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Cardinals need to move on from LaRussa

July 27, 2011

Well it’s happened again: Tony LaRussa has used his managerial position to bully the Cardinals’ front office into making a move that could possibly solve the team’s problems (lack of back-end rotation success, bullpen efficiency) while it definitely solves LaRussa’s personal problem with former high-end prospect Colby Rasmus.

Rasmus, who in the middle of his third big-league season had shown signs of growth and signs of regression, became LaRussa’s whipping boy once he reached the big leagues in 2009. An unfriendly clubhouse made Rasmus’ rookie year uneasy, but he still produced, hitting 16 home runs. After receiving hitting lessons from his father, Tony, in 2010 the divide between Rasmus and LaRussa grew even bigger. Multiple trade requests were made by Rasmus last year, possibly because he was treated very poorly in the clubhouse by veteran players and his manager. However, Colby showed marked improvement in ’10, raising pretty much every statistic while having fewer at-bats.

Things seemingly came to a boiling point sometime within the last month as Rasmus, in the midst of an enduring slump, once again received hitting lessons from his dad, which angered LaRussa. When asked by KSDK’s Frank Cusumano Tuesday night about Rasmus, here’s what LaRussa said:

“He’s listening to somebody. He doesn’t listen to Cardinals coaches much now. That’s why he gets into some of these funks, in my opinion”

Anyway, enough with the review. Here’s my main point: The Cardinals, in a rush to make their 66-year-old manager happy, traded their most highly touted prospect in the last 20 years for a free-agent-pitcher-to-be, two average bullpen arms and a veteran fourth outfielder.

Former MLB General Manager Jim Bowden called the Cardinals’ trade the “worst trade of the year” and ESPN’s Keith Law said the price the Cards paid was “just too high.” Law wasn’t talking about giving up Trever Miller, Brian Tallet or PJ Walters, the other three guys the Cardinals gave up.

If the Cardinals were dead-set on trading Rasmus they should’ve waited until as late as possible to trade him. Once Carlos Beltran, BJ Upton or any other tradable outfielders were moved the market for an impact bat would’ve gone up for a contender, and the Cardinals could’ve gotten more for Rasmus, which is what I had been pushing for – trading Rasmus as long as it wasn’t for less than full value.

Colby is a 24-year-old who put together a solid rookie season, and improved in every facet of his game in his second season. But because he had a two-month slump this year, appeared lackadaisacal at some times and made his manager, who is 42 years older than Rasmus, upset by TRYING TO GET BETTER AS MANY TIMES AS POSSIBLE, he just had to be traded, even if for well less than full value.

Rasmus showed signs of what could be in April this year, batting .290/.374/.450, with three home runs and three steals. Foolishly, many fans and media members believed Rasmus would instantly hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases. But not every baseball player is Albert Pujols – someone who immediately produced from day one.

According to baseball-reference.com Rasmus, through the age of 23, is comparable to Andre Dawson, a recent Hall of Fame inductee. Through his first three full years Dawson’s OBP and OPS were lower than Rasmus’. But in his fourth year, at the age of 25, Dawson finally hit over .300, had on OBP of .358 and finished seventh in MVP voting. Dawson went on to play 21 seasons, hit 438 homers and stole 314 bases. You think the Expos would’ve been happy just to get rid of Dawson in 1979, when he was 24?

Now I’m not saying Rasmus is going to hit 400 bombs or steal over 300 bases, but the potential is there and it’s not like he’s been terrible in his short career.

If the Cardinals are looking for production, why don’t they look at the man wearing No. 10? LaRussa’s won one World Series in 16 years in St. Louis, besides having some of the best players in the game at his disposal (Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Walker, Carpenter, Wainwright, McGwire, Isringhausen, etc.) while playing in a very weak division. The Cardinals have not won a playoff game in the last four years despite having the best player in the game, a former batting champ for a year and a half, and two of the best starters in baseball.

A possible .300-hitting, 30-homer centerfielder is far more valuable than a manager who gets a free pass by local and national media for some reason I’ll never know. LaRussa’s alienation of certain players (Rolen, Brendan Ryan, Rasmus, Mitchell Boggs this season) is infuriating and resembles a drama-filled teenage relationship. LaRussa needs to check his ego at the door, but even if he does that it won’t make up for his acts over the years in the Lou.

The Cardinals just gave up on what could be a future silver slugger in center field to please a manager who could possibly retire in just over two months. LaRussa is signed to manage the Cardinals for the rest of 2011, with an option for 2012. If the option isn’t picked up, TLR won’t be the Cardinals manager next year. Colby Rasmus won’t be the Cardinals center fielder next year, either. For a team that has Albert Pujols’ contract looming in the offseason, it was a dumb, selfish, ego-maniacal move to get rid of a cost-controlled 24-year-old to please a manager who hasn’t won anything in the last four years.

A lot of people will say Colby Rasmus just needed a change of scenery to produce and realize his potential. No. He – and the St. Louis Cardinals – needed a change of manager.

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One Comment
  1. Vin Reich permalink

    Personally, I doubt the Cards would have won more with another manager. Never know, of course. Red Schoendienst and Whitey Herzog only won 1 World Series.

    As far as Colby goes, those things happen everywhere. For example, it looks like a change of scenery is just what Yunel Escobar needed.

    I do agree, it would have been nice to get more for him, but maybe they’ll get something in the “players to be named later.”

    Hope Jackson pitches better in the NL this time around!

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