I'm hardly making a revolutionary point here, but what exactly does a manager do to help a baseball team? I was watching the Cardinals/Reds game earlier this evening and I noticed that Dusty Baker was batting Wily Tavares in the leadoff spot, thus ensuring that the Reds lineup would make more outs and make them as quickly as possible. Of course, not all managers are this stupid. We are talking about Dusty Baker here, a legendary proponent of all that is "old school," "scrappy," and "dumb as fuck." There are better managers out there. While he may be a bit boneheaded at times, at least Cardinal manager Tony La Russa isn't quite on big Dusty's level. After the Reds 7-2 victory over my Redbirds, I had the fortune of sitting down with Tony for a one-on-one chat on what makes him tick.*
*This conversation did not actually take place in any universe other than the one that is inside my own head, but I do believe it to be an accurate simulation of what might have actually been said.
Brian Vaughan: Hi, Tony, how are you this evening?
Tony La Russa: Well, Brian, I'm doing fine. Our guys played as hard as they could tonight but we just couldn't come up with the win. Joel looked great out there except for the three really long home runs he gave up.
BV: Speaking of Joel Pineiro, do you think his recent struggles are an indication that perhaps he is reverting back to his old peformance level?
TLR: That's just ridiculous. Joel has given us a lot all season, and it would be crazy to think that the five good months he has turned in this season are a fluke just because of several bad years before it. Next question.
BV: Okay, Tony, I'm sorry if I sort of hit a nerve there. I'll move on to a more positive question. A lot of people think Adam Wainwright's awesome 2009 will earn him his first Cy Young award. Do you think he picks up his 20th win Friday against the Brewers?
TLR: I don't want to comment on individual accomplishments. Individual performance has nothing to do with team success at all. We're not out there to win ball games, we're out there to try as hard as we can and stay scrappy and hard-nosed.
BV: I really don't think it's possible for a team to be successful without an individual performing, Tony. Could you elaborate on that theory?
TLR: Well, a player can contribute, but not with things like home runs or a good strikeout-to-walk ratio. The only way a player can help his team win is by bunting, hustling, staying gritty, and being over 35.
BV: Um, okay. Uh, next question, I guess. Is there any team that really scares you in a short post-season series?
TLR: Ryan Franklin is our closer. I'm tired of you reporters always asking me. He has been dominating all season, and a few blown saves are ot going to change his status as one of the game's best. Just like with Joel, you try to overshadow his months of success with the flimsy argument that he had a few bad years before that. I just don't get it. Ryan is our guy.
BV: Tony, I was, I wanted to know what team might be imposing to you in a playoff series. I didn't ask about Ryan Franklin. I'm sorry for the confusion.
TLR: Ryan is our guy, bud. One more question about him and I'm ending this interview. You wouldn't ask Joe Girardi if he was planning on pulling Mariano Rivera from the closer's role, would you? La Russa then sighed and wiped his brow.
BV: Never mind. Okay. I'll, um, I'll just move on. Albert's contract is up here in a couple of years. Do you think the team will start making attempts to lock him up for a long time?
TLR: We don't really think about those types of things. That's a long way down the road. We don't worry about things in the future, we can only worry about hustling and playing with heart for the rest of this season.
BV: So you aren't worried at all about losing one of the best players in baseball history?
TLR: Skip is still under the team's control for a little while, so I'm not worried at all. He'll be wearing a Cardinal jersey on the day of his Hall of Fame induction.
BV: But I was talking about-never mind. I'll try something else again, something lighter. You've been sporting those tinted glasses and that shaggy hair cut since the 1970s now; any chance you make a change soon?
TLR: It's only the third year of the '70s, man. Give me a break.
BV: Tony, who is the president of the United States right now?
TLR: Richard Nixon. What kind of reporter are you? I mean, I know you're not exactly Cronkite, but surely you know who runs the country. You have to have television by now. We've had it since '51 now.
BV: So if I was to tell you that I was posting this interview on the internet, what would you say?
TLR: The what? What are you talking about?
BV: The internet, Tony. It's a global information system using computers. Anyone can use it. It's basically the present and the future of the whole fucking world.
TLR: I have to go.
BV: Tony, I have more questions. Tony...
TLR: Alien! Alien! Future man! No! You will not have me! No!
Tony then bolted out of the clubhouse, leaving me all alone with nothing but a tape recorder and a clouded mind. I tried to contact those close to Tony, but was told to "stay away, you dark devil." Hopefully my next interview will go better.