So who replaces La Russa?

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Wanted: Baseball manager.  Will replace legend. There is no way you can possibly top what happened last year. Possibility you won’t have the best player on the team next year.  Must have reliable transportation.

So who bites at that?

On the one hand, replacing Tony La Russa might be a tough thing for a guy to do.  There is nowhere to go but down and, given that this was the classic “play blah baseball all year but get hot at the right time” kind of team, there’s a non-trivial chance that they will go down.  Add in the fact that, at the moment, it’s unclear if Albert Pujols is coming back, and you might have to wonder who is crazy enough to take the gig.

On the other hand, if Albert Pujols does come back — and given that Adam Wainwright should be healthy to start the season — it could be the best possible job imaginable.  St. Louis loves the Cardinals. They’ve shown that they’ll stick with a manager for a long time, even before La Russa.  With Prince Fielder likely leaving the division in free agency there isn’t an obvious mega-team to contend with.  Sweet gig!

Potential candidates/non-candidates:

  • Terry Francona: He’s looking for work. If Pujols comes back this is a win-now team and Francona has helmed a win-now team for the majority of the past decade. Same kind of gig, lower pressure, less clubhouse noise;
  • Dave Duncan: Duncan has never expressed interest in a top job and the list of pitching coaches who became good managers is pretty damn short. Like, Roger Craig and no one else, at least recently. Duncan and La Russa have always been a package deal anyway. It just doesn’t seem like the job would make a ton of sense either for him or for the Cardinals;
  • Mark McGwire: He’s in-house too, but he has zero managing experience and only two years coaching experience. How a team like the Cardinals could go from The Genius to The Novice so quickly is beyond me. And that’s before you realize that it would just lead to another winter of rehashing the old ‘roids questions.
  • Jose Oquendo: My early favorite, not based on any inside knowledge, but based on the fact that he’s Jose Oquendo and was one of my favorite players when I was a kid.  More seriously, he’s been with La Russa for a loooong time now, coaches third base and has, by all reports, been groomed by La Russa for a managing job someday, be it in St. Louis or elsewhere.
  • Terry Pendleton: The Braves first base coach and former hitting coach who, obviously, had a lot of time in St. Louis. He’s always been tremendously popular with Braves players since he began coaching and could be a good choice if the Cards are looking to keep a happy team happy.  Worth noting also that, when he was removed as the Braves hitting coach, the Braves hitting went into the toilet. The man obviously has some skills.

Many more names will spin out of this, but those are who I got at the moment.  Who do you like? I mean besides Whitey Herzog?

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.