NOT A GENIUS
This is an article from the Oct. 8, 2012 issue
Tony La Russa
The four-time manager of the year stepped down after winning the 2011 World Series with St. Louis but says not to give him too much credit for his success.
DAN PATRICK:What's the coolest piece of memorabilia you own?
TONY LA RUSSA: I like stuff that's personal. The first three All-Star Games that I managed, I got a game ball that was signed by the winning pitcher, the MVP and the closer. It comes to mind now because of the stuff that went on with Cincinnati about this year's All-Star selections. [The Reds were upset that second baseman Brandon Phillips and starter Johnny Cueto were not named to the NL squad.] I did pick Jay Bruce. The last out was a fly ball to Jay, and I had the game ball handed to me by a Reds player, which is pretty ironic.
DP:What do you think of being given the title "genius"?
TL: It's embarrassing. I remember the first time it came up was the George Will book [Men at Work, 1991]. He picked me as a manager [to write about] because I was young and he wanted someone who would be around a while. When the book came out, we were playing well. It became an embarrassment because the same guy who finishes first and is supposed to be so smart finishes last the next year. It's a players' game. There's not a lot of difference between managers.
DP:Looking back, could you have kept Albert Pujols in St. Louis?
TL: Had I stayed, I believe there was an accommodation that I could have convinced both ownership and Albert [to agree on]. I'm very close to both of them. I wish Albert could have stayed. I would not blame [either side]. I blame the system.
DP:Why did you bring Mark McGwire back as a hitting coach?
TL: I keep hearing that I did it to rehabilitate him and do a friend a favor. That's an insult. When you're a manager, the organization has entrusted you with the responsibility for its team. I have a lot of friends who want to coach. Mark was really talented, but he was absolutely clueless about hitting. Later in his career he got brilliant. During his injuries he was able to observe the game between pitcher, catcher and hitter. I thought, man, you got something to offer.
DP:Do you think McGwire will get into the Hall of Fame?
TL: I think there shouldn't be poster boys for who shouldn't get in. Right now [those are] Barry [Bonds], Roger [Clemens] and Mark. Either they all get in or none of them get in.
DP:Would you put them all in?
TL: I would make some kind of reference to the era and to the fact that it was enhanced. There were too many guys ... pitchers and hitters. How do you exclude them all?
DP:Why do managers wear uniforms?
TL: Baseball is the only sport where the coach goes onto the field. You make bullpen changes. You sometimes go out and argue a play. That's the only possible explanation.
DP:But some grown men don't belong in uniform.
TL: I don't dispute it. I would have been 100 percent comfortable making a pitching change in a pair of jeans.
This week takes on to see who has the better tailgating scene. Go to SI.com/grillseekers to learn who comes out on top.
Former Notre Dame star and Michigan native Jerome Bettis isn't happy that the Fighting Irish and the Wolverines are putting their annual game on hold after 2014. "It's terrible," Bettis told me. "I thought that was one of the biggest rivalries in the country, and to stop it is extremely disappointing." ... Fox NFL analyst John Lynch explained why he was hesitant to criticize replacement refs at the beginning of the season: "Week 1, the league kind of duped every network and said, We're close to a deal, so have your guys go easy," Lynch said. "They weren't telling us not to say anything; just to be careful." ... Hall of Famer Troy Aikman thinks asking quarterbacks if they're elite is ridiculous, but he can see an upside. "Considering the success Eli [Manning] had [after being asked that question before last season]," Aikman said, "maybe Matthew Stafford and Joe Flacco want to be asked." ... MLB executive vice president Joe Torre told me that Derek Jeter recently sent him his 253rd home run ball—one more than Torre hit in his career. "He attached a note, 'I should have been hitting third all along,'" Torre said. "My response was, 'The ball is livelier today.'"