Delicate Genius

Tony La Russa has more managerial wins to his credit than anyone not named Connie Mack or John McGraw, probably making him a lock for Cooperstown. While measuring a manager’s worth is a murky task, one thing we know just from reading the news on a regular basis is that some managers can earn their keep by making good players feel comfortable and causing them to want to stick around. Or in La Russa’s case, there can at times be the opposite effect.

La Russa and Scott Rolen publicly feuded during the 2006 playing time after Rolen was benched in favor of Scott Spiezio for a game in the NLCS. The bad blood continued to boil into the 2007 season, and while we don’t know for sure what happened behind closed doors, neither manager or player seemed to be man enough to put their egos and differences aside. In order to placate his Hall of Fame manager, newly installed GM John Mozeliak traded Rolen to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus the following off-season in what was a “who will stay healthier?” challenge trade.

The trade looked good for the Cards after last season — Glaus played 151 games and was good for 5 WAR, while Rolen played in just 115 games and was worth 3. But a healthy Rolen has already been worth 3 WAR this year for Toronto while Glaus hasn’t taken a big league at bat. Glaus has recently suffered yet another setback in his recovery process from shoulder surgery. In Glaus’ absence, the Cardinals were forced to trade for Mark DeRosa mid-season at the expense of their two best relief prospects. Glaus is a Type A free agent this winter, but it’s hard to see him getting offered arbitration. Rolen on the other hand has another year on his contract and is generating interest in the trade market.

Adam Kennedy is another player that recently has butted heads with TLR. He mostly said the right things to the press about the lack of playing time he was getting, but for someone who was worth 1.8 WAR in 115 games, he did deserve to get in more games. While he wasn’t much with the stick (.305 wOBA in ’08), he was downright nifty with the glove (22 UZR/150). The moment he showed up to spring training, TLR requested that Kennedy be shown the door, which Kennedy was. The Cardinals are paying all of Kennedy’s $4M salary, who has been worth 1.5 WAR for the A’s.

The move was viewed as downright bizarre with no apparent replacement in sight. The Cardinals have since tried fitting a square piece into a round peg, making Skip Schumaker their everyday second baseman. Schumaker was a slightly above average player last season (2.4 WAR) and has been about the same with the bat this season, but he’s on his way to being the worst defensive second baseman in the game with a -9 UZR and -14 UZR per 150 games. His foibles with the leather are killing his value; he’s been a below average 2B with just 0.5 WAR.

Appeasing La Russa has been said to be one of the big motives for the Cardinals to gut their farm system to get Matt Holliday and DeRosa. He’s in the last year of his contract and wants to see some commitment from ownership before considering signing an extension. Maybe if he didn’t run off his players with these sort of immature personality clashes, the trades never would have been necessary. The Cardinals’ short-sighted attempts to assuage La Russa has razed their farm system and driven away productive big league players. I can only fear what will happen to the Cardinals if they keep him around longer.

Print This Post

Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.