Before expressing my first thought on Tony LaRussa announcing his retirement, I want to thank TLR on a great season, and bringing the Cardinals their 11th World Series Championship. My first thought was WOW, what a way to go out. I would have never thought that LaRussa would have retired just 35 wins short of passing John McGraw, that’s why I think Tony will be managing again soon. I don’t think the biggest thing in Tony coming back to another team will be to catch McGraw, although that will play a factor. I think the biggest thing that will pull Tony back is how many teams will be willing to hire him, and the need to scratch that itch. Tony will wait for a team that has most of the right pieces in place, and will be back. No, he won’t damage his reputation in St. Louis by going to the Cubs.
I have to say that I think this move might ensure that Albert Pujols isn’t coming back. I really don’t think Tony would have retired if he felt Pujols was coming back. Maybe one has nothing to do with the other, who knows. The one thing that is going to be attractive to the manager that replaces Tony is going to be the presence of Dave Duncan. Duncan is inked through 2012.
Apparently, John Mozeliak has kept a list of manager candidates for about the last three years. Mo wants a manager in place before the list of GM meetings in two weeks, but said Thanksgiving might be a more realistic target date. Mo also said that having been a major league manager was not a prerequisite, but would weigh in the candidate’s favor.
I really hope that Mozeliak doesn’t go off and hire someone who hasn’t been a manager in the game before. I wish Mike Scioscia was available, or Ron Gardenhire. I think the most likely and my most hopeful is Joe Maddon, who has one year left on his deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. That would be a great signing IMO, just look at what Maddon has done in the toughest division in MLB, the AL East. He’s done it with pitching, speed and defense and a payroll that is nowhere close to the Red Sox and Yankees. In fact, the 2011 Rays payroll was lower than every team in MLB except for the Kansas City Royals, and the Rays won the AL Wild Card. In 2010, the Rays won the AL East with a payroll that was the 19th highest in MLB. Again in 2008, when Maddon took the Rays to the World Series, his team’s payroll was 29th out of 30 teams, only ahead of the Florida Marlins that year. Maddon also grew up a Cardinals fan. Here’s a link to teams payrolls going back to 1998. In 2008 and 2011, Maddon’s Rays had a payroll of around $41 million. What could Maddon do with another $60-70 million?
The Cardinals have a bright future. The Cardinals have a bright future as long as they don’t kill the payroll by re-signing Pujols. The first thing I would hope that Tony’s replacement would come in and say is that he believes the Cards can win without AP, and in fact, it would give them a better chance going forward in the long run. Yes, I think Pujols would give the Cards the better chance to win over the next 2-3 years, but he’s aging, and his WAR has dropped from 9.7 to 5.1 in 3 years. Pujols for the long run is not the answer. I’ll be getting more into that in the next few days, and provide a lot of data to back up my thoughts for those that think it’s all personal hate for Pujols.
Getting back to TLR, in no way do I think that Tony LaRussa has managed his last game. He may take a year off, he may take 5 years off, but I doubt it. Tony LaRussa will be back managing in MLB, it just won’t be with the Cardinals. The Cardinals will go on, and like managers before LaRussa, they will win without him. I do want to congratulate TLR on his remarkable run this year again. Tony managed with a different style in the playoffs, and let the players play loose. I would have liked to have seen that with the 2000-2002 teams, but hey, 2 World Series Championships in 2006 and 2011 make up for it.