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Should He Stay or Should He Go

by LS Murphy

You either love him or hate him. That’s the best way to describe manager Tony LaRussa. No one can deny that he is a brilliant manager. No one can deny that he’s headed for the Hall of Fame. That doesn’t mean everybody likes how he manages and certainly no one likes the way this season has turned out. So, should he stay or should he go?

When LaRussa became the manager of a failing team for the 1996 season, fans rejoiced. Joe Torre had been canned for not making much out of a minor league team the previous year and, unless you Google it, most people can’t even remember who finished managing the ’95 season where the team went 62-81 finishing fourth in the NL Central.

In ’96, we had a new outlook. LaRussa delivered. The team led by Brian Jordan went 88-74, taking the NL Central. After losing the NLCS in seven games to Braves, the team seemed to be back on track. LaRussa wanted to bring the tenth World Series Championship to an organization that prides itself on sportsmanship and respect.

In 2004, it looked like he would.

But first he had to get the Cardinals to the playoffs. After making it in his first season, the team finished 4th in the NL Central in ’97, 3rd in ’98, and 4th again in ’99. Those were the heart of the McGwire years. In 2000, the team won the NL Central again only to, once again, lost in the NLCS, this time to the Pond Scum…er, I mean New York Mets. The following year saw the boys in second but still making the playoffs, just not out of the NLDS. In 2002, they were back in 1st and out of the NLCS in 5 games to the Giants. After suffering through the 2003 season, 3rd in the NL Central, the 2004 Cardinals were large and in charge.

Plus they had the curse on their side.

Unfortunately, the Curse of the Bambino must have had an expiration date because the Red Sox swept the Redbirds in the World Series and Busch Stadium II became the place were the curse was broken.

Then we tore it down.

We gave it another go in 2005, winning 100 games but losing to the Astros in the NLCS.

Everyone already knows what happened in 2006. The impossible. At least, no one expected that particular conclusion except Cardinals fans and the team.

Since the ’06 World Series victory, the Cards have struggled a bit, not making the playoffs again in 2009.

So, what happened this year? They aren’t entirely out of contention but no one would doubt that something is wrong with this team. How can a team with Pujols hitting third and Holliday in the clean up spot not score runs? How can a pitching combination of Wainwright and Carpenter not be on a playoff bound team? Then you add those together and scratch your head even more.

It all comes back to LaRussa. Is the hitting because of his decision to hire Mark McGwire as hitting coach? Is there more going on between the players and managers than we know? Has Tony lost it? Is he making bad decisions? Is he making players not want to be there? (Yes, you can argue that this is the real problem with Colby Rasmus at the moment.)

Looking back at his time with the Cardinals organization, LaRussa’s ticked off a lot of people (Scott Rolen) but he stands by his decisions. He makes some brilliant moves (Skip at 2nd) and some that no one understands (pitchers hitting 8th). They normally work out in the long run. But what happen the year everyone thought this team would take the NL Central with relative ease? What about 2010? It comes back to one question.

Is LaRussa the real problem with this team?

It’s certainly something to consider.


Follow LS Murphy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LSMurphy

Visit her blog at http://LSMurphy.com

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Cardinals Mix blog featured writers LS Murphy,Brian F. Logush
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