Tag: Tony LaRussa

Larussa’s New Job Shifts Direction to the World Baseball Classic

The 2013 World Baseball Classic is underway and at least one new face will be working the circuit this year.

On the heels of his third world championship, Tony LaRussa left his managerial post with the St. Louis Cardinals while he was on top.

Having spent more than three decades as a major league manager, he felt it was time to hang up his cap and trade it in for a suit.

In 2012, LaRussa was named as a Special Assistant to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. While he wasn’t sure what that would entail at the time, LaRussa has learned a lot about the business end of baseball in the last year.

“I’ve really been impressed by how many different pieces Major League Baseball has working,” LaRussa told Bleacher Report from Phoenix, Ariz. on Tuesday afternoon. “They’ve got a lot of different departments and ways that they’re trying to bring the game out to people. So far it’s been very successful.”

The World Baseball Classic is a prime example. While the event is governed by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), MLB played an active role in its creation and management. When the International Olympic Committee in 2005 decided to remove baseball, those involved in the sport knew that global outreach was still going to be the future of baseball.

So they took it into their own hands.

”I think 10 years ago the commissioner really began to globalize baseball and it’s had a tremendous impact,” LaRussa said. “We’re just now beginning to see it.”

He said the way that shift is most visible is in the excitement among the teams to show off their country’s best players.

 This is the third rendition of the WBC and you can see the different countries are really excited about displaying their talent to other countries of the world. While it has taken some time to bring excitement to the event, particularly in the United States, LaRussa said he expects 2013 to be a big year for baseball’s only worldwide showcase.

“You’re playing for your country and I think we’re seeing it become more and more competitive,” LaRussa said. “The more competitive it is, the more entertaining it will be.”

The 2013 World Baseball Classic is the first for LaRussa, who was quick to remind that he was working during the spring in 2006 and 2009. The timing of the event, while awkward for American players, is something he doesn’t see changing anytime soon.

“The fact that it happened during spring training is one of the hurdles that we had to get over because a lot of the major leaguers weren’t as ready to play,” LaRussa said. “But, they got some extra work this year, so they should be here ready to play.”

This year, LaRussa’s role at the World Baseball Classic is quite simple–watch baseball. He won’t be watching it like the average fan watch a game, though.

LaRussa will be looking at how rules and other facets of the game affect play. In short, he’ll share the knowledge of a man who has spent a full half-century on or around a baseball diamond.

That experience plays a huge role in the everyday operation of his position with MLB.

“The big difference is that MLB looks at the good of the overall game,” LaRussa said. There’s a lot going on. You’re concerned about the health of the game and what’s good for baseball as opposed to just trying to win your game with your team.”

While winning may not be the primary function of his job, LaRussa acknowledged that his goal is to do his best at whatever he is doing. His 2,728 career wins as a manager tell the same story.

Tickets for the 2013 World Baseball Classic at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick are on sale now at worldbaseballclassic.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Leyland: Will Detroit Tigers Manager Join the Elite Club?

Jim Leyland is heading back to the World Series. Already sporting an elusive World Series ring, could it be possible he will soon have one for each hand? No other current manager has more than one. With Tony LaRussa stepping down last year (he has three) and Joe Torre’s retirement after the 2010 season (he has four), Leyland can become the only active manager with more than one. But does that make him an elite manager?

To be a member of the club you not only need lots of wins, but you absolutely must have at least one ring. Still there are some managers who own a ring but do not have a great number of wins. So what about two championships? Is that enough for elite status?

Rating managers can certainly be subjective. Wins and championships make it easy, but other factors like game strategy, likeability, evaluating player talent, winning in clutch situations and discipline can be up for discussion. Some managers are task oriented; others are passionate instrumental leaders. The great ones are both, and they win with great players or mediocre teams.

Let’s take a look at the great baseball managers based simply on wins and championships.

