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Esquire: "Tony La Russa can't win at anything that counts"

Oct 2, 2009, 9:52 AM EST

My take on Tony La Russa: he’s a bizarre, often humorless and mildly unpleasant guy who manages in ways that aren’t aesthetically pleasing to me. But Charles Pierce at Esquire Magazine makes me look like La Russa’s P.R. director:

But the truly remarkable thing about La Russa is his rather unspectacular record at winning anything that counts. Eugene McCarthy once said of Walter Mondale that the latter “had the soul of a vice-president.” Tony La Russa has the soul of a semifinalist. Yes, he’s won a couple World Series — the same number as have Cito Gaston and Terry Francona . . .

. . . What more ably limns La Russa’s career, however, is his remarkable inability to win with talent . . . since moving his law degree and (as far as I know) his ballet school T-shirt to St. Louis, La Russa holds the distinction of bringing into the 2004 World Series against the Red Sox perhaps the least well-prepared 105-win team in baseball history.

I hate to defend La Russa — like I said, I really don’t like the guy — but this is an outrageous reach. The author here is simply trying his best to be provocative while completely failing to acknowledge the nature of the playoffs (i.e. that they’re subject to wildly random fluctuations of luck and circumstance). Even I, an avowed La Russa loather, appreciates that he’s a Hall of Fame manager.

Heck, he has one more ring than my team’s Hall of Fame manager has, and I’d say that my team’s Hall of Fame manager has, over the course of his career, had more talent than La Russa has. Indeed, it’s pretty tough to make an argument that any manager over the past quarter century has been better than old Tony. At most it’s a three-way argument between him, Cox and Torre, quite possibly in that order.

I got all kinds of guff for that Jeter piece the other day. The difference between this and that, however, is that when I’m trying to stir the pot, I’m not going to misrepresent a guy’s record on the field. Indeed, even when I’m messing with Jeter and his many, many fans, I’ll be the first to acknowledge his greatness as a ballplayer.

By the same token, it’s a free country and you can hate on Tony La Russa all you want. But you gotta do way better than this guy at Esquire does in order to even begin to argue that La Russa is not a great manager, let alone make a convincing argument.

  1. Bill@TDS - Oct 2, 2009 at 12:01 PM

    Right, but if you will just open your mind a little and ignore all that winning he’s done, you’ll see that he really hasn’t been able to win anything at all.
    Yeah, he’s a terrible manager (and a terribly frustrating one to watch overmanage). But that’s just dumb.

  2. ditmars1929 - Oct 2, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    How come Lasorda always gets a free pass? He didn’t accomplish as much as he should’ve with the talent he had over all those years either.

  3. Aaron Whitehead - Oct 2, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    I can’t believe someone actually paid this guy good American currency to write this. I have NEVER heard someone say that a guy “won two World Series” as if it’s just some kind of throw-away. Yeah, he’s also won almost as many games as that old hack, John McGraw. And as much as you blame LaRussa for losing the World Series with a team as good as the ’04 Cardinals, you have to give him credit for winning it with the ’06 Cardinals (no mention of that here, obviously). Who is this jabroni, anyhow? Has he seen this game called baseball?

  4. Shely - Oct 2, 2009 at 4:01 PM

    There are always comments from people who know little of what they speak. Any team in the Majors would give their right arm to hire LaRussa. How about the losers like Cox who with the best 3 pitchers for a decade in baseball, could only win one big one? I still think Cox is a good manager however. It is just chance in these series and who may not have their best day on the mound or at the plate. With this morons reasoning, Sir Albert should be traded as he has had a poor Sept. and lousy Oct. so far. I guess he is over rated. We took care of him here in Cinti. this week, but we are happy we will not see him until next year. McCarthy is just a LaRussa hater and knows the game very little.

  5. frank pepe - Oct 3, 2009 at 11:05 PM

    pierce is great writing football for slate, but i don’t think he grasps baseball’s machinations. the 2009 a’s have nothing in common with the 2000 moneyball a’s…

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