Monday, October 22, 2007

Two More Years for LaRussa

As reported in the Post-Dispatch today, Tony LaRussa agreed to terms with the club and will return to manage the Cardinals through the 2009 season. Specifics of the deal were not released.

So that's settled. Now all we need do is find a GM.

And a shortstop.

And two starting pitchers.

And a bench.

And select who will play in the outfield.

I'm ambivalent about Tony's return. There is no question he's one of the great managers in the history of the game. But I think he was driven to experiment this season with players and line-ups based on the number of injuries and because he'd run out of traditional ways to motivate the team. Based on how ungracefully some of the veterans have aged, he needs to continue to give the younger members on the roster playing time, and not just platooning. Or every 5th day. Playing the kids over veterans hasn't exactly been LaRussa's mantra in the past, and I think to be successful next season he's going to have to change his stripes, as it were.

When he's had roster questions that he would fill from within the 40-man roster, like he will with the outfield, Tony's gone about it two ways. The first was to declare an open competition for the spot (a la Royce Clayton and Ozzie Smith). That backfired on him so badly that Ozzie won't speak to him to this day, and doesn't attend Cardinals functions that Tony's at (which, frankly Ozzie, get over it - it was 12 years ago. What are you, 6?). The other was to declare a player had the spot and that was the end of it (a la Braden Looper as a starter last season). That worked out much better.

Unfortunately, the OF situation is sufficiently muddled that declaring who will man each position at this point is probably counter-productive. Tell Edmonds he's the everyday CF? Jimmy hasn't played 150 games since 2005; his hitting is clearly declining, although he's still above average defensively. Will Duncan's defense improve sufficiently to justify leaving him in left, especially with Ludwick and Schumaker proving they can hit at the major league level last season (and both are significant upgrades defensively)? And we haven't mentioned Ankiel yet.

Viva El Birdos (as usual) does a superlative job laying out the players and the options for the 2008 outfield; so what does La Russa do?

(Footnote: I was wrong about Game 7 - Dice K did start, and pitched well for 3 innings. Given his history over the last 3 months, that was a ballsy decision by Francona. And Dice did rise to the occasion, for 9 hitters.)

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