Connie Mack, John McGraw, Tony LaRussa, Casey Stengel, Bucky Harris and Joe McCarthy combined many wins with championships. Mack has the most wins with 3,731 and has five championships, but he also has more losses than wins. McGraw is second in wins (2,763) with three championships. McGraw, who was a great player, also had a .586 winning percentage. LaRussa is third in wins with 2,728 and has won three championships. Old timer Bucky Harris, with 2,158 wins and three championships, is right there at the top.

Perhaps the greatest manager ever was Joe McCarthy, who is eighth in wins (2,125), owns a .615 winning percentage and won seven championships. Lefty Gomez once said that after he had pitched a four-hitter in the front end of a double header, he pulled out a fifth of vodka in the bullpen and was almost through it when “Joe Mac” came out to talk to him. He didn’t care if Gomez had guzzled the vodka. He told him “the other starter had hurt his arm and you have to pitch the second game as well.’  Gomez said “there was just no way he could that man down.” The Hall of Famer went out and pitched another four- hitter. Joe McCarthy had that respect.

What about the charismatic Casey Stengel? He may be eleventh in wins (1,905), but he won seven championships. Stengel was such a colorful character that his personality alone made him a great manager. His players loved him.

Miller Huggins only has 1,413 wins but has three championships.

You can’t overlook the great Dodgers managers. Walter Alston has 2,040 wins and four championships, Leo “The Lip” Durocher has 2,008 wins and four championships and Alston’s protege Tommy Lasorda has 1,599 wins and has won three championships. The Dodgers have their very own elite club of managers.

The late Sparky Anderson is sixth on the list in wins (2,194) with three World Series rings. The late Dick Williams won two championships and is twentieth in wins (1,571). Both elite managers.

Recently retired managers LaRussa and Torre are right there with the elite, with Torre having 2,326 wins and 4 championships and LaRussa 2,728 wins and 3 championships. LaRussa coached for 33 years. Torre struggled early as a manager but proved himself in the late1990s, winning three World Series championships in a row from 1998-2000.

We must measure an elite manager by wins and championships, but what about one of the best player’s manager ever, Bobby Cox? He only won one World Series but has 2,504 wins and five pennants. Most baseball people would say he is an elite manager.

As Jim Leyland waits for his attempt at his second World Series ring, he also awaits his shot at history. Leyland is fifteenth on the list of victories with 1,676. He has one World Series ring. The Detroit Tigers are poised to win the championship. Standing in their way will be either the Cardinals or the Giants.

The Giants have their own great manager in Bruce Bochy. With his Giants teetering on elimination, Bochy has 1,454 wins and one ring. He will be a formidable opponent should they get to the Series.  He too would then be poised to accept elite status, but the elder Jim Leyland will be waiting.

Should the Cardinals get there under Mike Matheny, he will have his work cut out for him as a rookie manager. Leyland will be waiting for him too.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

2012 MLB All-Star Game: Tony La Russa Is Changing an All-Star Managers’ Role

An all-star manager’s role can be described in two different ways:

1) It is the easiest job in the world—it’s impossible to make a mistake with such a surplus of talent. You can literally throw any player anywhere and things will work out.


2) It is the hardest job in the world—it’s impossible to squeeze so much talent into nine different spots in nine innings. While managers may want to implement a certain strategy with their starters (almost always the best players, except at third base for the NL this year), they also have to ensure that every all-star receives an ample amount of playing time.

NL manager Tony La Russa was picked apart by MLB analysts before we were even able to witness John Kruk stuffing his face with Kansas City BBQ. 

Were Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips intentionally snubbed? Was R.A. Dickey the deserving starter over Matt Cain? Should a retired manager even be allowed to participate in this event?

Tony La Russa has been scrutinized in every way possible, and although I agree he shouldn’t be managing this game (if home-field advantage in the World Series is involved, then active managers should be the ones fighting for the win), future all-star managers have a ton to learn from La Russa’s strategy.

La Russa has ignored the traditional “all-star approach.” He isn’t going to sit back and let players’ statistics mandate when/where they will play. No. Instead he is putting his very own spin on the game, managing in the same manner that won him three World Series titles and the third most games in MLB history.

