May 7, 2007
By far the nicest thing I can say about the man. Wait, he takes a better mug shot than Nick Nolte. That too.
About all I’m more sick of than Tony La Russa is writing about Tony La Russa. For years, I’ve wailed on him for consistently taking the best team in baseball into the World Series only to lose badly. 1989 was the lone exception, and it took an earthquake to make that happen.
Then finally, after coming oh-so-close to what would have been the biggest choke in baseball history, for which so many were rooting, La Russa won a ring with a vastly inferior team. And I actually came out and said the second championship guaranteed his place in the Hall of Fame. You know how hard that was for me? No longer could I call La Russa the most overrated manager of his time.
Unfortunately, tragically, I can still call him an unbelievable bleep hole. One of baseball’s biggest. He’s a bleep hole independent of Josh Hancock; it’s just that he’s a bigger one now.
Yes, the lame “wake-up call” quote was Cards g.m. Walt Jockety’s, but only because La Russa couldn’t compose a better sentence himself. Wake-up call, my ass. Hancock’s drunk driving death last week wasn’t the wake-up call. Hancock’s drunk driving accident three days prior was the wake-up call. La Russa’s drunk driving arrest in Spring Training was the wake-up call.
The Cardinals chose to rubber stamp the whole damn thing, twice. Why? Because to them winning matters above all else. La Russa is no leader of men. He shouldn’t be managing a baseball team. Period. He’s only there because of the 2006 trophy.
That standing ovation the St. Louis crowd supported La Russa with after his busting was a blemish on the city’s reputation. As long as the guy wins, right? Cincinnati loves Pete Rose despite a mountain of evidence, and loved Marge Schott for, well, I have no idea actually. And they’ll never live it down. The same goes for San Francisco, which knows better, with Barry Bonds.
Since La Russa managed a second team, in two leagues, to a World Championship, he’s off the hook on that whole thing. He might still be compared to Gene Mauch more often than is fair, but he’ll no longer be remembered primarily for losing in October.
Instead, La Russa will be remembered for enabling an alcohol-abusing Josh Hancock into an early grave. Because the young man was a good pitcher, and because La Russa couldn’t genuinely speak to him about driving drunk. La Russa will be remembered for giving steroid-abusing Jose Canseco carte blanche, because Canseco could hit a baseball a long way. La Russa will be remembered for enabling Mark McGwire to abuse whatever it was he was abusing, in two clubhouses.
And if I have anything to say about it, he’ll be remembered for the genius that was the pitcher batting eighth…
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