25 years ago, Tony LaRussa was the manager of the Chicago White Sox. He revitalized a dormant fanbase with hope and the promise of rebuilding the franchise. But after a very slow start in 1986, GM Ken Harrelson, in a move to rival the Cubs' decision to trade away Lou Brock, fired LaRussa after his 8 1/2 years with the Sox. Dumped him, despite the Sox winning the '83 AL West in a runaway, a first of any kind for the team since 1959.
In retrospect, Harrelson's decision to fire LaRussa may have been the stupidest move on or off the field, ever, given LaRussa's later track record with Oakland and now St. Louis. Yes, worse than former Cub Bill Buckner's boot for the Red Sox in game six of the '86 series. Worse than the Barkman debacle. Notice how many Cubs are on the stupid move list?
By the end of next season, LaRussa should be the second winningest manager in baseball history, with only 35 games needed to pass John McGraw. Connie Mack is the top guy. And the two behind LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre are retired. I think everybody else is dead.
This year, when the Cardinal bullpen supposedly didn't understand which reliever to start warming up in Game 5 of the World Series, that misunderstanding, bad connection, whatever it was, led to a comedy of errors that had a left-handed pitcher facing a right-handed hitter who eats lefties for lunch. Everybody everywhere knew there had been a huge mistake. I couldn't find the play-by-play, but it is worth a listen as the announcers jabber on and on, completely astonished by the egregious managerial fiasco taking place. One that ended as badly as it could have, and cost St. Louis the game.
After the loss, the consensus was that the Rangers had two tries to win one game. St. Louis was dead in the water. But I knew [like thousands of others] that no matter what act of stupidity had occurred in the fifth game, LaRussa could still win it all. I haven't kept my very old issue of Sports Illustrated that profiled his computerized micro-managerial skills in detail for nothing. I'm only sorry I didn't do my predictin' earlier. When I could have seemed like a freaking genius. Now I'm just another fan who needs a blog entry.
In the end, it was all good news for the Cards. For Chicago White Sox fans -- it could have been better. If LaRussa hadn't had such a miraculous comeback at the end of the season just to make the playoffs, then winning the World Series when most people wrote the Cards off after Game 5, there's a real chance he might have been fired. And with Ozzie Guillen gone, Jerry Reinsdorf might have hired him to manage the Sox again. No, really.
In the end I just couldn't bring myself to root for the Rangers. Even in a town where rooting for the Cardinals is considered heresy. Although cheering for LaRussa is probably just fine.
UPDATE: LaRussa has retired. I'm just sick. On another note -- doesn't he look GOOD for 67?