Surprises in store for Red Sox? (cont.)
The St. Louis Cardinals are a superb operation, with brilliant businessman Bill DeWitt as owner, calm executor and master trader John Mozeliak as general manager and genius Tony La Russa as manager. And that's for real.
But here's more reality. Under the surface, "there's some trouble in paradise,'' according to a high-ranking baseball person who insists that Cardinals higher-ups (no names were mentioned, but the candidates would be obvious) are occasionally tiring of La Russa's ways. That person said the belief of the Cardinals higher-ups is that La Russa is "too emotional.'' Of course, that could merely just be in contrast to the understated DeWitt-Mozeliak tandem. Two more people in position to know say that those top Cardinals people have suggested to others that they believe they are overpaying La Russa, who makes somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million this year, and even La Russa's right-hand man, the celebrated pitching coach Dave Duncan, who makes another million. That makes them the best-paid manager-coach tandem in baseball.
Some folks around the team go so far as to suggest that they even sense this could be the last year in St. Louis for La Russa. Of course, that storyline is getting tired. It has existed in many Octobers, and he's always wound up coming back to the place where La Russa's now been for 16 ultra-successful seasons, almost exactly half his illustrious career.
Whatever less-than-glowing opinions some St. Louis higher-ups may express behind the scenes, they are most likely stuck with one of the greatest managers of alltime. La Russa may be a bit emotional, and he certainly is highly paid for a baseball manager. But the Cardinals are in the playoffs. On Sunday night in Philadelphia,, La Russa's brilliant chess moves and not atypical six successful pitching changes helped forge a 1-all tie with the prohibitive-favorite Phillies. And that's not close to all of the reasons.
Word is circulating that the White Sox managing job is La Russa's if he wants it. But while he promised several times past midnight early Tuesday morning that he would only discuss the fact that the Cardinals needed to win two out of three in this series now, he did reassert that this is his last job.
"I've said when I'm done here, I'm done,'' La Russa said.
When I suggested that he could keep managing the Cardinals despite the rumored disenchantment, La Russa said, "If I lose the series, I could get fired.'' Moments later, he edited himself, saying, "I said that flippantly. They've been an excellent team to work for. I don't want to leave any other impression.''
Mozeliak earlier had paid similar compliments to La Russa. In response to the question about the supposed disenchantment among Cardinals higher-ups about their manager, Mozeliak said, "They're nothing more than rumors. I have a very good relationship with Tony. Both [owner] Bill DeWitt and myself respect and admire the work he's done over the years.''
When this compliment was reported back to La Russa, who's been around the block a few million times, he responded, "What do you expect them to say?''
He's right, of course. He's made a career out of being right. On Sunday night he made six pitching chances, starting with removing Chris Carpenter, and all of them worked. Of course, his bosses could only be expected to put the kindest spin possible on their iconic manager.
The reality is that the Cardinals need to ask him back. Mozeliak went so far as to call addressing La Russa's situation their first offseason order of business, even ahead of signing superstar Albert Pujols (though that's partly because another one-year deal at the same money or a bit more is easier than whatever Pujols is going to command).
Whatever the case, the Cardinals can't very well fail to offer La Russa a contract, not after the team rallied from 8 1/2 games behind in the wild-card race to overtake the Braves. Plus, La Russa's great friend Pujols remains the object of the team's affection, and while the contract is normally the decider, La Russa leaving certainly would not help their chances to keep the great Pujols.
The Angels are meeting on Monday to begin to form their list of GM candidates after the promotion of an in-house marketing man, Tony Reagins, ultimately failed. They seem likely to go outside for this hire and willing to consider stronger personalities, but even Angels people know they are fighting the perception that manager Mike Scioscia is really in charge, in conjunction with owner Arte Moreno. "It's Mike Scioscia's team,'' one competing GM said, expressing the popular belief.
Mike Quade said he expects to be back as Cubs manager. If so, he's in the vast minority.
Prince Fielder apparently is willing to consider DH jobs, which could open up teams such as the Yankees. But there's a problem: Jesus Montero, who showed signs of becoming a brilliant hitter, may ultimately be a DH. And where else would Alex Rodriguez play eventually?
It was a brilliant stroke by the Yankees to move Robinson Cano up to the No. 3 spot, where one of the best hitters in baseball belongs, particularly with Mark Teixeira's batting average below .250. Teixeira is more of a threat than Alex Rodriguez now and probably should be batting fourth, with A-Rod fifth. The idea to move Cano seems to have been a collective one in the organization.
Nick Swisher is a remarkable 0 for 28 in the postseason with runners in scoring position.
Matt Holliday answered succinctly when asked how he was doing. "Not good,'' he said. That probably should be obvious, since one of the tougher guys in the majors isn't playing. The Cardinals hesitate to de-activate him, though, and lose him for next round, too.
Pujols looks like he's in pain with every step he takes. He is said to have an ankle injury that would surely sideline a lesser sort.