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
La Russa, on the other hand, can usually outmanage anyone. He can take
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
against Guillen. But the Cardinals couldn't get by the
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
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.