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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
La Russa a genius ... or just cranky?

As the Cardinals enter the home stretch of what might become a death match against the Cubs, FanGraphs' Erik Manning remembers some players who might have helped this season, if only the Cards' manager hadn't driven them away: Well, yeah.

I reproduced here the first and last grafs of Manning's essay, and thus left out the parts about the Cardinals jettisoning Scott Rolen and Adam Kennedy, both of whom would presumably have fit nicely into the lineup this season, and perhaps obviated the impulse to trade for DeRosa and Holliday.

Fair enough. But hiring (and employing) a manager isn't like ordering a car from the factory; it's like finding one on the lot that you like: Maybe it's not exactly what you want, but it'll get you around and people won't laugh when they see you driving it.

OK, maybe that's not the greatest analogy. La Russa fights with some of his headstrong players; Neyer needs to work on his similes. We get it (or I do, anyway). My point is that La Russa's going to wind up in the Hall of Fame, and at this point in his career we should probably just accept him for who he is (at least until he starts losing). You know, warts and all.

And that's assuming that his positions regarding Rolen and Kennedy were actually warts. Isn't it possible that La Russa's my-way-or-the-highway approach benefits his teams in ways that we simply can't understand?

Yes, I'm talking about intangibles, which are, by their very nature, not quantifiable. So I'm not saying that Manning is wrong, or that the Cardinals wouldn't be better off with Rolen and Kennedy. What I'm saying is that La Russa, after 2,516 wins, may have earned the benefit of the doubt on personnel matters.