The final managerial move for Tony La Russa, a baseball lifer who obsessed over match-ups every second of his life, tuned out to be an easy call.
“I think this just feels like it’s time to end it,” he said Monday. “When I look in the mirror, I know I’d come back for the wrong reasons, and I didn’t want to do that.”
La Russa won his third World Series on Friday night, beating the Texas Rangers in seven games. He couldn’t top what he accomplished this season. The St. Louis Cardinals, 999-1 to win the series in the middle of August, went on such a preposterous run to win the championship that everyone will assume the Yankees of Phillies took the crown in 2011.
The Cardinals came back from a 10.5 deficit in the wild card chase to make the postseason on the final day of the regular season. That fact usually gets a day or two of play, then lands in the wilderness of “shoulda, woulda, coulda.” The better baseball team usually crushes the team of underdogs in the division series.
That didn’t happen this season. St. Louis went into Philadelphia and beat the Phillies – and their four aces – in five games. The Cardinals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers – and their bats – in a six game League Championship Series. They acted as underdogs for the entire postseason. That’s the kind of stuff that motivates a master like La Russa.
He almost cost his team the World Series. La Russa, a man who could teach an advanced college course in batter vs. pitcher match-ups, fouled up in Game 5. He called the wrong guy into the game – literally and figuratively. La Russa took the heat for his poor bullpen decision and moved back to Missouri as the Cardinals needed to win two home games for a shiny trophy.
Game 6 will go down into baseball history as one of those games that continues to amaze. The Cardinals needed to come back against the Rangers four times to win the game with a walk-off homer from Series MVP David Freese. Did you know who this guy was in September? Did Cardinals fans know him? Freese won the NLCS & World Series MVP. He batted seventh in the lineup for the majority of the postseason.
Someone asked La Russa what he will do after a lifetime of sitting on the bench in his farewell press conference.
“Maybe open up a bookstore,” he retorted.
If that plan pans out, I expect a number of daily changes in the bookstore window. After all, La Russa loves to make double switches.
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