The more and more I think about it, with the news of Tony LaRussa retiring from the game of baseball after 33 seasons, the more I think the baseball gods were watching over the St. Louis Cardinals during the World Series. It looked like the Cards were dead late in August, then they were one strike away (twice) from watching the Texas Rangers celebrate a World Championship on their field. Yet St. Louis defied the odds and won the World Series. Tony LaRussa called it quits and because of the improbable run his team went on the last few months of the season one of the best managers in the history of the game will end his career the most fitting way imaginable: on top where he belongs.
Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III joined ESPN 101 in St. Louis with Zach and Coach to talk about Tony LaRussa retiring, how tough it will be to move on from the Tony LaRussa Era, what they are looking for in their next manager and when they want to have it figured out, what kinds of things he is looking for in a manager, and what he has heard from the players in reaction to the news of LaRussa retiring.
On the retirement of Tony LaRussa:
“I kind of heard the rumblings through my father and Mo (John Mozeliak). Just a real small, tiny group of people that knew he was considering it in late August and of course in his press conference he mentioned that he had been thinking about it long before that even. It was in the back of our mind and of course the Cardinals went on this great run and we were at various points I know Mo and my father would go and say ‘you sure Tony, you sure?’ Then we got in, made a great run, and there were many points we were kind of like well if it ends here we’re gonna be dealing with that again. It just didn’t end. The best possible thing happened. You deal with it after a parade. It’s bittersweet, but it’s really a good day, a happy day because you knew he wasn’t going to be around forever. To be able to go out on top is pretty special and in the history of sports it just hasn’t happened much.”
How hard it is going to be to replace a manager the caliber of LaRussa:
“It’s gonna be hard. You’re not gonna replace a Tony LaRussa in terms of every quality he brings to the table. All you can do is find somebody that has a different set of qualities that would compliment this team that we have. Every organization deals with this at some point and we’ve been lucky to have Tony for 16 great season, but I have no doubt that the allure of this job will bring some great personalities to the table. I think Tony deserves the moniker of the era. The Tony LaRussa Era. We also, those of us that are stewards of this franchise and that’s all we are because it will survive all of us, also feel that we can keep this run going and start a new one next year.”
On the qualities they are looking for in a new manager and how quickly they want to have it figured out:
“We don’t have it tightly defined. We do know that there’s kind of a just a vague lift right now of people that we know are sorta out there. We will go much more fine tuned or sharper pencil on that as we move forward. This announcement brings other names to the list. From a timing standpoint I don’t want to predict it but certainly you would like to get something done before the end of the year, but you just don’t know. You have to give the process all the flexibility it needs because you don’t want to make a rash decision.”
What he thinks makes a manager successful:
“I look at the things that are important about the managerial job and sort of strength of character is one of them. X’s and O’s is certainly a big one, being able to manage a game effectively and with really good strategy is critical, being able to manage change is really important. In this day and age the game evolves quickly, the decisions are fast as it relates to personnel and the timing of the season requires that the manager and general manger be on the same page with all the things that come at ya. Not to mention leadership qualities. Tony had all of that. In different combinations too. Nobody is an A Plus in every one of those. Tony probably was as close as anybody on them. You would get a different basket of grades for those different important qualities. Hopefully they will add up to the same running total if you know what I mean?”
Whether or not he has spoken to Albert Pujols:
“I have not other than shaking his hand and giving him a pretty good hug at the parade yesterday.”
How the players are reacting to the news:
“I haven’t heard a thing yet because this was a pretty darn well kept secret all the way until I think early this morning. The players all kept a secret. They of course weren’t aware of it until after the parade last night. I think those reactions will come out today and tomorrow but I haven’t heard any yet.”