Tony La Russa officially set to return to the Cardinals in 2011

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa speaks to reporters before a game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on August 13, 2010. La Russa who was given a two game suspension for his part in a bench clearing brawl during a game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati last week, will not manage the next two games.  UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom is reporting that the Cardinals have officially announced the return of manager Tony La Russa for the 2011 season. It’ll be his 16th as St. Louis’ skipper.

NBC Sports has the details:

Despite his taking some time to make an official decision La Russa’s return has been assumed for a while now and with an excellent core of Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Jaime Garcia, and Colby Rasmus the Cardinals are sure to be contenders in 2011 after disappointingly going 86-76 this season.

However, it remains to be seen if Rasmus will be around in 2011 after reportedly feuding with La Russa for much of the season. He’s one of the best young all-around players in baseball, hitting .276/.361/.498 with 23 homers in 144 games as a 23-year-old center fielder, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Cardinals think he can co-exist with the 66-year-old La Russa for another season (or maybe even two).

Assuming there is a problem between La Russa and Rasmus, the Cardinals have an interesting dilemma on their hands. If La Russa will only be around for another year, it would behoove St. Louis to keep one of their key young players. If he’s going to be a part of their future for the next two or three years, then maybe the Cards should deal Rasmus and get a piece that will help them win next year. (Or deal Rasmus for a minor leaguer that can help them down the road.)

That said, the best thing would be for La Russa and Rasmus to settle their differences so the front office isn’t forced into doing something it doesn’t want to (i.e. trading the young outfielder). The Cards are built to win now and it won’t be long before their window starts closing fast. Rasmus an help them next year.

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MLB’s punishment for Reds-Cardinals melee is just

May 05, 2010 - Cincinnati, United States - epa02144773 Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto throws against the New York Mets during the second inning at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, 05 May, 2010.

Seeing as how Brandon Phillips escaped with only a fine for his role as instigator in Tuesday’s Reds-Cardinals brawl in Cincinnati, some fans may be up in arms with the way Major League Baseball handled the situation.

But the punishment levied in the melee was just.

Reds’ starter Johnny Cueto was suspended seven games for his Jet Li impersonation during the brawl, while Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker each received two-game bans by the league. In addition, Phillips, Cincinnati reliever Russ Springer (who came on the field while on the disabled list, which is apparently a no-no), Cardinals’ starter Chris Carpenter and catcher Yadier Molina were each fined an undisclosed amount.

Keep in mind that while Phillips kicked everything off on Monday by slamming the Cardinals for being “little b*tches,” his role in the actual brawl was minute. Him going toe-to-toe with Molina at home plate hardly deserved a suspension. The league reserved the right to come down hardest on Cueto, which they did.

Even though he was backed into a corner and claims he was just trying to defend himself, there was absolutely no need for Cueto to start flailing his legs and kicking his feet at other players like a little school girl. Carpenter was in a similar situation (if not a worse situation) and he didn’t feel the need to start kicking people with metal spikes. Cueto’s actions were ridiculous.

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Thus far, the Reds look like the real b*tches

Somebody forgot to inform Brandon Phillips that if he’s going to make comments like the ones he did Monday about the Cardinals, he and his team needs to actually back them up.

Since Phillips called the Cardinals “little bitches,” St. Louis has reeled off two straight wins in Cincy and erased a two-game deficit in the NL Central. With one game remaining in the series, the Cards have seized a ton of momentum and have a chance to turn the entire season on its head.

It appears as though Phillips’ comments did nothing but wake the Cards up, as evidence of the clubs’ brawl in the bottom of the first inning during Tuesday’s game. (Check out the video below before the MLB takes it down off YouTube.)

Following the melee was a pretty good game – a game in which the Cards downed the Reds, 8-4. The defeat ensured that the Reds will lose a series for only the second time in their last 14 and they’ll try to avoid the sweep today.

I think it’s humorous that the Cincinnati broadcast team in the video above try to pin the start of the scuffle on Yaider Molina. Phillips needs to realize that he can’t say what he did and then tap Molina’s shin guards like they’re old war buddies. I don’t blame Molina for getting in Phillips’ face, although I do blame Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker for what they did following the shouting match at home plate. Before La Russa and Baker started spatting at each other, the “fight” was nothing more than a tense huddle. But instead of getting the situation under control like they should have done, La Russa and Baker couldn’t put aside their own differences and they wound up escalating the situation.

And what was Johnny Cueto thinking? I realize he was backed into a corner, but so was Chris Carpenter and he didn’t feel the need to start sissy-kicking everyone. He could have seriously hurt someone (even more than Jason LaRue having to get stitches in his face) with that crap move. I’m sure plenty of people (including maybe even teammate Brendan Ryan) want to take a few shots at the loudmouth Carpenter, but kicking someone in the back with metal spikes on is weak.

