Right Field

Tributes to Tony La Russa

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa spent the weekend celebrating his team’s most improbable World Series triumph, but he announced his retirement yesterday after 33 seasons as a big-league skipper.

There was no shortage of opinions about TLR’s accomplishments.

Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

La Russa led the Cardinals to one of their greatest eras, and that’s quite the compliment when we talk about a franchise that ranks only second to the Yankees in the number of World Series won. . . . To use one of his favorite expressions: La Russa took his best shot for 16 seasons in St. Louis, and 33 years in the majors.  And if, for any reason, La Russa reached the conclusion that he no longer could do that, take his best shot, he simply would not cheat himself or his players. I can’t believe that La Russa was able to maintain his extreme intensity over 33 seasons, playing at least 162 games a year. It’s amazing that he lasted this long. At some point, the flame would flicker. And La Russa wasn’t about to stay on this job if he thought there was a chance of the flame going out.

Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports:

He drove opponents crazy with his sanctimonious side, drove even his own fans crazy with some of his in-game strategy. But the thing I loved about La Russa — the thing that most defined him — is that he always got the most out of his teams. The 2011 Cardinals, underdogs from the day they lost ace right-hander Adam Wainwright early in spring training, were the ultimate La Russa creation. . . . He always had the strongest sense of how the game should be managed, how it should be played. His critics contend he willfully overlooked his players’ use of steroids in both Oakland and St. Louis. It is difficult to defend La Russa in that area. But he is hardly the only one in baseball who failed to react properly, reporters included.

bgh, Viva El Birdos:

And so it is at the peak of his profession that Tony La Russa has decided to leave the storied Cardinals franchise. La Russa’s has been a tenure marked by feuds with players such as Scott Rolen, Colby Rasmus, and Brendan Ryan, playoff collaps such as 1996 and 2004, and improbable championship runs in 2006 and this season. La Russa leaves first in St. Louis Cardinals franchise history in managerial wins and third in MLB history in the same category. La Russa is human, flawed like us. For every trait to be admired–tenacity, inteligence, appreciation for tradition–there is one to be disliked–stubbornness, rudeness, arrogance. Ours is a relationship that has run its course. I’m happy to see him go, especially after our eleventh World Series title, and I wish TLR the best.

Miklasz goes on to calm those fans worried how TLR’s decision will affect the club’s attempt to re-sign Albert Pujols.

It’s being suggested that La Russa’s retirement will give Pujols less reason to return here, because they have such a close relationship. But Pujols will be signing a long-term deal. It could run anywhere from six to 10 seasons. La Russa, at most, was only going to manage another year or two. So why would Pujols make his decision based on La Russa’s status? Even if TLR and Pujols both decided to stay in St. Louis, the manager and first basemen weren’t going to be together much longer.

Rosenthal sums it up:

I loved covering the guy. He always competed, always thought ahead, always had a point of view. I frankly don’t know how La Russa will exist without those three hours in the dugout every night. But his last 10:30 was his best 10:30. Now, and forever, he is a champion.

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