Bernie Miklasz has a story about Tony La Russa and the Cardinals in the Post-Disptach today. In it he talks about how some of the Cardinals’ moves — Lance Berkman in right field, letting Brendan Ryan go and replacing him with Ryan Theriot, etc. — may have the statheads going crazy, but that La Russa doesn’t care. He’s all about intensity and grinders and scrappers, you see, and whatever the latest conventional wisdom is on the part of the sabermetric community can go to hell.
Those of us who skew more toward the statty side of things may scoff, but La Russa has a message for us:
He constantly recurs to one intangible intensity … playing little ball, scrambling to manufacture runs, “looking for just 90 feet every once in a while,” La Russa says, energizes a team. It puts a team on the balls of its feet, ready to run. And that intensity carries over into its defense.
Oh, wait. That’s not a quote from Miklasz’s article at all. It’s from George Will’s Sports Illustrated profile of La Russa from 1990. A profile that, while far more expansive, has La Russa hitting all of the same notes. That article was written as his Bash Brothers Athletics team was about to win 103 games and a third straight AL Pennant. Except they weren’t all bash. They were second in the league in stolen bases too, despite all that power.
I know some Cardinals fans who are worried about the 2011 season. I’d probably be a bit worried if I were them too. But La Russa has always done it his way. He has always bucked expectations of others, often stubbornly so. And he has always won. He’s probably entitled to a little benefit of the doubt by now.