Brian Kist writes the blog Punk On Deck. He’s on twitter, too, @punkondeck.
The Cardinals did it.If I based fandom on general managing style or minor league makeup, I might have difficulty justifying this, my favorite team’s success. But since I, like most fans, root for laundry, I don’t have an obligation to defend or laud how it happened. The Cardinals are the World Series Champs. They just are.
I watch baseball because it’s fun. Attempting to degrade or justify a team’s results is not fun. Personally, I like a more sabermetric approach to the game than the Cardinals have practiced over the years. Yes, things are getting better, but the team still feels like a throwback to an earlier era. Transactions like giving Kyle Lohse a four-year deal after a career season is the type of alienating personnel move I’m talking about. Fans like me have had to put aside management techniques and blindly follow the birds on the bat.
But now Tony La Russa has retired and there’s one less thing to defend out of laundry loyalty. To say LaRussa was polarizing is a misnomer. He had the people who disliked everything he did on one side and the people who merely respected what he did on the other. Not too many outside of friends, colleagues, and family were raving fans of his style. LaRussa played every game as if it were his last but with the caveat of being loyal to a fault to underachieving veterans. This style made him a great (the greatest?) playoff manager, but a chore to observe during the heat of the summer. It’s quite a feat to get a respectful, yet lukewarm response when you announce your retirement immediately after managing your team to a World Series title.
and while I was not a fan of LaRussa’s managing, I will say that, in an odd way, I admire the way he went out. He spent the last few days before the end of the World Series talking to reporters, opining about what he doesn’t like about Moneyball. He didn’t like how it portrayed scouts and he had issues with the emphasis on on-base percentage (I know that isn’t the point of the book. I suspect LaRussa knows this, too.). Then he wins it, in uber-Tony-mode, making more pitching changes than any manager in the playoffs ever. After the parade, he drops the mic and points at the big baseball scoreboard. There’s nothing you can say to him after that. The final out was recorded, and somehow, he was on top.