Giving the Devil His Due

by on December 20, 2010 · 0 comments

Relax.  It’s just a saying.  Yes, I’m referring to Tony LaRussa, but I’m not actually saying that he’s Beelzebub himself.  If he were the Prince of Darkness, he’d probably be a bit taller, or he’d be named “Selig”.  Anyway, the title is simply a reference to the fact that I’m using this space to give TLR due respect for his accomplishments.      

In 15 seasons as the manager of the Cardinals, TLR has a regular season record of 1318-1110.   That’s an average of just under 88 wins every season.  He owns a postseason record during that time of 39-35, and he’s lead the team to 7 division titles, 2 World Series appearances, and 1 World Series title.  Sounds like he’s done a pretty good job, right?     

Wait before you answer that one.  (Also, check out the really awesome chart that I made all by myself.)   

15 Years of TLR


What if you knew that only 2 of those 7 division titles were won prior to Albert Pujols’ rookie year?  What if you knew that the team averaged just under 83 wins a season prior to 2001 (Albert’s 1st season) and just over 90 wins from 2001-2010?  Would that change your opinion?  (Now you know why I included the awesome chart.)   

Oddly enough, it didn’t change my opinion at all.  I believe that a manager is usually just about as good as the team that he manages, and TLR is an especially good example of that in my opinion.  After closely looking at each of his 15 years with the Cardinals, I could not pick a specific year in which I thought his managing skills brought the team extra success or denied it additional glory.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.  There are a lot of instances in which a manager has taken a talented team and helped it underachieve (2005 Astros and 2007 Mets come to mind).      

It’s tempting to point at 2004 and say that a 105-win team had no business getting swept in the World Series.  Maybe that’s true, but the other 15+ game winners on staff lacked the ability to dominate the way Carpenter could, and his presence was sorely missed due to his injury.  The 2004 WS turned into a wipeout, and I place as much blame on Mo Rivera as anybody, because I thought the Cardinals matched up a lot better with the Yankees than the Red Sox that year.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is 2006 which saw an 83-win team stumble through most of the season only to collect itself just at the right time for a final run.  Even so, it’s a small miracle that the Cardinals beat the Tigers in a series that saw Pujols hit .200 with 2 rbi.  Sandwiched in between those two experiences is 2005 which is the postseason in which the team scored 1-3-1-1 runs in their NLCS losses to the Astros.  It’s possible that TLR could have pushed a few buttons a little differently, but it seems like that whole series was simply a prime example of great pitching shutting down great hitting.     

Now, I’d love to add another row to this chart next year that reads something like the following:   

2011     100    62    1/6    Won WS 4-0   

If LaRussa is planning on retiring, then that would be the best possible way for him to go out.    

Like the chart?  Have a prediction for the winner of “The Sing Off”?  Find me on Twitter, and we’ll talk charts, music, and cognitive dissonance.

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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