posted on July 02, 2012 08:00
It was bound to happen. With Tony La Russa returning to Major League Baseball for one last hurrah as the NL All Star Team manager, some move or non-move or pick or non-pick would fire up his hater base as if the man had never left the helm of the St. Louis Cardinals. The damn selection show hadn’t even wrapped before it was evident the hate would come from 350 or so miles due east: Cincinnati.
Reds manager Dusty Baker is pissed at La Russa for not selecting Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips to the All Star squad. He believes the “snubs” are some type of revenge tactic; that La Russa purposely left Cueto and Phillips off the team—even though they are so obviously deserving of a slot it’s almost like they’re entitled to it—as a result of the bad blood from The Great Brawl of 2010. Reds players are pissed, too…even Joey Votto, who was voted by the fans as the starter at first base (and rightfully so). John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer has the initial reaction from the Reds’ clubhouse.
But Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has La Russa’s response to Baker’s criticism, and honestly nothing about his remarks is surprising. He takes offense to Baker’s insinuation and he offers an overthought, micro-managed reason for excluding Cueto. It’s just like the good old days of when he managed the Cardinals.
La Russa actually has a fairly legitimate alibi for leaving Phillips and Cueto off the roster. As Danny Knobler of CBS Sports explains, after the fan vote and the player vote La Russa had to use four of his nine selections (yeah…he only got to hand-pick nine players) on at least one player from each of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Diego Padres. So that left TLR with five non-required picks. Assuming Carlos Ruiz would be his automatic Phillies pick—because a) he and Yadier Molina are legitimately the top two catchers in the league this year and should have been voted as such, and b) there’s no way TLR would go to this game with only two catchers—that means La Russa used two of his five picks on fellow Phils Cole Hamels and Jonathon Papelbon. The other three completely free choice picks were used on Clayton Kershaw of the LA Dodgers, Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals, and Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds.
That’s right…La Russa picked NO Cardinals for this All Star Team, and he hand-selected one Red. He could have very easily picked Matt Holliday over Bruce, but he didn’t. Now it can be debated all day whether Phillips is more deserving than Desmond, or Cueto is more deserving than Hamels, Papelbon, or Kershaw. But the differences in the numbers really aren’t that glaring…just like they aren’t between Bruce and Holliday.
What is glaring, however, is the whining and bitching coming from the Reds’ coaching staff, players, and fan base (at least the crazy ones). These are the same folks that have maintained for several years now that the Cardinals are the biggest whiners in the league. From rubbed-up balls to firework smoke, anytime a Cardinal has disagreed with anything to do with Reds baseball or any other arbitrary standard set by some imaginary tribunal in The Queen City, he is branded with a scarlet letter in Cincinnati.
But who’s whining now? The Reds and their fans, that’s who. If they think it is outrageous that Brandon Phillips is left off the roster, they should try voting for him. The process—however flawed—really is in the fans’ hands. And they failed. They fail every time their first place team plays in front of a half-packed house. They fail every time they look west and piss and moan with envy at everything the St. Louis Cardinals say or do. Will Votto, Bruce, and Aroldis Chapman boycott the All Star Game in a show of solidarity with their snubbed brethren? Doubtful. And I can’t help but wonder if, given the opportunity, Dusty Baker would name Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina to an All Star squad he led given the same circumstances as La Russa.
That’s a speculative question, of course, because Baker isn’t in the position to make those choices, and La Russa is. The truth of the matter is, only TLR knows for sure whether there was anything vengeful about leaving Phillips and Cueto off the roster. But he is on the record as saying he would not violate the integrity of the All Star process by letting old wounds cloud his judgment. And apparently those predisposed to the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” paranoia take offense. But it is telling that neither the fans nor the players named either player to the All Star roster. Yet it is all La Russa's fault? Right...
Once again between the Reds and Cardinals, it comes down to talking the talk versus walking the walk. And the fact that all of the talking comes from Cincinnati isn’t shocking. I suspect the Cards’ eventual response will, as usual, come from the field of play.
Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also appears on
I-70 Baseball Saturdays and
Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter