In Which the Author is Forced to Defend Tony La Russa Against His Will

Mar 2, 2010 at 2:41 am
click to enlarge In Which the Author is Forced to Defend Tony La Russa Against His Will
Well, it was inevitable, I suppose. Finally, after years of little passive-aggressive asides and snarky jabs being tossed surreptitiously toward Tony La Russa, someone came out and said it straight up: La Russa doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame

Thom Loverro, of ESPN 980 in Washington, D.C., is the author of the piece in question, which claims Tony La Russa is not worthy to go into the Hall of Fame because of the myriad steroid users he has coached over the years, as well as his claims of ignorance as to the situation. 

Sigh. You guys do know just how much it rankles me to defend Tony La Russa, don't you? 

Still, I will take Tony's side each and every time when something this foolish, this asinine, this flat-out stupid, is tossed out there for public consumption. It will still piss me off, make no mistake, but I'll swallow the bitter taste in my mouth and do it nonetheless. 

The gist of the article is this: Tony La Russa is the Steroid Manager. He's had all the Steroid Guys on his teams, and he continues to pull a Sgt. Schultz on us in regards to the Steroid Era. Thus, Tony La Russa should not go in the Hall of Fame. He's just as guilty as Mark McGwire, or Barry Bonds, or Roger Clemens. No plaque for you, Tony. 

Here's the problem with that line of thinking: it's complete and utter bullshit. It's bullshit because the argument is that La Russa somehow cheated by having players on his team who were cheaters. But by that logic, every single manager in the majors is a cheater. Look, I know it's easy to look at La Russa as the managerial face of the steroid era because he managed McGwire and Jose Canseco, but that's completely missing the point. We know now the problem was systemic; it wasn't a few bad apples spoiling it for the rest of the barrel. 

Joe Torre managed Clemens and Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez in New York; I don't see anyone calling for him to be banned from the Hall or for the Yankees to forfeit their titles from the late 90s. Hell, Torre just had Manny Ramirez suspended last year for trying to get pregnant. That's got to be enough to keep Torre out, right? Yet somehow I doubt that's going to be brought up too very often. 

Every team in baseball in the 1990s had players on the juice. Thinking otherwise at this point is just absurd. You can't start throwing out records and trying to rewrite the book, because you don't know exactly how many of the players involved in a given contest were clean and how many were dirty. Period. 

The other main thrust of Mr. Loverro's article seems to be that La Russa had to have known something was going on, yet he did nothing. He never spoke up and told the world his players were dirty. Again, I would really like to know which managers exactly have come forward and started naming names of players they coached who were dirty. 'Cause at the moment, I'm sort of at a loss for names. 

Mr. Loverro calls Tony La Russa arrogant for bringing Mark McGwire back into the game, and arrogant for continuing to deny he knew of the problem. The real arrogance here, though, is that of an ivory tower moralist looking for a target for his shallow pandering. 

Whatever La Russa's bad points may be (and they are legion in number), failing to blow the whistle on what the whole game of baseball was ignoring is not one of them. The era itself was dirty; we know that. But to somehow suggest La Russa was dirtier than anyone else because of his associations is foolish at best and downright misleading at worst. 

Tony La Russa absolutely is a Hall of Famer. His record is one of the greatest of any manager in the history of the game. And no amount of cheap sanctimony now is going to change that.