Yes, I wrote some wild-eyed accolades in the heat of the World Series win last season. (Give me a break; my team had just won the World Series.) And no, perhaps I'm not being totally consistent. I think I made a vow sometime after the World Series somewhere that I was finally going to stop hammering him, and I suppose I'm breaking that vow now. But beginning with the DUI arrest in spring training, through the Josh Hancock tragedy (in which La Russa threatened reporters with a fungo bat), up to last night's All-Star game fiasco, this season has been a La Russa-made disaster.
I should've seen the handwriting on the wall with the Scott Rolen feud that simmered during the entire post-season last year (and carried into this season) after La Russa chose to communicate with Rolen through the media rather than in person when benching him. Or perhaps I should've seen it when LaRussa first arrived in St. Louis and got into a dispute with all-time great Ozzie Smith that still lasts to this day, after La Russa told him he'd have to compete with for the starting shortstop job with future non-Hall-of-Famer Royce Clayton--only to give the job to Clayton anyway even after Ozzie thoroughly outplayed him in spring training that year. Or when La Russa invited Andy Van Slyke to spring training for a comeback attempt in 1997, only to cut him after Van Slyke hit .525 that spring. The guy is a bad communicator, and he needlessly jerks people around.
In case you you missed the Major League Baseball All-Star game last night (and at this point, who doesn't miss it?), Tony La Russa, managing the NL team, left his own superstar Albert Pujols on the bench even when they had two outs, bases loaded, the game-tying run on third base, and the game-winning run in scoring position. My son and I, along with the other 200 people who still watch the All-Star game, kept asking each other, "How do you not use Albert Pujols here?" He must be injured, we figured.
Well, it turns out that he wasn't injured, and frankly, like the rest of the baseball fans in America, is a little steamed that La Russa never played him. Keep in mind, this is La Russa's own player--a guy with a lifetime .330 batting average who has never finished below fourth in the MVP voting or failed to be in the top 5 NL players in RBI in his entire career. Turns out that La Russa evidently failed to communicate with his best player that he'd only be playing if the game went into extra-innings. And he followed it up by blasting Pujols in the media for being disappointed at not playing.
So instead of letting future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols bat with the game on the line in the 9th inning, where a solid single would've won the game for the NL, La Russa left it to Aaron Rowand--he of the career high 69 RBI and lifetime average 50 points lower than Albert's. Rowand flew out. Game over. And typically, when questioned, La Russa became defensive and decided to speak to his player through the media after not speaking to him personally the entire game. The guy's communication skills are seriously bankrupt, and his strategy makes no sense whatsoever. What good is it to save Pujols for extra innings when you're down by a run with two outs in the bottom of the 9th? I think Rob Neyer of ESPN.com sums up this idiocy best (which comes via Jeff Gordon in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch):
Brilliant! Save your star until you really, really need him! Just think how many more games the Yankees might have won, if only Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy had realized how foolish it was to actually put Babe Ruth in the starting lineup. And now we know why the Yankees are struggling this season: Joe Torre’s not saving Alex Rodriguez for the extra innings! I mean, the guy can play third base, shortstop, and (I’m quite sure) first base or left field in a pinch.Enough already. It was a nice run. It's time to move on. Take the "genius" somewhere else already.
Related Tags: Tony La Russa, Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball, All-Star game