Just because R.A. Dickey has the most wins in the MLB doesn’t mean he is the best option to start the game. 

[If you really want to argue stats, Cain has the same number of shutouts, is .22 higher in ERA, .03 higher in WHIP, thrown five fewer strikeouts, .1 less innings, and the three less wins? Dickey ranks 14th in run support (6.83 runs/game) while Cain ranks 45th (5.46)]

Did you ever care to think about how the move might play out? If Dickey throws first, the AL will see fastball pitchers for seven straight innings. But with the knuckleballer sandwiched in between two normal pitchers, it’s that much more of an adjustment AL hitters will have to make midway through the game.

Look at the Cueto/Phillips “snubbing” as well. Believe it or not, there is reasoning other than “he’s holding a grudge.”

La Russa loves his lefty/lefty, righty/righty pitching match-ups, and he let that influence his nine final picks. Every starting pitcher he chose was a lefty. Before his final decision, the NL’s bullpen had five lefties in comparison to eight righties. It’s not a coincidence that he chose to balance that out.

With Phillips, it was simply a matter of versatility in the field. Ian Desmond is quicker than Phillips and can play all over the infield. Desmond allows more flexibility late in games. Plus, with each player coming off the bench, Desmond is more of a threat to pinch-run and steal bases.

As a fan, you have every right to question a manager’s moves, especially when it’s a manager of another team. But how can you not love La Russa’s motives? He is transcending the game to a whole new level. It’s what Commissioner Selig has always wanted. It’s how we bring back the passion of Pete Rose plowing over a catcher in the Midsummer Classic.

Why shouldn’t a manager pick players he favors with his final nine picks? Isn’t that why he has that right in the first place? If I’m in that situation and winning is my primary concern, I’m selecting the guys who are going to bust their butts. I’m picking guys like Bryce Harper who run the bases on every pop out. And at the same time, I’m noting the difference between pitchers with great mound presence and those who show a poor demeanor. It’s my choice, and I’m going to weigh those options on my scale, not anyone else’s.

La Russa understands he is managing a baseball game with a lot on the line. Without an NL victory in 2011, his team may have never won the World Series last season. He’s not going to treat this like the celebrity softball event, and sometimes that means angering a fan or two.

He’s going out there to win, and if that means acting differently than the managers before him, so be it. 

He’s going out there to win, whether you like it or not.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB 2011: 5 Biggest Stories of the Year

Baseball is a sport that inspires its fans, at least its most passionate and ardent ones to follow it year round. 

For those fans the 2011 season started on Jan. 1, 2011 and will end at midnight on Dec. 31, 2011. In that one-year span, there are numerous stories. Each franchise has a storyline for the whole year. Some teams had more memorable years than others, but the most passionate fans of every team will leave 2011 with memories. 

For some fans 2011 won’t be that memorable. Maybe if you’re an Astros or Twins fan the 2011 season, or the whole year actually may be worth forgetting. 

For other fans, 2011 will be unforgettable for the wrong reasons. Braves and Red Sox fans own this title. 

For fans of the Tigers, Rangers, Rays, Diamondbacks and  of course the St. Louis Cardinals, 2011 was not just unforgettable but also memorable. 

Lots of good stories were written in the year 2011, it’s hard to narrow it down to the five biggest, but it’s worth trying. 

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Tony La Russa Had to Remind Albert Pujols That He Knew How to (Censored) Manage

Remember when Allen Craig was caught stealing with Albert Pujols at the plate in the sixth inning of Game 5 of the recently concluded World Series?

Remember when Allen Craig was caught stealing with Albert Pujols at the plate in the ninth inning of the same game?

Those plays generated some controversy, but Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa defended the plays.

That wasn’t the case following a game that the Cardinals  won at home on May 23, 2010 against the Los Angeles Angels

The Cards were leading 9-5 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Albert Pujols was batting with Ryan Ludwick on first and two outs.