Kudos to Scott Rolen for not only trying to play peacemaker, but for landing some real shots when the brawl actually started. Dude was a beast, although too bad he alone can’t stop the Cardinals from taking back the division.

The Reds have shown their resiliency before. There have been a several times this season when fans could have said, “Yep – here’s where it all falls apart,” but the club just kept winning.

That said, it’s gut check time for the Reds.

What’s the root of the issue in the Pujols/La Russa spat?

With two outs in the eighth inning during a game last Friday night, Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa gave Ryan Ludwick the steal sign with slugger Albert Pujols up to bat. Ludwick, who has been unsuccessful in all of his steal attempts this season, kept his streak alive and was thrown out at second base, effectively taking the bat out of Pujols’ hands.

This angered Pujols, who then threw a tantrum in the dugout. During the midst of his meltdown, La Russa barked at his star first baseman that, “I know how to (expletive) manage.” Once word of the exchange was made public, Pujols quickly defused the situation and nothing more was made out of it.

But St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell suggests that the issue lies deeper than just a star player getting into a spat with his skipper.

Of far more significance is the reason La Russa saw fit to essentially take the bat out of Pujols’ hand. The fact that the manager felt the need to attempt to manufacture a run in that situation tells you that he knows how much is favorite player is struggling.

That’s what makes his most recent well-documented struggles so puzzling. Over the last 10 games, he’s without an RBI, and he has only five in the last 20 games. Through his last 11 games, Pujols is batting .222 (eight for 36) with only six runs scored, and two extra-base hits (one double, one homer) and two RBIs.

Even more alarming is his last 22 games this month, with a .256 average, one homer and 10 RBIs. So when we see a man who has been a hitting and run-producing metronome for so long, it raises several obvious questions like “why” and “what’s wrong”?

I don’t think we’ll ever hear it from Pujols’ mouth that he’s struggling physically, but La Russa needs to find a way to wake up his bat. I don’t know if that means sitting him down for a mental (or physical) break, or if the manager has any more psychological tricks up his sleeve. He is a master at finding ways to bring out the best in his players. He has spent most of the first few months nursing along Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker and Holliday with varying degrees of success.

Pujols is right in that he’s spoiled everyone with his consistency over the last 10 years. He’s been a robot when it comes to production so when he falls into a slump this bad, everyone immediately hits the panic button.

But he’s not immune to slumps, bouts of frustrations or (gasp!) poor play. He’s the best hitter in baseball and he’ll figure it out – he just needs time to work through it. And I don’t know if there’s anything La Russa can do, or needs to do.

Baseball has a way of humbling players. When you’re in the midst of a slump, you feel like it will never end. But it does and Pujols isn’t the only marquee hitter that’s struggling. Prince Fielder is also off to a slow start and Pablo Sandoval saw his average drop nearly 80 points since the month of May started. Slumps happen – even to robots like Albert Pujols.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Holliday’s error in the ninth costs Cardinals in Game 2

Nursing a 2-1 lead with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals looked like they had Game 2 of the NLDS wrapped up, especially when Ryan Franklin got Dodgers first baseman James Loney to hit a routine line drive to left field.

Then Matt Holliday forgot which way to turn his glove.

Holliday muffed the line drive, which turned into a double and put the tying run in scoring position. Two walks and a Ronnie Belliard RBI single later and pinch-hitter Mark Loretta became a hero by driving in Casey Blake with a single up the middle.

The Dodgers took Game 2 of the series and the Cardinals’ hopes along with them.


What the loss did to the Cardinals’ psyche will be determined later. Manager Tony La Russa tried to put it into words.

“I think it’s about as tough a loss as you can have,” said La Russa, although he noted that at least his club hadn’t been eliminated. “Right now we’re feeling disappointed. But we’re not discouraged. There’s a big difference in the two.”

People are going to pin this loss squarely on Holliday, which is fair given that he should have caught the ball and had he, the game would have been over and the Cards would be going back to St. Louis tied 1-1 in the series.

But Holliday wasn’t the only one to make a mistake for the Cards in this game. The biggest (well, the second biggest after Holliday’s plunder) was probably La Russa not allowing Adam Wainwright to come out in the ninth. Wainwright had thrown more pitches in more outings this year than he did last night and came out for the ninth before. So unless Wainwright told La Russa that he was done, the skipper should have allowed his horse to continue throwing his gem.

Colby Rasmus also made a base running error during the game and was thrown out at third by Loney. Rasmus was hung up in no man’s land on the play and cost his team a runner in scoring position.

But give credit to the Dodgers – they’ve found a way to make Albert Pujols a non factor and the Cardinals haven’t found a way to make them pay. That said, St. Louis should have won this game and it’ll be interesting to see how La Russa’s club bounces back. (If they can, that is.)

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