Tony La Russa is really one of two managers I’ve known as a Cardinals fan. I would say my sports consciousness starts in 1996 with the Cardinals team that made an improbable run to the post season.
I’m a pretty big fan of TLR. His greatness is undeniable: three world series, second all time in wins and he made the playoffs with the Cardinals 10 out of 16 years.
Some Cardinal fans still think Whitey Herzog was a better manager but I have to point to the score board on that one. La Russa has two rings, not one.
I believe Tony La Russa’s greatest accomplishment as a Cardinal skipper was his management of the Cardinals bullpen during the 2006 playoffs.
That season the bullpen was a considerable weak point, even before Jason Isringhausen went on the DL. By carefully playing the match ups, La Russa turned a hodge podge group of also-rans into world beaters.
First, Adam Wainwright is the only one still in the league. All the rest of the guys were either out of baseball by 2011 or dead. La Russa saw what it took in Waino to be a shut down closer and that worked out with spectacular results (see the picture above).
Braden Looper, who made me hold my breath every time he came in, was a very serviceable setup man during the playoffs.
Tyler Johnson, for one brief shining moment, was a tank against lefties. He basically only threw sliders but it didn’t matter because it was unhittable.
The two Josh’s Hancock and Kinney served as twin right hand table setters. Randy Flores and Brad Thompson were good in spots.
The Cardinals finished 83-78 considerable bellow their talent level but still it took deft managing from La Russa to win that World Series.