Inexplicably, Ludwick  took off for second.  Mike Napoli threw him out, just as he would do to Craig in the 2011 World Series.

Albert Pujols was beyond livid. He would not bat again unless the Angels scored four runs in the ninth inning.

Even if Ludwick, who had been caught stealing three times and had not yet stolen successfully during the young season, had reached second base, Pujols would bat with first base open. 

Yes, there was a runner in scoring position. How many of us think that perhaps Mike Scioscia would have walked Pujols intentionally?

Pujols flipped his bat and helmet on his return to the dugout. Then he smacked two trays of gum from the bench against the dugout wall.



Tony La Russa told Pujols:  “That’s enough.”

The disagreement became more intense, with La Russa telling Pujols: “I (expletive) know how to manage.”

The next day, the Cardinals were trailing the Angels 10-4 in going to the top of the ninth inning. La Russa replaced Pujols.

All managers try to rest their top player in games that appear to be lost, but in baseball, as in life, one never knows.

The Cardinals rallied and, thanks to a pair of Angels errors, cut the deficit to three runs with two on and two outs. Jon Jay, batting in Pujols’ spot, stuck out to end the game.

Pujols was not happy, but La Russa’s move was not unusual.

Baseball’s best player and, until he retired, baseball’s best manager, got along during Pujols’ 11 seasons. Flare-ups and disagreements are inevitable when two greats are doing everything in their power to win.

Pujols knows the game as well as any player in the game. La Russa, with the possible exception of Jim Leyland, knows the game better than any manager in the game.

Don’t be a conspirator. La Russa didn’t retire so that Albert would remain a St. Louis Cardinal.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Tony La Russa vs. Ron Roenicke: Which Manager Is NL Central Sheriff?

Have the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers managers Tony La Russa and Ron Roenicke traded places in the NL Central’s hierarchy? Is there a new NL Central sheriff in town?  

Roenicke appears to be gaining respect in MLB circles, while La Russa seems to be losing it—even among his hometown fans. How quickly roles reverse.

Trading Places was a cult classic starring comedian Eddie Murphy of Beverly Hills Cop and Saturday Night Live fame. In the movie, Murphy portrays a street bum who gets turned into a multimillionaire by two experimenting billionaire brothers. Tell me about opposite styles.

In real life, brother La Russa was busy experimenting with his iron-fisted arguing almost every call and complaining about almost everything technique, it seems, while Roenicke was allowing his players to have fun—witness Nyjer Morgan—as long as they are producing.

Did someone say producing? The Brewers last night completed a runaway victory over their NL Central foes in this year’s division race. They had a 10.5 game lead with about 20 games left in the season.

The seasoned Redbirds’ psyche took a hit after losing two best-of-threes to Milwaukee in the first two weeks of August. Then the rest of the NL poured cooking oil on the Birds.

But, the Cardinals bounced back to pull within six games of the Brewers and about two of the Braves with about one week left in the season. The Cardinals started to look much different from the team they were four weeks ago.

At that time on the banks of three different rivers, lefty Garrett Jones’ extra-inning, walk-off home run at PNC Park on Aug. 16 all but put the Redbirds’ fire out. The Cardinals were already playing uninspired baseball, but Jones’ blast dropped them to a low psyche.

It came off the newly acquired left-hander Arthur Rhodes who has been a good pitcher in this league. It was another blown opportunity, however, by the bullpen and pointed some of the blame and most of the focus on John Mozeliak and Tony La Russa.

Their hastily revamped Cardinals fell to seven games behind Milwaukee after the Redbirds’ further fire-sapping extra-inning loss in Pittsburgh. The team’s mental focus hadn’t been the same until 9/11 weekend, when the Cardinals swept the Braves.

The Cards had won the Brewers series that week, but still couldn’t dent the standings.

Roenicke’s Brewers were in the throes of winning 21 of 25 games during their decisive run that basically clinched and dented the division around the second week in August. The Brew Crew could sip their own Kool-Aid. Only the Philadelphia Phillies had a larger division lead.

