The Cincinnati Reds have fired manager Dusty Baker. Let the Tony La Russa speculation begin.
Baker was canned, according to numerous reports, because the Reds front office grew weary about his inability to turn regular season success into post season hardware. And the Reds flopping was never more evident in the last year.
In 2012 Cincinnati stormed to a two games to none lead in their National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. Then they lost three in a row to keep alive their streak of failing to win a playoff series since 1990. In 2013 the Reds failed to close, getting beaten handily in a head-to-head end of the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates which forced them to play a road one-game wild card playoff. Pittsburgh bashed a listless Reds team which seemed to have given up shortly after -- or perhaps shortly before -- the game started.
So... Since former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty now holds the same position with the Reds, we're all going to endure wild speculation that former St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa is going to be hired to take over and put Cincinnati over the top. Now I'm never going to say ANYTHING is impossible. But, if you scratch even slightly below the surface on this idea, it doesn't make any sense.
Here is a list of reasons why:
• The only way La Russa becomes manager of the Reds is if he pulls a Dick Vermeil and decides after he left the manager's chair that he made a terrible mistake. By his telling of the tale, La Russa has never regretted his decision and wishes only to work in a front office capacity with a major league club -- or to work in a position with the MLB office. It would make much more sense for La Russa, who is 69 years old, to take over as the next commissioner of Major League Baseball where he doesn't have to deal with the day-to-day stress of travel or the pressure of winning on his shoulders.
• La Russa is three years away from being inducted into the Hall of Fame -- most likely as a Cardinal. If he takes another job it would push back his enshrinement into the hall. I have to believe a guy like La Russa, who has tremendous respect for the history and legacy of baseball, is counting the days until he gets a call saying that he's been enshrined. Maybe baseball would make a special decree that a La Russa un-retirement wouldn't push back his candidacy. But wouldn't it be creepy for everyone if he was the manager of the Reds -- who are hated by their NL Central rivals the Cardinals -- while being enshrined as a member of the Cardinals -- who are hated by the Reds?
• Is Cincinnati that good of a job for La Russa, a short termer because of his age? I'd say not. The Reds have failed to win a playoff series with Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips in their primes. In the coming years, they're only going to get older. Yet their giant salaries will prevent the Reds from being able to spend money on younger player. There is a lot of talk that Cincinnati won't be able to retain free agent outfielder Shin Soo Choo because of other playoff obligations and pitcher Bronson Arroyo apparently wants a big free agent contract this offseason, too. Losing one of your top pitchers and one of your best offensive players doesn't bode well for the Reds. Neither does the fact that they have been unable to draw comparably to the Cardinals despite their regular season success. The Reds don't have the payroll capacity of the Redbirds which means they have less likelihood to get and retain top players. La Russa left a World Series Champion in St. Louis. Going to Cincinnati could only be worse and potential harm his legacy if he presides over a team that crumbles.
• Would the Reds even play for La Russa. Phillips infamously bad mouthed the Cardinals and La Russa in recent seasons. They can say that changing uniforms changes loyalties. But I have to imagine if a scene unfolded with La Russa in charge like when Phillips burst into the manager's press conference and cursed out a reporter I sincerely doubt La Russa would have handled things in the same way. Baker shrugged his shoulders and told the reporter to leave him out of it because the beef didn't involve him. La Russa probably would have put Phillips in a headlock and gone Nolan Ryan on him. I don't know if that would work in Cincinnati. Also, right or wrong, the perception is that La Russa doesn't deal well with young players. In a ultra small market like Cincinnati, I don't know if he could avoid them.