A rare breed of manager

If the Terry Francona saga of the last few weeks taught us anything it’s that the shelf life of a manager in the MLB can change with the blink of an eye.  The average shelf life of a Major League manager is roughly 3 seasons these days.  Between the pressure of big markets like Boston, New York, and LA mixed with perpetually re-building franchises in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Houston, Major League owners chew up and spit out managers like it’s going out of style.  That’s what makes the case of Tony LaRussa, who has been a major league manager for the past 34 years, so interesting.  That’s right, the last time he didn’t have a regular manager’s job was when Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  The aforementioned shelf life of a major league manager of three years counts for only one team…LaRussa has only managed three in 34 years.

His shortest job was his first, when he managed the Chicago White Sox for seven and a half seasons from 1979-mid 1986.  That seven and a half seasons is more than half of the current shelf life of three years.  The 522 wins in that 7 1/2 span (against 510 losses and with only one playoff appearances) was not enough to get him through the 1986 season with the White Sox but enough that Oakland hired him to be their manager mere weeks after he was fired in Chicago during the ’86 season.  Nine and a half seasons LaRussa had 798 wins, 4 playoff appearances and 1 World Series victory.  LaRussa managed the colorful Oakland clubhouse that featured the Bash Brothers, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, the outspoken Dave Stewart and Rickey Henderson, who was, well, Rickey Henderson.  He got his club to three World Series in a row, winning the 1989 match-up with the Giants in the emotional Series that was going on during the devastating earthquake in California.

After an ownership change LaRussa felt it was time to move on after the 1995 season and went to St. Louis to take over for Joe Torre, who was heading to the New York Yankees.  Sixteen seasons later Torre has burnt out of two major markets and LaRussa is still managing the Cardinals.  He’s won 1,408 games in the sixteen year span with nine playoff appearances and a World Series victory.  He and Sparky Anderson are the only two managers in MLB history to win the World Series in both the American League and the National League.

He’s been named Manager of the Year in his league 4 times.  In the environment that we live in now it is hard to imagine anyone replicating the success and longevity of Tony LaRussa.  He’s won 2,728 games in the big leagues as a manager.  He has a 64-54 postseason record, and won five pennants and two World Series titles.  He is one of the most decorated MLB managers in history, and he is still going.  As I type he is managing the Cardinals to a 5-1 lead in Game 5 of the 2011 NLCS.  Two more wins would give him another pennant and a shot at another championship.  One of the amazing things is that his teams always seem decent but not quite championship quality, this year included.  There is something about the workman like attitude and work ethic that elevates LaRussa’s Cardinals in the playoffs.  They beat a buzz-saw in the Detroit Tigers back in 2006 in the World Series in a season in which they won 83 games.  They slayed the mighty Philadelphia Phillies and their uber rotation in this year’s NLDS.  Perhaps my favorite fact about LaRussa, and maybe a testament to his loyalty, is the fact that since 1983 he has worked with good friend and former teammate Dave Duncan as his pitching coach.  Loyalty.  Hard Work.  Play with a big heart.  That is what Tony LaRussa has built his 33 year managerial career on.  And he ain’t stopping anytime soon.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

One Response to A rare breed of manager

  1. stamp price says:

    Somewhere Sparky Anderson is wondering why LaRussa has such a quick hook…

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