Cincinnati needs a manager who can help the Reds win a World Series. That sounds like Tony LaRussa.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Call Tony.
I'm sure the big shots that run the Cincinnati Reds have Tony LaRussa's number, but in case they've forgotten, I can help:
After watching the Reds slumber to another blue October in Pittsburgh this week, Cincinnati fans got their wish Friday morning. The news broke that Dusty Baker would not return as the team's manager.
Was he fired? He did quit? Did he get a nice farewell check? Don't sweat the details. Just enjoy.
Baker did wonderful work getting the Reds to October, making the post-season in 2010, 2012 and this season. But Baker discovered what every manager eventually learns:
Getting to October makes people cranky if you don't get your team to November and actually win, or at least play in, as World Series.
Dusty didn't win a World Series. Never has – as Giants' and Cubs' fans will be happy to remind you in a 20-season career as a big-league manager. In Cincinnati, Baker didn't even win a playoff series – losing seven of nine games, punctuated by the 6-2 rollover, flat-line loss in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.
Drive home safely.
The three-game hairball the Reds coughed up after winning the first two games of the National League Divisional Series in San Francisco last season got Cincinnati fans looking for reasons that Baker should not be around for a seventh year.
Those reasons raged in the last week. The Reds were too cool. The Reds lacked passion. The Reds need a leader. The Reds underachieved.
It sounded like an infomercial for hiring LaRussa.
Nobody ever said that about any of LaRussa's teams – not in Chicago, where he got his start with the White Sox. Not in Oakland, where he began his serious push toward the Hall of Fame.
And certainly not in St. Louis, where LaRussa won a pair of World Series and put a nasty bite in the Cardinals' rivalry with the Reds that has never disappeared. Why don't many Reds' fans like LaRussa? Check the scoreboard. It doesn't lie.
Tony LaRussa is the best baseball manager of his generation. Which leads to the next question: Has LaRussa's generation passed?
He's been retired for two complete seasons, walking away from the game after the Cardinals rallied from a 3-2 deficit to beat the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series.
LaRussa turns 69 today. (Happy Birthday, Tony. I still believe the best team you ever put together was the 1983 Chicago White Sox. Tito Landrum couldn't hit another home run like that if you gave him 50 more swings.)
Yes, LaRussa is old. But he's only five years older than Baker.
Folks didn't want Baker replaced because of his age. They wanted him replaced because of his wacky decisions like batting Ryan Ludwick second and starting Johnny Cueto in the Wild-Card game against Pittsburgh.
LaRussa can still do it. It's not like he needs to play shortstop for three innings – or even pitch batting practice every day. It's managing. Business leaders drive themselves relentlessly into their 70s all the time.
LaRussa has many qualities that Baker does not show: He's edgy, confrontational, demanding and, at times, tough to play for. He embraces many of baseball's newer statistical analytics.
He also wins.
Would winning in Cincinnati appeal to LaRussa? It might. He has a relationship with Reds' owner Bob Castellini. He has an appreciation for baseball-obsessed towns like Cincinnati.
And LaRussa certainly has a passion for baseball history. He's a sure Hall of Famer, one of four managers to win the World Series with two different franchises.
No manager has won with three different franchises.
The Reds have the core talent to win a World Series. They need a few tweaks. Every franchise does. But their window will be closing. That's why Dusty Baker is departing.