Thursday, July 28, 2011

Like it or not, La Russa wins his way

First, Scott Rolen.

Then, Jim Edmonds.

Now, Colby Rasmus.

And probably a few other guys I can't think of off the top of my head.

I don't want to say Tony La Russa can be a less-than-pleasant manager to play for, but ... OK, I guess I do want to say it.

He's not the best for media mopes, either. The one time I had a chance to observe him at length came in March 2008, when I covered a week of Cardinals spring training in Florida. The St. Louis press corps had to tiptoe around every topic, afraid to step on the eggshell that is Tony's massive, overly sensitive ego.

The beat guys from the Post-Dispatch managed to hang in there pretty well, but some of the others, including the local guy, felt they had to ask questions in a certain way to avoid feeling the skipper's wrath.

"Um, Tony, we know you are the greatest manager ever and we'd never second-guess you for an instant, but could you please explain why you might consider batting Skip Schumacher leadoff ... "

OK, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but you get my drift.

Even though La Russa had seen me around the ballpark for years, he really had no clue who I was. And he didn't particularly care. The third or fourth day I was there in Florida, it was a little chilly so I was wearing my Marquette pullover. La Russa mentioned he had become friendly with then-MU coach Tom Crean. This led to a 5-minute conversation between us and, for the rest of the week, Tony didn't get pissed at me just for asking routine questions.

All in all, though, I thought he was quite a jerk, and I wasn't the least bit surprised he was in the Bobby Knight-Bill Parcells circle of friends.

Then again, the Cardinals shouldn't care if the media or even the players like their manager. No matter the makeup of the roster, La Russa almost always keeps the team competitive.

One need not be a jerk to be a good manager -- as Joe Torre, Terry Francona, Bob Lemon and numerous others have proven -- but given the choice of a jerk who wins or a lovable lug who loses, any intelligent owner would take the former.

Even if it occasionally results in a good player taking a hike.


  1. Mike, Tony's got a memory like a steel trap.

    Just sayin' :)

    I met TLR once at a Sox caravan in Spfld, we chatted for a few minutes about the Lance Johnson acquisition. Later that night at the Gov's Mansion, he called me by my first name. I was astounded.

    I think it was just that hard-hitting reporting style of yours, Mike.

  2. he's not only a jerk but an old jerk at that...but he was a jerk in oakland too...the cards have had some nice mnagers over the comes immediately to mind. heh you are google famous now...i typed in "the baldest" (i am at a diff computer becase our ac broke) and they supplied "the baldest truth" and brought me right