The division lead would soon balloon to double digits for Milwaukee. St. Louis was on the cusp of experiencing more major problems. After losing the must-have series with the Pirates, the Redbirds lost a best-of-three series to the lowly Cubs and got swept in three by the last-place Dodgers in St. Louis.

The boo birds started to chirp over La Russa’s head while he was in the dugout and especially when he stepped foot on the field. His alleged trying to get into the Brewers’ heads idea failed.

In a Monday night broadcast from Pittsburgh during the Jones home run series, the local announcers first claimed La Russa was complaining about the lighted ribbon around Miller Park in Milwaukee. TLR did, in fact, make the headlines for claiming the lights were brighter when the Cardinals batted. 

The broadcasters went on to say La Russa usually has evidence to back up his claims. Well, Tony, show me. I’m from Missouri, and I’ll wait.

I understand managing and waiting on 25 players is not an easy task. La Russa sees his team on a daily basis during the season. He knows what the media, fans and opponents don’t know. But, Tony Sigmund Freud La Russa should have stuck to baseball and left pop psychiatry and psychology out of the situation.

The scenario got stickier after September rolled around sooner than wanted and the Redbirds weren’t rolling hard enough. They tried to flap their wings, but they were stuck in what appeared to be bullpen mud and crud from the Gulf oil spill.

The unnatural disaster hurt Busch Stadium’s environment—empty seats and tepid turnstiles became very noticeable. The Cards drew three million fans again this year, but the local media began to question whether or not LaRussa should return in 2012.

Ron Roenicke the rookie manager could run for mayor of Milwaukee and win. Despite having more pennant-chasing and playoff experience than his Brewers, LaRussa’s Redbirds got rolled.

It was Milwaukee playing like the grizzled NL veterans while the Cardinals flailed. 

St. Louis played like they felt the pressure after Mozeliak and TLR traded Colby Rasmus—the young, left-handed, fleet-footed, smooth-swinging and power-hitting center fielder. The center of Cardinal Nation started to collapse not long after that late-July trade.

Roenicke unleashed his team’s best baseball soon after. Even after Rickie Weeks was injured, the manager’s decision to move Corey Hart to the leadoff spot kick-started their right fielder, who then began to lay down the offensive law.

Yes, there is a new NL sheriff; Roenicke and La Russa have traded places.

Contact Lake Cruise: lakecruise@att.net.

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St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Reasons They’ll Shock the Braves and Win the NL Wild Card

You may have heard the Milwaukee Brewers won their first division championship since 1982 when they were the Brew Crew—29 years ago—but have you heard the Cardinals are still alive for a postseason entry?

If you haven’t, then you’d better ask someone.

The Cardinals lost to the Cubs on Friday night and handed the Milwaukee Brewers a gift-wrapped NL Central title, but St. Louis can still get it popping in the playoffs and shock their NL Central rivals.

Join me on this brief-but-entertaining ride of reasoning, on the banks of the Mississippi River, thinking about how the Cards can pull off the impossible and win the NL Wild Card.

Just don’t put the Redbirds on the grill or choke on your popcorn just yet.

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ESPN’s Bobby Valentine: Does He Want to Be Next St. Louis Cardinals Manager?

Did ESPN analyst and Stamford, Conn. current Director of Public Safety and Public Health, Bobby Valentine, leave a piece of his heart in impressive old St. Louis? 

Known for cow towing at Mike Shannon’s with the likes of controversial umpire “Country” Joe West and praising the wonderful fans of St. Louis via KMOX, it appears he wants in and is smart enough to know how to discreetly go about it.

Since 2009, he’s reportedly been either a quiet candidate or interviewed for the Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays managerial positions.

Sounding like general manager John Mozeliak’s and Jon Jay’s biggest fan, Valentine’s praise of the 2011 trade deadline moves by the Cardinals was unwavering.  Bobby and Peter Gammons were the most ardent supporters of the trade.

