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 Someone Ought to Make a Movie

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Join date : 2011-10-23

PostSubject: Someone Ought to Make a Movie   Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:01 pm

Through this long and winding World Series, now concluded, Tony La Russa had a liberated air to him. He looked refreshed, made jokes, shared opinions — even delivered film reviews, for goodness’ sake.

La Russa just turned 67, with no indication he feels the need to get away from some odious condition. But his contract is up, now that the Cardinals have won the World Series.

On the field, as the Cardinals put on the de rigueur championship caps and shirts Friday night, he was asked about his future in St. Louis. He said now was not the time to talk about it. La Russa has been a manager for 33 major league seasons, with the White Sox, with the Athletics and the last 16 with the Cardinals. He is not universally beloved in this insular town, scoots home to California whenever he can, is not a get-along kind of guy. But he has just won his second World Series with the Cardinals, in the first World Series Game 7 he ever managed.

David Freese, the surprising most valuable player of the Series, was asked what La Russa brings to the Cardinals.

“Everything,” Freese said. “He started it. That guy deserves all the credit. You know, he rallies the troops. He’s got a plan with every thought, with everything he says. He’s got a great idea of what it takes to not only win a game, but to get to this point, and for me to come to the big leagues and play under him right out of the gate, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

La Russa kept control of this team, which was playing respectably in mid-August, when he ran into Commissioner Bud Selig in Milwaukee. Selig congratulated him on a decent season, but La Russa asserted that the Cardinals were not done.

Asked about this before Friday’s clinching 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers, La Russa said: “Well, you’ve got to practice what you preach to your team. Especially, if you think you’ve got a legitimate chance to compete. It’s a long season. If you watch the history of baseball, teams come back, and sometimes they could have come back, but they give in or give up.”

His astonishingly black hair suggests a man with a young self-image who is not ready to watch the wheels go round and round. Or, who knows, he might feel the need for a new gig.

Either way, he is one of the great ones — 2,728 victories in the regular season, 2,365 losses, 6 World Series, 3 championships. Wore out grass and turf all over America, trudging out to replace pitchers, some of whom he batted eighth.

In the ninth inning Friday night, La Russa said, he was contemplating salting closer Jason Motte in a corner outfield position so he could bring in his last left-handed reliever to face Josh Hamilton.

“Never done it before,” La Russa said. Asked if he had prepared Motte, a former catcher, for this eventuality, La Russa said: “No, man. I was going to ask him, Do you like left or right better?” It’s been done — but in the seventh game of a World Series?

At the very least, the comment shows La Russa’s fertile mind — he has a law degree but does not practice — is not going fallow, despite mix-ups involving Albert Pujols’s role in failed hit-and-run plays and the Marx Brothers skit with the wrong pitcher warming in the bullpen.

Good grief, La Russa has even showed a sense of humor. Asked earlier Friday what a Tony La Russa mascot or doll would look like, he replied, “a cigar-store Indian.” He even froze for a second, a petrified manager implanted in an imaginary dugout.

On Thursday, La Russa was asked about his current loosey-goosey demeanor.

He added: “You get to the World Series, this is the most enjoyment you can have, our whole staff, our club to the extent they can appreciate it, I’m enjoying it more than ever. I don’t know if that makes a difference, but I always enjoy this part.”

La Russa even dusted off his inner “Siskel & Ebert,” tossing off a review of the current film “Moneyball.” From 1986 through 1995, he managed at Oakland, watching Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire expand their physiques and their home run totals.

Later, the A’s came under the charge of General Manager Billy Beane, an advocate of computerized statistics, particularly the vaunted on-base percentage. Oakland’s nice little run at the turn of the century under Beane was turned into a popular book by Michael Lewis, “Moneyball,” now a movie starring Brad Pitt.

“Good acting,” was La Russa’s capsule comment after seeing it Wednesday. He clearly sizzles about the movie’s depicting lifer scouts and coaches as hopelessly behind the new wave of technology.

“Well, it’s been hard because guys have lost their jobs,” La Russa said. “Scouting staffs have been reduced, their importance have been reduced. That’s hard. I mean, you’ve got to be careful because I think about when I first came in the league years ago and I had no experience. I was a lousy player with no managing experience, you had all these great guys who managed for years, so preparation was the only way that myself and my staff could survive, so we were looking for everything. I think a lot of those stats and tools, they’re helpful when you prepare.”

He continued, “But they eliminate to a great degree the human element, which is a big part of every day that you play.”

Usually, La Russa delivers his lessons hesitatingly, as if giving up industrial secrets. In recent weeks he has been a virtual gusher, giving off the feeling of someone who has made up his mind. One of these days he will let us know which way.

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