Over the past 15 seasons, I have never thought Tony La Russa should be fired. Last Wednesday, after the 5-2 loss to the Pirates, I legitimately thought, "Alright, it's over. He needs to go."
And I had a good portion of this column done, ready to post last Thursday, but I thought better of it. Maybe I was just waiting to come to my senses. Maybe I was dead-set on only blaming TLR, while the players were/are the ones going out there blowing saves, playing with no passion, and failing to get more than a couple hits against Dave Bush (and Daniel McCutchen...and J.A. Happ).
No, he's done.
I think it goes without saying that we appreciate the World Series and playoff appearances, and all the good times we've had since 1996. It was a great run, a great era; but now it needs to be over. The last straw for me was La Russa not getting tossed after the Nyjer Morgan incident Saturday, or the Desmond forearm/Storen wild throw Sunday. You're getting your ass handed to you from the Nats, we don't want a five minute conversation for some camera time - go a little fucking crazy on the umps. I'm not usually in favor of having an on-field meltdown to get your team's attention, but those were the times this past weekend to do it.
A lot of TLR supporters will point out the 'Third Most Winningest Manager' stat. And although this is Kevin Slaten's main comeback, it needs to be said - La Russa is second all-time in losses. I think he's a good manager and all, but the wins total really only means he's been around a long time. If you needed a guy to come up and get a base hit, would you take Pete Rose since he's the all-time hit leader? I hope not. (In fact, I'd put 20 bucks down saying you won't, and Pete probably would too, ha...ha?). So before you lump me in with the Kingdom, let me explain - as opposed to sitting in the middle of the St. Charles Applebee's, yelling and scaring customers - with some background info:
In the down year of '03, I didn't think he deserved to be fired. After '07 and '08, I thought he should remain with the club, because ownership did a piss-poor job with contracts, signings, trades, etc. following the 2006 season. Short leash, sure...fired, no.
I've never agreed with the pitcher hitting 8th thing, though I think the reasoning isn't the craziest thing ever. I've never liked how horribly he handles the soft media here in St. Louis. (Any listener to The Morning After knows the name Calvin May - he's the guy who always asks TLR the first question in the post-game presser, for home games only. And his question is always a softball; like in the 14-5 loss Saturday night, I'd imagine he'd say something like "Nice to see Jon Jay show some power in the first inning tonight, Tony?" Any manager in baseball would trade places right now just to be able to breeze through press conferences. The team on the field is just a bonus. And as you probably know, the questions don't get much more difficult from there. I've never understood how pissy he gets, considering how much of his ass the media kisses. /Rambling over.) And lastly, I've never liked how almost every move has to have his stamp on it. I can't say this for certain, but I think Walt Jocketty would have stood his ground on waiting to deal Ludwick until the winter - or at least would have held out for more than Jake Westbrook and some food stamps from the Padres. There have been way too many players run out of St. Louis, and I'm afraid Colby Rasmus is next on the list.
So that said, I think he should be applauded for the job he's done here, but he needs to be gone from the 2010 Cardinals. The team has been too inconsistent this year and needs a change at the top. They need someone who isn't concerned about getting Randy Winn and Aaron Miles playing time. And really, what is there to lose? If the Cardinals led the Wild Card race, I don't think I'd want a change. But they're in bad shape right now. Trying out a new manager for the last month can either rally the team to win some games, or play some new faces from Memphis (Daniel Descalso, Lance Lynn, Eduardo Sanchez) to see what we've got for 2011.
So I know your next question: Who do you replace him with? I'm sure I'm lacking a big name or two, especially in the "recycle bin" category, but here's my rough draft:
Jose Oquendo. The easy answer, and probably the leader in the clubhouse. Although Jose acts funny sometimes. Like when he does that weird arm extension thing when Albert rounds 3rd. As if to say don't do...something, i don't know.
Fredi Gonzalez. Despite the riff with Hanley Ramirez earlier this year, Gonzalez would be an excellent choice. If he waits until the off-season, he'll get a little extra dough from a possible Braves/Dodgers/Cardinals bidding war. If not Jose, this would be my choice, but I don't think he's picking up the phone until late October.
Tony Pena. He's managed before in Kansas City. He's got the Cardinal connection. He's been a bench coach for the Yankees the past few years. I don't love it, but don't hate it either.
Mike Matheny. I don't believe he's ever managed before, but I've heard numerous times that he's a manager at some point down the line. He's got to get his feet wet in the lower minors for a few years first.
Ryne Sandberg. Cubs fans think they hate us a lot now, but there is one way to put them over the top. Somehow convincing Ryno to manage in St. Louis would be ice cold.
Joe Torre. If he left the Dodgers dugout right now, you think anyone would notice?
Red Fucking Schoendienst. He's only 87. Maybe if we campaign on FaceBook and Twitter, DeWitt will hire him for the last month?
Bobby Valentine, Mike Hargrove, Clint Hurdle. If you like guys with experience - Take your pick. The one drawback for Hurdle is that he's the Rangers hitting coach right now. They're gonna be kind of busy for at least a couple weeks into October.
Feel free to vote or comment below on who you think should take over, or call me a crazy bastard - I'm okay with that too.