Well, since then, the Redbirds have fallen seven games out of first place—shades of last year after the Ryan Ludwick deal.

In fact, as Bernie Miklasz pointed out in a St. Louis Post Dispatch column last Sunday, the Cardinals have been collapsing late in the season almost every years since they won World Series championship No. 10 (2006).

As an analyst, Valentine, 61, obviously realizes this.  He’s LaRussa’s contemporary and has managed against him in the Majors.

Valentine’s Mets bloodied LaRussa and the Cardinals, 4-1, in the 2001 NLCS on the way to the Subway Series against the Yankees.  Like a shark, he could be smelling blood rolling along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River near Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. 

Even if the bloodied but unbowed Tony LaRussa is still the skipper in 2012, he can’t manage forever.  TLR will have to depart someday hopefully very soon in the eyes of a lot of fans.

I personally can’t see third base coach Jose “The Secret Weapon” Oquendo getting a fair shake for consideration as manager of the Redbirds after LaRussa leaves.  I’d love to see Jose’s former superior on the depth chart—the great Ozzie Smith—as the manager next season. 

This probably won’t be the case.  If LaRussa gets wind of Ozzie being considered, then TLR will want to stay for as long as possible.  There haven’t been any heartfelt feelings between Tony and Ozzie for the last 15-16 years and counting.

“Count” Valentine came into the Majors as a utility player with the L.A. Dodgers in 1969.  He still reveres Tommy LaSorda and evidently Groucho Marx. 

Valentine is the manager remembered for donning a fake mustache and coming back into the dugout to oversee his team after being ejected while with the Mets in 1999.  MLB summarily fined him $5,000 and suspended him for three games. 

Here’s a summary of his managerial record in the Majors:

Starting in 1985 with the Texas Rangers, he’s managed 2,169 games in 15 seasons.  LaRussa had about 2,680 wins at the time of this writing in some 30 years a manager in the Majors. 

With a .510 winning percentage (1,117-1,072) in MLB, Valentine also trails LaRussa in this category (.535).  Valentine’s winning percentage was .534 with the Mets from 1996-2002—his last stint in the Majors.

He played during the good old baseball days of outfield chain link fences.  Valentine probably wishes those days never were; he suffered a horrible leg injury after his spikes got stuck while chasing a fly ball in Anaheim.  Largely due to the fence accident, Bobby V. retired as a player at 29 years old.

An interesting tidbit is Valentine’s relationship with former Mets general manager turned ESPN analyst, Steve Phillips.  The latter fired Bobby in 2002, but in 2009 Valentine was hired after Phillips was terminated in a scandal involving a female employee at the cable giant.

Valentine is somewhat revered as a giant in Japanese baseball lore.  He managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League to the Japanese Series championship in 2005.  Later that year, he led the Marines to the championship over Korea in the first Asia Series.

He was reportedly fired after conflicts with the general manager of Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League.  Conflicts of interest aside, I believe Valentine would love to manage the Cardinals if LaRussa doesn’t return in 2012.

Do you, my beloved readers, believe he’d do a good job?

Comment or contact Lake Cruise at rjspann@swbell.net.

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MLB Power Rankings: Ranking New York Yankees’ Joe Girardi and All 30 MLB Mangers

“The players make the manager. It’s never the other way.”—Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson

It’s not easy being a manager in Major League Baseball these days.

From all of the egos in the clubhouse to the increased expectations on the field, being a successful manager today requires a certain kind of individual. He has to be able to deal with the multiple personalities of multimillion dollar stars, and he’s got to be able to deal with them in a way that can still garner their respect. That’s not always an easy task—just ask the managers that had to deal with Manny Ramirez on a daily basis.

If there is a feud between a star player and a manager, very few managers will come out of it on top. Owners are more likely to stick with their $100 million player and assume the manager lost control of his clubhouse.

Just last season, rumors surfaced out of Milwaukee that All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun wanted manager Ken Macha gone. It was already known that Macha had issues relating to today’s players, and surely enough he was fired immediately after the season. Braun was just signed to a $105 million extension.

