- By Miles Noland
"He's pulling all the right strings, Craig said of his manager. Is fun to watch."
"On Tuesday, Washington had quipped that he could never match a wit with La Russa. He could only attempt to put his players in the position to win. His players could not come through tonight."
These quotes were taken from a news article after Game 1 of the 2011 World Series in which the Cardinals won 3-2.
These quotes were merely a chip off the iceberg after nearly everyone crowned LaRussa god of baseball managers, baseball, the Cardinals....etc...well you get the picture. By listening to the news post Game 1 Ron Washington was a dunce and LaRussa was Einstein.
"When former closer Fernando Salas found himself in seventh-inning trouble, La Russa exchanged him for southpaw Marc Rzepczynski. The move was wise, considering Rzepczynski's ability to survive against righties. The Rangers would soon learn as much."
Survive against righties? Rzepczynski's right handed batter against average was .274. Lefties only hit .172 against him during the regular season.
So now compare it ESPN.com's summary after Game 6, in which LaRussa's bullpen coach misunderstood him not once, but twice on which pitcher to warmup.
"It was all that darned bullpen phone's fault, all right. That was his story, and boy, was he sticking to it. So that's why Jason Motte, his closer and most trusted right-handed bullpen arm, wasn't up, he reported. Out in the bullpen, they kept hearing him wrong."
Not to mention a hit and run possibly called by a player, Albert Pujols, in a key situation down 4-2 late in the game.
When have you ever heard of a player calling a hit and run on his own?
"La Russa initially called the play a mix up.He declined to say that Pujols had called it a detail that Pujols confirmed later saying only, 'On our team, nobody gets thrown under the bus.
Ken Rosenthal after the game had this to say about LaRussa, "All I know is that if the Cardinals lose this series, it will be a low point of La Russa's career, right there with his shocking losses with the Athletics to the Dodgers in 1988 and the Reds in 1990, maybe even worse."
"Cluelessis about the last word I would ever use to describe Tony La Russa. But clueless is exactly how his team appeared on Monday night."
Ok, hold the phone, what is going on here?? 5 days after LaRussa is crowned god baseball managers, he is designated "clueless" by a very respected baseball writer.
LaRussa certainly did not throw his players under the bus, but the media certainly was not shy about changing their tune from Game 1 to Game 5.
I understand players and managers are only as good as their last game, but this is a bit ridiculous.
Tony LaRussa has been a major league manager in four decades, and is striving to join Sparky Anderson as the only managers to win World Series in both the American and National Leagues.
We can conclude that being a major league manager, especially in the World Series, you are placed under a high-focused microscope.
Your highs will be very high, as LaRussa's was on top of the world after Game 1.
And your lows will be very low as well, as LaRussa was run over by the metaphorical bus time and time again.
You want to talk about low's? How about Ron Washington's positive drug test for cocaine in 2009 at age 56?
And now Washington has led the Texas Rangers to the last two World Series....when many teams would have not kept him on as manager after the positive test. Is that a high??? No pun intended.
Tony LaRussa is very driven, smart, and has a great track record. Yet his many of accomplishments over a period of over 30 years have been rendered moot by many in the baseball world. Well at least until the next game.
If you have ever coached you know poor decisions you have made hurt deep inside. So deep you cannot forget them years later.
And the losses sting more than the big wins feel great.
Yet something in a great coach drives him to want to be the best. To want the big decisions squarely on his shoulders.
To realize he will be the hero or the goat, and absolutely nothing in between, and still make decisions on the best information he has available. And to not care one bit what anybody on the outside thinks about him or his decisions.
His decisions are based solely on what he believes is best for his team.
The diverse job description drives the great coach. To mesh various personalities of many high paid players and coaches, with different skills sets, to combat injuries, to deal with the front office, hateful fans, and nosy media. To devise effective lineups, scouting, and rotations.
To realize there is no job security, you are working nonstop and on the road for 9 straight months, with your one day off every 2 weeks is a travel day, and you are supposed to keep your wife and kids happy.
Is your desk job really that tough?
Most outsiders see LaRussa and think big glasses, with an outdated mullet, the guy other teams and managers love to hate.
Most outsiders see Ron Washington, an older kid with boundless energy, whom many portrayed on Halloween night last year, an admitted drug user.
I see two very intelligent individuals, with heaps of pressure on their shoulders, with the audacity and intelligence to put their decisions in the spotlight for the world to see and judge.
LaRussa and Washington will have regrets about some of the decisions they have made and will be judge harshly by many, however, what are we basing our judgments on?
I believe they have conviction about their decisions, and their players respect them deeply, regardless of the outcome.
As a coach you must stick to your beliefs, and sometimes you have to go with your gut despite the negatives most would spout at you.
But when everything is over, you will feel great about your decision because you did what you thought was right.
Because in the end you are the one that has to live with your decision, not anyone else, especially those giving you advice and telling you how bad you are.