Posted on 30 August 2010.
Let me make one thing clear before you read the rest of this article:
Before this season, I have always liked Tony La Russa as a manager. There have always been people that would criticize his every move, but I would always stand up for the guy. I was a TLR supporter, and then 2010 happened.
After what I have seen this season, Tony must go.
Not only is he stubborn to the core, sometimes I actually think he does things just to stir the pot. I’m not a conspiracy theorist of any kind, but some of La Russa’s moves have been questionable at best. Time after time I find myself deep in thought trying to understand his methods, but I simply cannot.
Last week, Allen Craig was the lead-off hitter. May I ask why? Craig is batting .188 in 89 plate appearances. Need I go further?
Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the prototypical lead-off hitter a high on-base percentage player who has speed to burn on the bases when the two, three, and four hitters drive him in? Craig’s OBP is .258. That is good for thirteenth on the team. Jeff Suppan has a better OBP than Allen Craig. Even in Craig’s best years in the minors when he was hitting .320, his OBP never cracked .390.
As for speed? Craig has stolen six bases in his professional career, and that includes 499 games in the Minors. MLB players don’t get a whole lot slower than Allen Craig. I would rather see Skip Schumaker, Jon Jay, Colby Rasmus (I know he was injured, but still), Felipe Lopez, Brendan Ryan, Aaron Miles, even Randy Winn bat leadoff over Craig. Nevertheless, he was batting leadoff on Friday night. I need an explanation as to why. If you have one, comment below or email me, because I must know.
I told a friend before the game, “if Craig does not get on base at least twice tonight, I’m going to lose it.” He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
The second of three situations that have occurred in the past week happened in the most frustrating game of the season, the 11-10 loss on Thursday night. I don’t even want to talk about the actual game, because it was awful. I want to know why Kyle Lohse was batting in the 11th inning, with a runner on base, in a 10-10 game when Bryan Anderson was on the bench.
There were two reasons La Russa gave as to why he did not pinch hit Bryan Anderson. The first was that Anderson was our only catcher left on the bench. That is true, but don’t you play to win? Yadier Molina has caught exactly 90% of the games this season. Even if the game does go a few more innings, I would hope Yadi could handle that. And if, by some incredibly slim chance, Molina did get injured, then TLR can cross the bridge when he comes to it. How many times have the Cardinals thrown up a hail mary when we run out of pitchers? I understand that comparison is apples and oranges, but I’m sure La Russa (who over-thinks everything) would be able to figure something out if Molina happened to get hurt.
The second reason he had for not pinch-hitting Anderson was that (according to La Russa) the Nationals pitcher, Miguel Batista, is good against left-handed batters this season. That makes no sense to me at all. Sure, left-handers are hitting only .258 against Batista, but that is still a hit every four at bats. Looking at a much larger sample size, left-handers are hitting .289 against Miguel in 544 games. Not to mention, Anderson hit .294 in 218 at bats against right-handed pitchers this season down in Memphis.
Did La Russa check to see how Lohse fares at the plate? I’ll give him a hand. Lohse has hit .167 (36-for-216) in his career.
Was Tony just giving what he thought sounded like a good excuse? Because it is not valid by any measure. How can he possibly justify that move?
The third incident over the past week or so is just now really surfacing, but it all started when Colby Rasmus was benched 20 minutes prior to a game he was supposed to start on Sunday.
After the game, La Russa said, “He’s had all the work. He’s never backed off the work, taking batting practice. I think it all has to do with what his concentration is, and what his focus is. I do believe that, you just watch his swings in batting practice and in the game, I think he is convinced that he helps us more if he just yanks the ball out of the park. That normally is not the case, because you’re limiting yourself to a side of the park and you’re vulnerable to too many pitches. We really push, ‘Just play the game.’ That’s what Jon [Jay] does. He plays the game. Take a single, take a walk, let the home runs come.”
Now, let it be known that I do not know what is going on behind closed doors. I do not know what TLR’s beef is with Rasmus, or if he truly has one at all. All I do know is that some very educated baseball minds have said that one of two things will happen before the 2011 season. Tony La Russa will retire, or Colby Rasmus will be traded. I have been told there is no way that they can coexist, and I hope ownership thinks long and hard about who is more valuable to the future success of this franchise.
This is definitely not the first La Russa-player feud we have come across, but it needs to be the last. Benching Colby Rasmus hurts the team’s chances to win and it makes the St. Louis Cardinals worse. Jon Jay is not a better player than Rasmus. Jay has been great since being called up, but he has also been extremely lucky. I hate to break it to you, Tony, but Jon Jay is not a .360 hitter.
Plus, why is Colby being benched for Skip Schumaker and Aaron Miles? Seriously? We’re benching a .853 OPS hitter that has 25-30 HR potential for them two? La Russa is comparing Rasmus to Jay, but why can’t they both play? What is wrong with Holliday in left, Rasmus in center, and Jay in right? Isn’t that the idea behind the Ryan Ludwick trade? Again, correct me if I’m wrong.
Oh, and if the Front Office does decide to trade Rasmus, I hope they know that they’re getting rid of a 5.3 WAR 23-year-old center fielder with all kinds of upside. We have paid him $813,000 over the past two years. Good luck trying to find that kind of production for that kind of money.
Again, I have always been a La Russa supporter, but the decisions he has made are beyond bizarre. I’m starting to think he’s lost interest in baseball all together. After 30+ years in the league, maybe he’s just done with it. You can argue that if you’d like, but his managerial mindset this season is flawed to say the least.
Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball and his blogs, Cardinals Front Office and Rising Redbirds, that are also dedicated to Cardinals baseball and their minor league system.You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here