Out of the 30 MLB teams, there are 12 that have new skippers to begin the 2011 MLB season. Six have had previous managerial experience, three took over on an interim basis at some point last season and three are brand-spanking new.

When ranking all 30 managers it was based on one question—If I could hire any manager currently in baseball to manage my team, who would it be?

Let’s get started.

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Memo to Tony La Russa: Forget the Closer Role

It’s been a troubling year so far for 38-year-old Ryan Franklin.  The appointed Cardinal closer saved 38 and 27 games in 2009 and 2010 respectively, blowing just a total of seven combined over the two seasons. 

2011 has been a different story for Franklin.  He’s blown four out of five possible save opportunities.  That’s four more games the Redbirds should have in the win column. 

During the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, Cardinal fans booed Franklin after he gave up a home run.  Franklin reacted—something that professionals should always refrain from.

“They’re supposed to be the best fans in baseball.  Yeah, right,” said Franklin, according to NBC Sports.

Franklin later apologized for his words, but his frustration can clearly be seen. 

Tony La Russa, the manager who is said to have invented the closer role, has removed Franklin from closer duties in an attempt to try to get the veteran to regain some confidence.  Until then, he’s looking at young guns Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte as potential closer candidates. 

My take?  Save it, Tony.  Why try and tinker with the bullpen to appoint a set closer?  Why not pitch to matchups?  If Jay Bruce has gone 0-for-6 against Trever Miller with three strikeouts, why not look to Miller in the 9th if this were the situation? 

Listen, I’m not a pessimist here.  I’m not some closer-hating, old-fashioned baseball critic.  But I’ve seen the great closers in baseball history; guys like Eckersley (a TLR student), Rivera, Hoffman.  I’ve seen what makes these guys special, and, unfortunately, no one on the Cardinals has it. 

A little history lesson here: the “closer” role has been seen regularly for about 30 years, give or take.  Here’s a look at some of the first ever real “closer” seasons in baseball history:

Clay Carroll (CIN, 1972) 65 G 6-4 2.25 ERA 37 SV
Rollie Fingers (MIL, 1982) 50 G 5-6 2.60 ERA 29 SV
John Franco (NYM, 1987) 68 G 8-5 2.52 ERA 32 SV
Lee Smith (BAL, 1994) 41 G 1-4 3.29 ERA 33 SV


The four players mentioned above were some of the first ever relief pitchers to be seen mainly in 9th inning situations alone.  This took place when little was actually known about the closer role. Many managers were taking a chance with their respective ballclub to appoint one pitcher as the set, go-to guy in 9th inning situations.  Compare these guys’ numbers with Franklin’s season so far (7 G, 0-2, 9.45 ERA, 1 SV).  Granted, these four played a full season whereas the 2011 season isn’t even one-fourth of the way through, but still, tell me that one save versus four blown isn’t an eye opener. 

Furthermore, it’s not like La Russa hasn’t seen a quality closer in his time as a manager.  The guy coached the greatest closer in baseball’s history for crying out loud!  La Russa saw one of the best seasons ever for a closer. 

In 1990, Dennis Eckersley recorded 48 saves with an 0.61 ERA and 0.616 WHIP for the Oakland A’s.  La Russa saw the whole thing from the dugout.  So why is it that he fails to realize that any of these relievers in the Cardinal bullpen just aren’t ready to be a closer yet (or simply just doesn’t have the stuff)? 

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again: PITCH TO MATCHUPS.  I realize that there will be days when starters can only go five to six innings, but all you need is someone like youngster Eduardo Sanchez or a vet like Miguel Batista to throw two to three strong innings. Then, in the ninth, depending on who’s due up at the plate, TLR can go a variety of ways: Miller, Boggs, Motte, Franklin (doubtful), Fernando Salas.

It’s amazing that the Cardinals have still managed 11-9 with closer woes, including four blown saves.  I’d like to see what they can accomplish with smarter pitching decisions when it comes to the ninth.

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