|La Russa Ends Hall of Fame Career||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on December 03, 2011
We come not to bury Tony La Russa but to praise him.Â One of the great old minds of baseball is going out, or at least leaving behind the pressures of being a manager in style.
There aren't many like La Russa left in the game who haven't moved onto advisory or scouting positions.Â Jack McKeon came in as an emergency stand in, Jim Leyland still works his magic, and Terry Collins is stuck with the hapless Mets. And out of all of them La Russa stands out.
The respect he earned from players, friends, fans and other baseball executives can't be measured.Â Nor can the loss to the St Louis organization.Â La Russa was a one of a kind manger and anyone stepping into La Russa's shoes is going to be measured against one of the greats.
You have to wonder how much the loss of La Russa will be felt on the field.Â After all no matter how good "King" Albert Pujols was, these Cards were known as La Russa's team, not Pujols'.Â And the two of them had a great working relationship -- something which could play into Pujols' thinking this offseason and his at least cursory exploration of free agency.
Finding someone who can command the respect of that superstar, not to mention the rest of the personalities of the Cardinals current and future won't be easy.Â That's not a good thing.Â For right now the Cardinals have a distinct and formed organizational identity, one which may not survive the transition between managers.
Certainly the Redbirds haven't been shy about shipping malcontents out of town in the past, but La Russa was good about downplaying, or dressing down those, who got out of line.Â In the media he came across as very strong and seemed to maintain an iron discipline within the clubhouse.Â Some of that for certain was age, some was personality, and the rest was about being one of the best baseball men in the game.
His record stands up well against almost any manager the game has ever produced.Â He's a lock to make the Hall of Fame for his dugout skills that far superseded his skill as a player.Â And impressively he is going out on top, with a new World Series ring on his finger, rather than lingering a bit too long in what is becoming the game of the next generation.
La Russa himself would be among the first to admit that baseball is a young man's game, and his acknowledgement of that, as one of the last of the old guard still standing in the spotlight just signals that the transition is well in progress.Â He was there long before SABRmetrics changed the game, but even in this modern age, La Russa thrived.
He'll be remembered as a manager who got everything out of his players.Â He'll be remembered for his on field decisions.Â He'll be remembered for his passion and love of the game and for leading a team that shouldn't have even made the playoffs to an improbable World Series title.Â He'll be remembered for going out on top.
In baseball, it doesn't get any better than that.