Just three days after winning his third World Series ring, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has decided to retire from managing. He made the announcement at a press conference Monday morning, which was streamed live on Cardinals.com.
“My most prominent feeling today as I reflect back on my 33 years of managing and my 16 years as a St. Louis Cardinal is my overwhelming gratitude for the good fortune that I have had and the many people who helped me along the way,” said La Russa. “I had the opportunity to work for three organizations that were all very different, but very much the same in the most important way – their drive for success.”
In a surprising revelation, La Russa noted that he already had his mind made up he was going to retire at the conclusion of the season, regardless of the outcome. He mentioned that he told general manager John Mozeliak in late August.
"It's just time to do something else, and I knew it," he said. "If we won, if we lost, it wasn't going to change."
He also said that he told the players after the parade celebration Sunday evening and that "some grown men cried."
In hindsight, maybe we should have thought something was afoot, because something was different with La Russa. He was very clearly enjoying himself in press conferences more than he ever had before -- as I noted before Game 6 -- to the point that one reporter even said "who is this guy?" with a laugh. It was like La Russa was at peace with knowing he had accomplished everything he could have ever dreamed of accomplishing as skipper and was just enjoying one final ride. It turned out to be a magical ride, as the Cardinals would win an amazing Game 6 and take control of Game 7 in the early innings, winning Game 7 6-2. All this after being 10 1/2 games out of the wild card in late August. And the Cardinals played all season without injured ace Adam Wainwright.
La Russa, 67, has been a manager for the past 33 seasons, having stints with the White Sox, A's and then Cardinals. He won the AL Manager of the Year three times and the NL Manager of the Year once. He won 11 division titles and twice took the wild card. He was at the helm for six pennants (three with the A's, three with the Cardinals) and three World Series championships (1989 with the A's; 2006 and 2011 with the Cardinals). His 70 career postseason wins are second to only Joe Torre, and La Russa's 2,728 regular season wins are third in history, behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw.
Love him or hate him, there's no getting around the fact that La Russa will go down in history as one of the greatest managers in baseball history.
“On behalf of the entire Cardinals organization and our tremendous fans, I want to thank Tony for everything he has done over the past 16 years to help keep the Cardinals among the most respected and revered franchises in all of professional sports,” said Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. “Tony leaves behind a legacy of success that will always be considered one of the greatest eras in Cardinals history; an era that began immediately with a Division title in 1996 and was capped off with a World Championship in 2011”
As for a possible return, La Russa flatly said "no," when asked if he'd ever manage again.