Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tony La Russa's World Series

Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox, once said the biggest mistake he ever made was letting former GM Hawk Harrelson fire Tony La Russa, when the ex-lawyer was the Sox manager. Harrelson had a bug up his butt for some reason, a permanent state of his, and he dumped La Russa a couple of years after the Sox won the division in 1983. Reinsdorf should have fired Harrelson instead. He did, finally. Harrelson, like so many incompetent management types recycled himself up to the White Sox announcer booth, where he can't hire and fire player personnel, he can only whine about them.

All La Russa did was head for Oakland where he created a monster team that couldn't lose. Ironically, one of the most intimdating closers on those teams was Dennis Eckersley, an ex-Cub who had been a mediocre starter and was re-born in the bullpen.

But that's how it goes with the baseball teams in Chicago. You can follow the Hall of Fame careers of a whole bunch of players after they get traded, particularly from the Cubs.

Lou Brock is probably the most notable example. Joe Carter is another. I'm sure Cubs fans have a long list. And not just rookies. Proven players. Management wrote off Nomar when he got hurt, thinking they'd made a mistake on an aging player who'd seen his best days. I'm sure the Dodgers were glad to get him in the Cubs' fire sale at the end of last season. He was batting in the 340's for most of this summer in L.A., maybe the only reason LA was still in the hunt toward the end.

But this is about La Russa, who will retire and walk into the Hall of Fame long before Ozzie Guillen wins another division championship with the White Sox. Tonight a sports radio commentator said that this year's Sox were the best team not to make the play offs. They could have -- would have -- repeated with La Russa.

Ozzie Guillen is old school. He manages instinctively, by the seat of his pants. As far as I'm concerned, he won the World Series last year because he had a dream lineup of double digit winning pitchers. Not because he's a good manager. I could have won the World Series with that group. A lot of that same bunch stunk up the place this year. Personally I think it was because they got rid of El Duque -- why, I'll never know. Just having him around made the staff better. Nothing Ozzie did.

La Russa, on the other hand, can usually outmanage anyone. He can take whatever players he has and make a winning team. Even when, like this year, he has to cope with some long losing streaks -- eight games, six games, and plenty of three and four game streaks.  It was ugly.

Last year, I was hoping the Cardinals would face the White Sox in the World Series, just to watch La Russa manage against Guillen. But the Cardinals couldn't get by the Astros.

Yeah, he got swept by Boston in the World Series two years ago. But Boston was on a mission.  When they took down the Yankees for the division championship, they couldn't be stopped. However, no way La Russa was going to lose this one. His second World Series appearance in three years if you're counting.

La Russa thinks it's fun to study computer printouts of weird and obscure statistics about his players that you and I couldn't comprehend.  He loves to find an unusual relationship between his line ups and unexpected stuff like the local humidity. Then exploit it to his advantage.

Cubs fans hate him. Because they hate the Cardinals. But I love Tony La Russa. Because I am a White Sox fan and I remember how good we had it when he was here. And how good we could have it still, because he's not a one hit wonder.

Having said that, I was also impressed that Jim Leyland, in his first year with Detroit, took them to the World Series this year. He, too, is a world class manager. And, interestingly, La Russa's good friend. Leyland was the White Sox third base coach when La Russa was here. And a Cardinals' scout for him too. 

Then he took over Detroit -- a team that lost 119 games just a couple of years ago. What a turnaround. But, as good as he is, Leyland was up against the best of the best this time.

So, way to go Tony. Way to figure out a way to take the team with the worst regular season record ever and win the World Series. Nobody else could have done it. Nobody.


cberes1 said...

EXCELLENT commentary even tho I HATE the Cardinals and was rooting for Detroit.  

suzypwr said...

I remember Dennis Eckersly when he was with Cleveland - he was quite a pitcher. Very limber. I sure agree about La Russa - he never lost his cool, and was the most incredible manager for Oakland. I sure do miss baseball - maybe next year I can start all over.


ber144 said...

Yeah, this year is about a thousand times worse than last year.  Have I mentioned lately that I hate baseball and what it has done it to me?

Here's one Cubs fan that doesn't necessarily dislike LaRussa, but I do think he is incredibly overrated.  He won one division with the Sox, had essentially the same team the next year, and did nothing.  People then tend to forget that he went to the World Series three straight years with the A's (88-90), had the superb team all three times, and lost two of those WS.  His playoff record with St. Louis had been terrible until this year.  And now he gets the distinction of the manager of the team that won the series with the least wins during the regular season (83).

And despite all those being facts, this will sound like sour grapes.  God hates me.


PS Darryl Kile died in June 2002.  I was in the park when they announced that the game that day had been canceled.  

jevanslink said...

Yeah, you're right about Kite.  I'm wrong.  I'll fix it eventually.

Mrs. L

mombzbe said...

I have enjoyed watching Tony La Russa spin gold out of straw with every team he winds up with.  And even though I thought this series was blah, I was rooting for the Cardinals, just because of him.