La Russa's legacy belongs to the Cardinals

Posted by Scott Wuerz on January 23, 2014 

Look, I know that it's not the end of the world that former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame without a redbirds cap on his plaque.

But that doesn't mean that I have to be happy about it.

La Russa's decision to play political correctness with the team that fired him and the team that drove him away by stripping the roster of its high-dollar talent couldn't have their feelings hurt. So LaRussa asked that he not be inducted into the Hall of Fame representing the team for which won he the majority of his World Series rings and the majority of his regular season games.

Hall of Fame honors are about more than just the individual who is honored's personal recognition. It also means a great deal to the clubs to have a player enshrined as a member of their organization. It's a pretty major badge of honor.

La Russa retired as the winningest manager in the history of the most successful team the National League has ever seen. He won more games with the Cardinals than Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst and Billy Southworth. He has a legacy with the Redbirds that he has with no other franchise. Those numbers aren't generic. He likely wouldn't have had the same success needed to punch his Hall of Fame ticket with any other club.

With the Athletics, La Russa only won a little more than a quarter as many games Connie Mack. He ranks fourth on the White Sox managerial hit parade with less wins than Ozzie Guillen, for Pete's sake. What's his legacy there?

In Chicago La Russa was fired. In Oakland he was criticized for only winning one World Series (and for losing two against teams he was heavily favored to beat) while fielding a virtual all-star team that included Mark McGwire, Jose Conseco, Dave Stewart, Carney Lansford and Rickey Henderson. In St. Louis he's known as the guy who somehow guided a team with a one-man rotation to the World Series promised land in 2006 and who magically led his team to the greatest comeback in history in to the title in 2011.

Because of these historical facts, not due to emotion or a sense of being a nice guy, I believe La Russa owed it to the Cardinals to wear an STL on his Hall of Fame cap. When he won his second World Series and when he passed Schoendienst as the club's all-time winningest skipper, La Russa took a place in Cardinals lore. And he should have embraced and honored it.

It's not Cardinals fans being whiny. I haven't heard a single person suggest that Joe Torre, Cardinals manager for five years and a Most Valuable Player Award winner when he was with the club in the 1970s, should have gone into the Hall with no logo instead of a Yankees lid. 

It's ludicrous to think otherwise. He won all his World Series titles with the Yankees. Thanks Mets, Braves and Cardinals for the opportunity. But there is no case to be made otherwise.

Same deal with La Russa.

Bobby Cox didn't say "Oh, gee, fellas. If I wear a Braves cap, the Blue Jays might have their feelings hurt."

The only argument that could possibly be made that he should have worn a cap other that of the Cardinals is that he became famous with Oakland. But that's not a legitimate gripe. And if he would have retired in 1995 instead of coming to St. Louis, he wouldn't be a Hall of Famer. Had he stayed in Oakland and put up a bunch of .500 seasons without another ring, he wouldn't be a Hall of Famer. But if he never managed in Oakland or Chicago and Hall of Fame voters could only consider what he did in St. Louis -- 1,408 wins over 16 years, a .544 winning percentage, three pennants and two championships -- those facts alone might be enough to get him in.

His St. Louis wins would make La Russa the 25th winningest manager in baseball history, two games behind Al Lopez and five behind Miller Huggins. 

It seems that La Russa was never comfortable in his relationship with St. Louis fans. And even when he had a chance to give St. Louis a chance to hug him when he walked out the door, Tony passed and said "No, thanks."

 

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service