I’ll just cut right to the chase, I was never all that big a fan of Tony La Russa. I didn’t like the umpteen feuds with players he always seemed to get himself into, from St. Louis Cardinals great Ozzie Smith to Scott Rolen to Colby Rasmus. I didn’t like the way he basically lucked into all three of the World Series titles he won, both the surprise runs he made with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011 and the championship he won with the Oakland Athletics in 1989 when the San Francisco Giants just couldn’t regain their stride after a major earthquake hit the Bay Area. And I really didn’t like his disdain for the sabermetrics/statistics movement in baseball or his tendency to get in his own way by overmanaging games to the point where he frequently out-thought himself.
The thing is, I think La Russa’s coaching style, which brought new meaning to the word “micromanaging”, actually might have helped advance the acceptance of advanced stats in baseball. If La Russa could win three MLB titles, three AL pennants and three NL pennants while obsessing over every detail, then just imagine what could happen if some actual science was introduced to the situation. Teams did imagine that and the game’s better off for it.
And even besides that, the fact is La Russa was fairly decent at his job, to say the least. He was one of the winningest managers of all time and lasted 15 years as the Cardinals’ manager, a span that includes Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols’ entire time with the team. And he certainly knows how to make an exit: the Cardinals’ miracle run from NL Wild Card contenders to World Series champions this fall was about as picture perfect a way to end any career, playing or managing, as could possibly be imagined. So long, Tony.