Posted by JD on April 22, 2009
I was thinking about this subject when I was putting together my mini-preview this morning. I couldn’t fit it in there but its been bugging me, so I’m going to depart from my usual Mets content to tell you this: I dislike Tony LaRussa.
Mind you, I don’t hate the man. I try to separte that emotion from baseball (it is a game, after all). And I acknowledge that he’s well above the average manager. Two world championships certainly attest to that.
Despite this, I can only begrudgingly give him his due credit. The man’s ego is transparent: he makes no attempt to hide the fact that he thinks he’s better than every other manager. Every baseball fan knows he gets the credit (or the blame, depending on your viewpoint) for perfecting the specialization of bullpen. But what often gets lost is that he had Rick Honeycutt to get the lefties and Dennis Eckersley to close it out. Without those two superior athletes, LaRussa’s specialization doesn’t work anywhere near as well as it did.
Similarly, LaRussa made waves in the late 90’s by batting his pitcher 8th. The theory was to get three hitters in front of Mark McGwire, increasing his RBI opportunities. Hey, there might be some statistical advantage if you’ve got a Rick Ankiel or a Micah Owings, or even a Johan Santana or a Livan Hernandez on your squad. But any average pitcher is just going to burn his at-bat one line-up spot sooner, which does take its toll eventually. Thankfully, this idea has begun to run it’s course. Not before claiming Ned Yost, who regularly dropped Jason Kendall to the 9th spot. That was so bad that it warrants it’s own post, but suffice it to say that it serves to highlight exactly why the idea stinks.
LaRussa is the classic example of a manager that hogs the credit when things go well, but dodges the blame when they don’t. His strategy is flawless when his team wins but the players can never execute when they lose. That’s why I’ll always root against the guy (and no, 2006 did nothing to help).