Rumored: La Russa to Leave After Season

Sep 8, 2008 at 1:05 pm

You know, most "news" items are barely news at all; you usually get something that's all promise and no real substance. Every once in a while, though, something really interesting streaks across the sky, and you just have to stop and pay attention. It may still turn out to be nothing, it may burn up in that extra thick layer of pollution, but you still just have to look.

Such is this little bit of news, reported first by Baseball Prospectus.

Basically, it appears that our very own Tony La Russa, manager extraordinaire and media darling, may just want to step down after this season is completed. Apparently, Tony has got the GM bug and may be looking to take over in Seattle.

On a personal level, I'm sure this makes a ton of sense for Mr. La Russa. His family lives up in the Northern California area, so he would be back much closer to them. He's beginning to get to that age now as well, where you really have to question how much longer he can keep his on field intensity going. And, judging by some of his recent statements to the local daily and other media outlets, Tony may be feeling a bit pinched by the front office.

On a professional level, this is utterly hilarious to me. Of all the places to possibly take over as a first time GM, Seattle is not the one anyone would pick. Make no mistake, that is a sinking ship up there in the Pacific Northwest, and it's going to take one hell of a lot of ping-pong balls to raise that fucker. This is a team that essentially emptied their farm system to try and get over the hump because they were utterly convinced that they were just one big move away. Unfortunately, their good record last season was also accompanied by a Pythagorean Record (an approximation of a team's record based on run differential; it's quite useful in predicting just how good a team will be going forward), that was actually below .500. They had a nice season, with a ton of lucky breaks thrown in, and failed to see that the true talent level of the team wasn't nearly on par with their wins and losses. Now the Mariners find themselves in quite a hole.

At the very least, though, it would be fascinating to see just how Tony would work with the whole Erik Bedard situation. We all remember what happened the last time a TLR team traded away a bunch of talent for a veteran, supposedly dominant lefty starter with concerns about his long term health prospects, right? Right? Personally, I'm not sure the M's gave up a Dan Haren to bring in Mr. Bedard, but Adam Jones certainly is looking pretty good for Baltimore, isn't he?

And, on the level of a Cardinal fan, I'm not quite as sure how I feel about this. I'm not a big La Russa fan; let's just get that out of the way right now. I was a huge fan of his back in the Oakland days, and was absolutely ecstatic when he came to St. Louis. And by and large, the TLR era of Cardinal baseball has been an unqualified success.

But as time has gone on, I've also become more and more disillusioned with a whole lot of the things that Tony does. We've seen far too many feuds with players -- not to mention ex-players -- conducted through the media, it seems to me. For a manager who is supposedly a genius of the bullpen, the Cardinals haven't had a winning record in one run games since 2004. More than anything, though, we've seen a manager who has seemed to become more and more hidebound as the years have gone by.

Personally, I love the pitcher hitting eighth, so that's certainly a check in the ''still a maverick'' column for Tony. On the other side of the ledger, though, we have things like Miguel Cairo playing nearly every game down the stretch last year. We have Randy Flores continuing to be used to face lefties, no matter how many of them he walks. We have Izzy being trotted out there for months, both in 2006 and this season, when it was obvious to all of us watching at home that the guy is just flat-out finished.

And how about that outfield? You know, the Cards just happen to have one of the most sought-after prospects in all of baseball, languishing away currently on a field somewhere in Florida. Look, I realize that Colby Rasmus didn't have the greatest season this year. I also realize that he had an injury, blah blah blah. Is he ready for a call-up? I'm not entirely sure, but when Felipe Lopez is in your regular outfield rotation and you're talking in the paper about how you think Aaron Miles could probably handle center field, the time is ripe to at least get the kid up here. If nothing else, his glove didn't struggle this year. Am I the only one who sees this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

Remember back in spring training, when all we heard from Tony was how eager he was to embrace a team full of hungry young players? Please don't get me wrong, La Russa has used the youngsters more than I honestly expected. But now all we hear is that the front office needs to make the move for more impact; we hear him taking shots at the farm system. So much for a united organizational front, huh, Tony?

On the upside, though, if La Russa does jump ship to try and turn around the Mariners' franchise, there's a pretty good chance the Cards will be in excellent position to trade for anything Seattle may have left in the farm system. After all, you know that La Russa's going to want every last scrappy, undersized, empty average hitting utility player we can possibly send over to him.

So good luck, Tony. If you leave, you've got one hell of a tough road to walk down. If you stay, it ain't going to be a whole lot prettier, I can't imagine. You've gotten damn-near a free ride all these years from one of the softest media contingents in all of sports. They're all fine writers and reporters, mind you, but Jennie Finch doesn't field as many softballs as you do, Tony.

Threatening, once again, to leave, in the middle of a contract this time, then waffling and coming back? I would have to think that someone is going to point that out somewhere along the line.

Either way, I think that I'm done with the whole thing. I may miss him when he's gone, and we've got someone else in here. But you know what? I really wouldn't mind finding out.

- Aaron Schafer