As a Cardinal fan, it’s easy to say that there is no more interesting guy to have as your team’s manager than Tony La Russa. The problem with saying that is that if you’re not a fan of any other team, you really have no way of knowing.
Regardless, there is a definite love/hate deal going on with La Russa as a Cardinal fan. You love him when he squeezes 86 wins despite having three parking cones as a closer as he did in 2008.
You love him when he manages to win a game with So Taguchi hitting in the three hole. You hate him when you go to a game and he’s got the “C” team in there, and you hate him when he makes his 14th pitching change of the current at-bat.
Another interesting aspect of watching Tony La Russa over the last 13 years has been how easy it is to tell when he dislikes or is annoyed by a player. He doesn’t make it much of a secret. This week’s Top Seven looks at those fortunate folks.
It was kind of hard to narrow it down to seven.
7. Adam Kennedy
In the next labor contract, there needs to be a clause in there on the minimum standards a player must meet in order to demand a trade. Kennedy had two atrocious years in St. Louis, and with one year left on a terrible contract, he asked to be traded.
He hit .219 with a .282 OB% and a .290 (!) SLG% in 2007. Compared to that year, last year he was Jeff Kent in 2000, but still only hit .280 with a .321 OB%, and still with no power.
Even after his release was granted, he was still bickering in the media over how La Russa treated him. He was an invitee to the Rays' camp. Perhaps someone will drill him in the back in a Spring Training game.
6. Kerry Robinson
A St. Louis-born player, Robinson still found a way to get on the fans’ nerves, too, like when he’d swing on a 2-0 pitch down by two in the ninth with no one on. It was easy to tell that La Russa was annoyed by him, too (though one wonders how he got to the majors in the first place—he had no power and a low OB%).
This was proven in the book Three Nights in August, when La Russa told Jose Oquendo that “if (Robinson) starts another game this year, I’ll kiss your ass.” The next night, he hit a game-winning homer against the Cubs. It was his only homer of the year and one of three in his entire career.
5. Anthony Reyes
This list could have easily included J.D. Drew, but for once, I’m going to take the high road and not include J.D. in a list (his back is already injured this year by the way). It may have been the hat or the socks, but Reyes could never get in with La Russa or his Siamese twin, Dave Duncan.
He threw a one-hitter against the White Sox after they scored around 6,000 runs in the first two games of the series against the Cardinals, but couldn’t stay in the rotation. He pitched one of the best games by a rookie in World Series history, but had to fight to be in the rotation the next season, despite the Cards having to pitch Sidney Ponson.
Cards fans are worried that Colby Rasmus could be the new Anthony Reyes—he was never called up last year, and La Russa is already considering batting him ninth in the order.
4. Scott Rolen
The drama between Rolen and La Russa during the 2006 World Series would have been a 24-hour cycle had it happened in New York. It’s still not for sure what all went on during that time, but we know Rolen was annoyed when he was benched for a game in the NLCS.
La Russa, after the ordeal, even wrote Rolen a letter, not only becoming the first person in six years to write a letter, but also marking the first case of junior high meeting major league baseball since Paul Molitor gave Pat Borders a wedgie in 1993.
3. Steve Kline
La Russa sent Kline out to warmup in a game a few years ago, and ended up not putting in the game. Apparently this is called “dry humping,” which is awesome. Kline, for the TV cameras to catch, flicked La Russa off from the bullpen.
When reporters told him of this after the game, he went into the shower to confront Kline. They didn’t come to blows like Lou Piniella and Rob Dibble, but it was a heated discussion, and probably the closest (that we know of at least) that La Russa has come to knocking one of his own players in the face.
2. Jose Canseco
It’s hard to imagine that Canseco was La Russa’s favorite guy back in the A’s days, but now that Jose has basically said that half of his players were doing 'roids, making La Russa look like he turned a blind eye the whole time, it would sure be interesting to see these two meet sometime nowadays.
1. Ozzie Smith
One of the most beloved Cardinals of all-time, Ozzie hasn’t been around Busch Stadium a whole lot since he retired (except during his broadcast career, which thankfully didn’t last too long).
He’s still angry with La Russa over Royce Clayton playing over him during his final season of 1996. Ozzie almost didn’t want to pull down the final countdown number at the old Busch Stadium because Tony was still around.
Ozzie’s numbers were pretty good in ’96, about as good as Clayton’s, and it’s still quite a debate in St. Louis about whose side you are on...of course, it’s good ammunition for that minority insane population of Cardinal fans who would still find fault with La Russa if he won 19 straight World Series.
The Top 7 is written by Jason Major. He just made No. 8 on La Russa’s list. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.