Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a bit of news that will add lighter fluid to the stack of rumors hinting at a “rift” between Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and 24-year-old outfielder Colby Rasmus.
Strauss heard from sources that Rasmus requested a trade earlier this season because of “frustrations” with La Russa and his lack of everyday playing time.
It’s not hard to believe. Ryan Ludwick, in fact, made a similar request just before he was traded to the Padres in late July and it’s beginning to look like we may have a scapegoat for what has been a horribly disappointing season in St. Louis: the skipper himself.
La Russa has a Hall of Fame track record as a manager and has enjoyed a great amount of success over the past 15 years in the Gateway City. But it’s time for the Cardinals to step forward and acknowledge that Rasmus, a five-tool player with sky-high upside, is far more important to the Cardinals’ future than La Russa, a 65-year-old manager who is so out of touch that he thought sending his superstar Latino first baseman to a Glenn Beck rally was a good idea.
Rasmus needs to play every day, or at least more than 145 games per season. He started only 114 times last year and has started only 97 times in 133 opportunities in 2010. Even if you attribute 20 of those missed starts this year to a calf injury, that still leaves 16 unexplained absences.
La Russa enjoys tweaking his lineups often and finding at-bats for mediocre veterans — see: Aaron Miles and Randy Winn. That sort of mix-and-match strategy has worked in the past and Tony has a couple of rings to show for it, but this year it has upset his offensive core.
Or, at least Rasmus and Ludwick. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are well-paid family men who probably go unaffected by clubhouse dynamics.
The solution to this problem in St. Louis comes down to simple math. One, 24-year-old center fielders with 30-homer power don’t come around often. Two, I can find you a 65-year-old manager down at the local softball lot. Not to be over-dramatic, but my guess is the random old man will have the presence of mind to lead a team with three sub-3.00 ERA starters (and Albert friggin’ Pujols) to the postseason while also managing to maintain a healthy relationship with the hugely talented Rasmus.
If the Cardinals do decide to shake things up this offseason, the cuts should start at the top.
UPDATE: La Russa has confirmed the report, according to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, also saying that Rasmus requested a trade last season.
UPDATE: Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse grabbed a few telling quotes from Rasmus on Sunday morning. Asked if he was happy with the Cardinals, the center fielder said, “I’d rather not answer that if I don’t have to.”