Former St. Louis Cardinals star Jack Clark ripped into Tony LaRussa’s charges on ESPN Radio in St. Louis this week.
Clark complimented the effort of the San Diego Padres while calling the Redbirds “quitters” who are playing like they have “poopy in their pants.”
“I’m really tired of watching the effort, that’s for sure. I’m not seeing a lack of [effort] I’m seeing a pathetic effort. These Cards fans deserve much better. That’s just awful. They won’t admit it, that they’re quitters. If you can’t put a better effort out there on the field, take ‘em all out, back up the truck, ship ‘em all out and get somebody in here that wants to play baseball. We’ve got one team here (San Diego) going for the title and we’ve got our team going for the toilet. They’ve got poopy in their pants. They got skidmarks in their britches. It’s just the way it is.
“When George Steinbrenner was alive, may he rest in peace, he would never let this (happen). As an owner he would be down in that clubhouse telling them to get their head out of you know where, start playing baseball, and it better start right away, or some heads are going to roll. And they won’t have to worry about putting those heads where the grass doesn’t grow.”
After Clark’s incendiary (and delightful I might say) remarks, LaRussa responded on Friday:
“I just don’t feel like Jack has had the kind of spotless career where he can be making judgments like that. Whether it’s our team, pitchers, players, whatever,” La Russa said. “I think it’s a real personal (criticism).
“That’s why I’m saying something about it. It’s a very offensive quote to make. … I respect Jack a lot because he did a good job of pulling his career together. But he had times where there were evaluations from his peers — and I wasn’t his peer — but his peers and his bosses were less than the best. I’m disappointed that he doesn’t take some of that past experience.”
I’m no fan of LaRussa, but Clark’s criticism was at the very least, revisionist. At worst, he was flat wrong.
Of Clark’s comments, Aaron Gleeman of NBCSports.com’s Hardball Talk asks:
Which players have quit? Which players have put forth the pathetic effort? Lumping the entire team together means nothing, because clearly some players haven’t quit on anything. Albert Pujols hit .379 with 11 homers and a 1.230 OPS in August, but the Cardinals had an 11-15 record for the month. He’s hit .303/.380/.615 with 18 homers in the second half overall, but the Cardinals are 28-29 since the All-Star break. Obviously he didn’t quit or put forth a pathetic effort, yet he can’t single-handedly stop the team from struggling.
Matt Holliday has hit .324/.396/.545 in the second half. Guys like Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker have posted better post-break numbers than their career marks. Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, and Jake Westbrook all have an ERA under 3.50 in the second half. Have those guys quit? Are those guys to blame for the second-half struggles and a disappointing season? Seems to me that would be a pretty tough argument to make, so why lump them in as “quitters”?
Rob Neyer of ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot blog also noted of Clark’s criticism:
For the sake of our younger readers, though, it’s probably worth mentioning that in 1988 when Jack Clark played for the Yankees, George Steinbrenner’s brilliant leadership resulted in a fifth-place finish. That was the Yankees’ seventh straight season without reaching the postseason; the streak would eventually reach 12 seasons.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have reached the postseason in seven of the last 10 seasons.
Soon, it will be seven of 11. But if you had a choice between the management team of the Yankees in the 1980s or the management team of the Cardinals in the Aughts, which would you choose?
LaRussa is an insufferable egomaniac who often lets his personal agenda influence on-field decisions. This year he’s made plenty of regrettable managerial decisions, but I don’t think the Cardinals disappointing season can be attributed to lack of effort.
Though I’m not alone in noting that in no way am I discouraging Clark from making further wild, baseless and colorful claims about a LaRussa-managed team. In many ways, Clark’s ignorance isn’t too far afield from LaRussa’s misguided, ego-centric managing style.
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