Tony La Russa: will he or won’t he return for another season as manager of the Cardinals?
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is about as close to the team’s thinking as a columnist can get and passes along some insight in his Sunday edition of “Bernie’s Bytes.”
First, Miklasz says that the decision to return or not to return will be up to La Russa himself. Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt III and GM John Mozeliak are firmly in the skipper’s corner despite a disappointing 2010 finish and a highly publicized mid-season rift with star center fielder Colby Rasmus.
If La Russa leaves, it will be because he wanted to go. If he stays, it will be on his own terms.
By all accounts, the 65-year-old La Russa should commit for at least one more season in St. Louis. He’ll have a roster in 2011 that includes this generation’s greatest hitter in Albert Pujols, two Cy Young candidates in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, and a well-paid and highly-productive left fielder in Matt Holliday. Oh, and let’s not forget about young left-hander Jaime Garcia, who might win the National League’s Rookie of the Year this season.
La Russa also ranks third on the list of all-time managerial wins with 2,628, behind only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). It’s feasible that he will catch McGraw and move into second place all-time with just two more years on the job. That might not be the most important thing to La Russa, but he’s certainly not immune to the lure of establishing a long-lasting legacy.
La Russa has been operating on one-year contracts for a few seasons now. If we’re to believe the current indications, he will likely ink a similar deal before winter fully sets in.
Kolten Wong is no longer the only second baseman being considered for a starting role on the Cardinals’ roster, and he’s not happy about it. On Saturday, GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny hinted that Wong could lose playing time to Jedd Gyorko or Greg Garcia in 2017 — in other words, an infielder who brings a little more pop at the plate. Prior to the Cardinals’ game against the Marlins on Sunday, Wong gave his heated response to the media. Via Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
I don’t think you give somebody a contract for no reason,” Wong said. “When you are given a contract, you are expected to get a chance to work through some things and figure yourself out. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, all these guys never figured their stuff out until later on down the road. It’s the big leagues. It’s tough, man. For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.
When pressed, Wong said that he would rather be traded away from St. Louis than step into a limited role with the team. “I don’t want to be here wasting my time,” he told the press. “I know what kind of player I am. If I don’t have the belief here, then I’ll go somewhere else.” The 26-year-old was inked to a five-year, $25.5 million extension prior to the 2016 season, complete with a $12.5 million option and $1 million buyout.
Part of Wong’s frustration stems from the Cardinals’ backtracking on their stated commitment to him as their starting second baseman last winter. Mozeliak admitted that while Wong had the defensive tools necessary to hold down the position, he failed to impress at the plate. It’s an argument that Wong hasn’t been able to rebut this spring, going 8-for-44 with two extra bases and 10 strikeouts in camp. He hasn’t looked much better in the regular season, sustaining a career .248/.309/.370 batting line with a .678 OPS and 5.1 fWAR over four years with the organization.
Still, the second baseman feels that he should have been given some heads up that he was playing to keep his starting role this spring, admitting that he entered camp with the mentality of someone who had a guaranteed spot on the Cardinals’ roster and not someone whose job security was dependent on his day-to-day results. “I need the time to consistently figure out how to be me and succeed at this level,” said Wong. “Everybody goes through it. Not everybody is Mike Trout.”
Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.
While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.
Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:
Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.