What’s Next For La Russa, Cards?


Among a number of important tasks on the offseason “to do” list for the Cardinals is making a decision about whether or not to bring back manager Tony la Russa for the 2011 season. There has been much controversy surrounding this decision after the Cards missed the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. Many frustrated St. Louis fans have turned against La Russa, but support from Albert Pujols and the rest of the team has been made evident. The question is, at the age of 66, does Tony La Russa still have what it takes to lead the Redbirds through a grueling 162 game schedule and live up to the growing expectations?

Over the course of a 32 year career, La Russa has compiled an astonishing 2,638 wins, placing him third on the all time list behind hall of famers John McGraw and Connie Mack. He has won Manager of the Year four times, managed 4,934 total games (2nd all time), and managed five all-star games.

During his 15 seasons in St. Louis, La Russa has led the Cards to the playoffs eight times, won two National League pennants, and won a World Series (2004). La Russa is without a doubt one of the greatest managers of all time and a sure-fire hall of famer, but there is no reason why his illustrious career should come to an end just yet.

Now that La Russa’s one year contract expired at the conclusion of this past season, it is imperative that the Cardinals bring him back for at least one more year. He and general manager John Mozeliak have recently discussed this contract situation and both parties seem optimistic that a deal will be reached soon. La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan have been one of the best one-two managerial combos in Cardinals history, and keeping them together at the helm is definitely the right move, at least for the short term future.

The Cardinals are only a step or two away from becoming a dominant force in the National League, but they would be taking a step in the wrong direction by choosing to let Tony La Russa go. As soon as he was hired by St. Louis in 1996, La Russa immediately turned a franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs in nine years into winners once more. The guy has done so much for this organization and it would be foolish to let the past four seasons and last month’s collapse define his career with the team. Right now, I just don’t see anyone out there that is better suited to successfully manage the Cardinals next season.

Sure, La Russa deserves his fair share of the blame for what happened to the Cards this year. He could have helped build the questionable team chemistry a bit more, and he could have made some better decisions across the board. However, Tony is not the only person responsible for the Cardinal’s collapse and it would be unfair to think so. At the end of the day, it comes down to the guys on the field executing, and that just didn’t happen consistently enough for them to make the playoffs.

There would be no better way for the Cards to begin a hopeful offseason than by resigning Tony La Russa. If they can get this done as quickly as possible, it will enable them to move on to many other crucial offseason tasks. After all, with Albert Pujols’ contract expiring at the end of next season, wouldn’t it be a smart move to keep him happy and bring back the manager he wants?