Tony La Russa Does His Best Captain Ahab; Shipwrecks Cardinals

Put an eyepatch on him, and let's face it, he would look perfect chasing a white whale around.
Put an eyepatch on him, and let's face it, he would look perfect chasing a white whale around.
You know, I've said plenty of negative things about Tony La Russa over the years. I disagree with an awful lot of the stuff the man does, and I disagree with an awful lot of the stuff the man is. But honestly, this one just might take the cake. 

La Russa had some rather pointed comments to make recently about the Cardinals' philosophy in this coming September. And I quote: 

"We've had four months where this club was admired by everyone in baseball," he said. "(But) now we've had a period where we've been mugging (it up). But I think it's very important for our club and our organization to finish as we started."

"(We need) people seeing us competing at a high level (again)," said La Russa. "That means guys who play the best and pitch the best, play the most."

You want to know why Tony La Russa is not the best choice to lead this team any longer? Just read that and it should tell you all you need to know. 

There are, so far as I can see, three problems with what Tony is saying here. They are, in no particular order: 

  1. He's still operating in direct opposition to the general manager. 
  2. He's delusional. 
  3. He's putting himself ahead of the organization. 
Let's start with the last one first, shall we? La Russa is moving in on John McGraw for second place on the all-time wins list. You want to know why Tony will be back next year? Because he knows perfectly he can ride this same heap of mediocre, underachieving baseball to enough wins to put him as the winningest manager in history not named Connie Mack

Mack doesn't count, either, since he owned the team and thus could never be fired. Actually, come to think of it, maybe we should go ahead and make Connie Mack count, since while he doesn't own the team, La Russa's place with this club is such that he can never be fired, either. Huh. Interesting.

What would be best for this team would be to look ahead to 2012 and try to figure out who can be counted on to contribute and who can't. But no, we have Captain Ahab at the helm. Awesome. 

Now, moving on to, um, the first one second. Just because. 

Earlier in the week, John Mozeliak publicly talked about wanting to get more playing time for some of the younger players, guys like Tyler Greene, so the club could get a better feel for just what they have. An audition for the future, if you will. Now here's La Russa, essentially saying the exact opposite. Always nice to know everyone's on the same page. 

It's been the same story for years now, with the manager, lifetime invite clutched firmly in claw, undermining the work of the GM at every turn, sniping in the press when he doesn't get the washed-up veteran flavour of the week itch scratched properly, simultaneously demanding the trade and destroying the trade value of various club properties, and just generally making it impossible for John Mozeliak to do his job in anything resembling a normal way. This is just more of the same, and I'm way beyond trying to figure out why the idiot who owns this team continues to let it go on. 

And finally, the delusion. 

Okay, so going by what La Russa said, he believes the Cardinals need people to see them playing well again. Here's my only question: Why? What does it matter? People around baseball seeing the Cardinals play well the last five weeks of the season is meaningless. This team had their chance to do something meaningful, aka playing well the past month and a half and making the playoffs, and they squandered that chance. So what good does it do now to go all-in? I get it that La Russa is an all-in guy all the time, but surely even he can recognize the writing on the wall, right? Maybe not. 

And the part about four months of everyone in baseball admiring the Cardinals? This, my friends, is why I think Tony La Russa may have completely lost his marbles. No one admires the Cardinals. The manager's personality has pervaded every last nook of this team, and they are one of the most disliked teams in all of baseball. The people who don't dislike the Cards just laugh at them for doing things like, oh, trading Colby Rasmus for a duffel bag full of spare parts from other teams. (How about that Edwin Jackson, by the way? Hasn't it been fun watching him pitch lights out and propel the team into the playoffs?) Playing well in September is not going to make anyone think this team is smart or admirable again. Actually being smart and admirable is the only thing that will make that happen. 

So do you want to know what's wrong with the St. Louis Cardinals organization? It's all right there, in black and white. They have a borderline delusional manager determined to go down with the ship, when in reality the ship only has a small hole in the hull and would be just fine to get back to the shore if only the captain would let someone bail the water out. But no, bailing water just isn't the sort of thing good captains do. People need to see the crew standing proud and accepting their fate as the ship very gradually sinks. That's how you gain admiration from all the other people who were actually smart enough to make repairs to their boats and so are not sinking. 

Oh, and did I mention the man so determined to go down with the ship has carte blanche to come back and manage the team as long as he likes? Yeah, I know. Pretty great, huh? 

What would be best for the Cardinal organization would be to play guys like Tyler Greene to see if they have any value. Play Matt Carpenter to help get his feet wet at the big league level and see how he looks out there on a more regular basis. Play Dan Descalso at second base and/or shortstop, every single day, and make a decision on how you feel about him manning one of those positions next season. Ryan Theriot isn't a part of this club's future, so sit him down. You already know what he is, and you know you don't want it. Just let it go. Hell, I would skip Kyle Lohse and/or Jake Westbrook a couple times in the rotation and toss Marc Rzepczynski a couple spot starts. He's supposedly still in the mix to move to the rotation next year-ish, right? Well, see how he looks. There's really nothing to lose at this point. 

But instead of doing that, the Cards will most likely continue to put what the manager believes are the best eight players on the field (which is a very questionable proposition anyway), playing the same stale brand of baseball they've played since June, and not only will they not win anything, they won't learn anything for next year either. But hey, at least the ego of an angry old lunatic will have been served, right? 

I wrote back in March the Cardinals had decided to live in the past this season, with players five years past their primes all over the field and no plan in place for the organisation past this year. It turns out I was wrong, at least about the manager. Tony La Russa isn't living in the past. At this point, I'm not sure he's even living in reality at all. 
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