridiculous reactions I’ve ever seen in a city that is prone to them. Sure, Sandberg has had his share of success as a minor league manager. That makes him no different from say, John Russell (who the Phillies once lost to the Pirates). Is anyone ruing that? And, while Sandberg could go to the Cubs, or the Cardinals and win a World Series, it’s equally likely that he’ll be unsuccessful. Or, Mickey Morandini, another former 2nd baseman, could end up managing the Phillies in a few years and make Sandberg and Charlie Manuel look like dolts. We have no idea.
If Ryne Sandberg eventually manages the Phillies it will not change the course of history. We will not then go back in time and keep Sanberg the player and win the ’81 and ’83 World Series. This attachment to Sandberg, like he’s a lifetime Phillie is really remarkable. It’s time to get over the trade. Sandberg never won anything with the Cubs, the Phillies have finally turned the corner to respectability, the guy is a future big league manager (somewhere). Let’s treat him as such, and not as a 20-win infusion or a world series guarantee. Frankly, I’d be more worried about losing Pete Mackanin. There’s a guy Charlie leans on and has a rapport with. Manuel’s staying, so might as well keep his guys, and have him in the best position to make the right decisions. We don’t need a year of promote Sandberg from bench coach rumors if the Phillies start out 10-10 or something…