Tony LaRussa's "Integrity"

Now that the MLB has completed its All-Star game (“This time it counts”, in case you have forgotten), I’d like to revisit the roster selection process for the National League.  You may recall that Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker had some less than kind words for National League skipper Tony LaRussa.  He stated that he believed that Johnny Cueto’s and Brandon Phillips’ exclusion was payback from their inclusion in the infamous brawl back in 2010.  Whether that was LaRussa’s intent or not doesn’t matter, he says it didn’t come in to play.  I actually hope it did.  I think it’s perfectly within his rights to teach Cueto and Phillips the hard lesson that actions have consequences.  If LaRussa had left it at that, everything would have been alright.  He earned the right to make that decision when the Cardinals won the National League pennant last season.  If Dusty wanted to make the call, then perhaps the Reds should have played better ball last season.

Where I take exception with LaRussa is with regard to the comment he made in response to Baker’s “attack”.  He said in part:

The comments Dusty made clearly disappoint me and are attacking my integrity.

The fact that LaRussa thinks he has any claim to “integrity” is laughable, even if we ignore his personal foibles and focus only on his managerial career.  In no way does this call in to question his ability to get the job done as a manager (although how he only won 1 World Series with the “Bash Brothers” teams could be questioned.)  His Hall of Fame credentials are in order- the 3rd most wins as a manager (2,728 career wins), 3 World Series titles, and a better winning percentage than Connie Mack, Dusty Baker, Lou Pineilla, Casey Stengel and a host of other exceptional managers.  His results cannot be argued with.

However, when he starts to use words like “integrity”, he can be questioned.  Under his watch, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire (and likely many others) juiced their way to fame and glory.  While it’s possible for someone to argue that LaRussa had no idea what was going on when he was managing the Athletics with regard to steroids, because it was ‘new’ to the game at the time, there is no reasonable way for him to deny knowledge of McGwire’s cheating during his St. Louis days.  He stood by and allowed McGwire to break one of the most hallowed records in all of sport, and he didn’t lift one finger to stop it.  At that point, he lost all claims to the word integrity.

If he had integrity, he would have put a stop to McGwire’s assault on the record book by whatever means necessary.  He did not, and chose to stand idly by while a juiced Mac destroyed baseballs and removed Roger Maris’ name from the record books.  If you believe published reports that McGwire’s (along with Sammy Sosa’s) success led to Barry Bonds’ cheating ways, LaRussa’s integrity takes a further hit.  He could have served as the point man to stop the steroids push before we had to have Congressional hearings and tax-payer funded trials to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.  He chose to ignore the problem, and reap the windfall that came along with the Big Mac Attack.  That was his choice, and it’s one that many managers made at that time, or would have made if given the opportunity.  In making that decision, however, he doesn’t get to claim at some future date that his integrity has been called in to question.  He sold it off long ago.

What did you think of LaRussa’s comments?  Do you agree with Dusty Baker?


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