Cram it, Tony

I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’ t like Tony LaRussa. I think he’s a conceited jerk who has a wee bit too much confidence in his own intelligence and morality. Here are his comments on last night’s Cards/Braves game.

We had Mondesi struck out twice [in that inning] and we had Chipper out on the same pitch. …[The umpire] Scott lost the aggressiveness of his strike zone.

I watched the whole game, and I admit I thought the balls and strikes were not called well all night. Although, I think the calls were universally bad for both teams. I recall, in particular, that Pete Orr took a crucial called strike-two that was nowhere near the zone. Pete’s pretty much a free swinger and the replay showed the ball to be low and inside. LaRussa also forgot to mention that Chipper should have been on first in any event since Chipper was hit by the pitch in his injured foot. The umpire somehow thought Chipper’s jumping around in severe pain must have been an act.

But, you know, that kind of comment doesn’t bother me. All managers complain about umps, so that’s fine. But LaRussa’s next statement requires a personal apology to Bobby Cox.

The only thing they [Braves] should not be respected for is the way they [complain] and moan and beat the umpires down. That’s beneath the class of their organization.

What? Give me a break, Tony. Did you you see Chipper complain when your pitcher hit him in the foot? No. He stood in there an earned a walk. I understand Tony was upset about having two runs taken off the board when the umps determined that a ball had struck the baserunner Pujols. But, the replays seemed to confirm that the ball did hit his player. Shouldn’t the call be reversed? Nope, it’s those whining Braves who are at fault.

This reminds me of an article that appeared in Sports Illustrated about a month ago. In an excerpt from the recent book written about him (I won’t link to it deliberately), LaRussa philosophizes about his decision to plunk Luis Gonzalez in the ribs in a situation that really hurt his own team. I was embarrassed that LaRussa thought he’d reached a decision based on anything but spite (“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”). I felt like vomiting at the end. I hope Gonzalez spits in his face the next time they meet. And I won’t be surprised if LaRussa orders a cowardly plunking again today.

5 Responses “Cram it, Tony”

  1. Marc Schneider says:

    I just got the book but haven’t read it yet. I think you are maybe being unfair to LaRussa; all managers essentially order their pitchers to retaliate but I suspect most don’t agonize over it. I agree that LaRussa is full of himself at times, but wouldn’t you rather sit down and have a drink with him than with most of the other managers in baseball? His complaints about the Braves weren’t all that different from what people were saying when Maddux and Glavine were here–that they got strikes on pitches that were way outside. I suspect that a lot of people think that in baseball but aren’t willing to say it. ON the other hand, if Bobby can influence the umpst that way, more power to him. LaRussa complaining about that is a little silly–they are all out to get an edge and try to intimidate umps.

  2. JC says:

    Brian Gunn (formerly of Redbird Nation) writes the following. Apparently, he’s having trouble posting. Is anyone else noticing a problem? If so, please e-mail me.

    1. Dale Scott was an equal-opportunity screw-up on Saturday — the one against Orr was the worst call all night (in terms of missing so badly) and the one in favor of Mondesi was the most damaging. I also can’t believe he missed Chipper getting hit, or the strike that was thrown to Chipper later in the AB. If La Russa had only bitched about the umpiring, I’d have backed him 100%.

    2. It’s well known that Cox gets all over the umps, but this is none of La Russa’s business. Lord knows TLR tries to gain whatever edge he can to win games — why is it wrong when/if Cox does the same thing? He should have kept his mouth shut i/r/t Cox.

    Here’s what I disagree with:

    1. I don’t believe TLR was upset about the play getting reversed in the top of the 7th. Unless you’ve got some quotes that weren’t printed in the St. Louis papers, La Russa seemed to agree that it was the right call. He even walked out to get a clarification from the ump, nodded in agreement, and walked back to the dugout. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no basis for the claim that Tony was taking out his anger on Dale Scott unjustly (esp. since you agree, JC, that the umpiring behind the plate was awful).

    2. Your claim that La Russa had Gonzalez hit out of spite has zero basis in fact. You can disagree about La Russa’s reasoning for why he hit Gonzalez, but it’s abundantly clear that he arrived at his decision through a series of steps that didn’t include malicious ill will. I read both the SI excerpt and the same chapter later when I had to review the book, and I challenge you find evidence to back up your claim. It’s not there.

    One extra thought: Chipper didn’t protest at all when he got hit even though he clearly was. Do you think he actually wanted to swing the bat? Or do you think he didn’t protest because he was in too much pain? Either way it’s weird.

  3. JC says:

    Brian,

    I agree that I cannot prove LaRussa acted out of spite, but I should probably clarify my thinking about LaRussa’s window into his decision calculus. I do understand that he attempted to rationalize his decision, but to me that’s the whole problem.

    I believe that humans possess an enormous capacity to moralize or reason our way into doing immoral things. I know of numerous acquaintances who have justified cheating on tests or stealing from stores because of some perceived injustice in the universe that they were counterbalancing. It just so happens that in their quests for justice their own actions seemed to bring some convenient rewards on the side.

    This is a common theme much discussed in society. I used the line from The Godfather to try and stress this. Michael Corleone rationalizes a way to murder the men who shot his father and sucker-punched him in the face. We see where that line of reasoning eventually leads him. Anakin Skywalker will soon make a similar choice on May 19 (Nerd Alert!). I sense this same attitude in LaRussa in his “steps” to evaluate what is just. I may be wrong, but this is the feeling I get when I read the article. And I re-read it this morning, and I felt the same response. I think he wanted to plunk some guy so bad that he risked his team’s chances to win a 1-run game. And certainly Will Clark didn’t see any chivalry in LaRussa’s ethical code either. Baseball may have a tit-for-tat code, but there’s also the saying, “put it in your pocket,” to save it for the right spot. If Tony know who was responsible, he could have found that spot in time. I think players understand this.

    I have no doubt that LaRussa goes to sleep at night thinking he did the right thing. But, I wish he wouldn’t try to tell me about it again (the first time was in Men at Work by George Will). And his moralizing over the Braves just pushed me to say something about it. I’d prefer him say, “I can’t stand Cox” or “Heck I just wanted to plunk Gonzo because I was mad.”

  4. JC says:

    Brian has more:

    I see your point, JC, and I think it’s reasonable and well-put. But I’m
    still not convinced. I mean, yes, it may be human nature to rationalize bad
    actions, but that doesn’t mean that all bad actions that are capable of
    being rationalized are necessarily rooted in bad motives. At the end of the
    day it comes down to gut feelings, as you point out, and my feeling is that
    La Russa is beholden to some higher principle of machismo that I find
    off-putting — but that’s different from acting out of pure anger or spite.
    I can prove this no more than you can prove your gut feeling, but I’m
    perfectly comfortable agreeing to disagree. After all, I don’t think either
    of us condone hitting players, nor do I think either of us are that fond of
    La Russa as a person.

  5. I am looking at the Cards on paper, and to me they are no better — possibly even worse than the Cincinnati Reds. I am a Reds fan, I admit, so my perception is a bit cloudy in these respects, but it sure looks like LaRussa gets the max. potential out of players who were far less successful prior to joining the Cardinals. Chris Carpenter and Scott Rolen are two such examples.

    What is it that makes La Russa so good at managing his club? I realize he is far more educated than Dave Miley, but to me, baseball is not necessarily about “smarts”. Is this guy just manipulating the umpires as you seem to suggest above, and playing psychological games? And if so, how do we beat him?