Tony LaRussa is retired. He has had months to sit around and do nothing but prepare for tonight's MLB All-Star Game (Fox, 8 p.m.) as manager of the National League squad.
This is how he prepared:
--Instead of choosing the NL's best pitcher, the Mets' R.A. Dickey, as his starter, he selected Matt Cain of the Giants. Nothing against Cain, who is a great pitcher, but Dickey is one of the best stories in baseball this season. Not only that, but by having Dickey as the starter, his hard knuckler would baffle the AL team, most of which hasn't seen the pitch. By doing so, it makes the hard throwers like Cain, Stephen Strasbourg, etc. even more effective.
LaRussa's rationale? That starting catcher Buster Posey has no experience in catching a knuckler. He wanted to let reserve Yadier Molina catch Dickey instead, but Molina chose not to go to the game. So by LaRussa's logic, I guess Dickey won't pitch because Mets catcher Josh Thole didn't make the team.
--He chose Matt Holliday to replace an injured player last week rather than Braves OF Michael Bourn or Nats OF Bryce Harper -- both of whom were among the final five choices of the fans. Though Bourn and Harper eventually both made the team, this was a case of LaRussa rewarding one of his ex-Cardinal players.
--He selected Carlos Gonzalez over Andrew McCutchen as the team's starting DH. LaRussa said he did so on the recommendation of Rockies hitting coach Carney Lansford, a former player of his in Oakland. Though Gonzalez is having a fine season, McCutchen leads the NL in hitting with a .362 average, and has more homers, RBI and steals than Gonzalez. So naturally, let's leave a legitimate MVP candidate on the bench for the first half of the game.
--He picked reliever Jonathan Papelbon as a relief pitcher, despite having a mediocre season, over the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen, who took over the closer role in LA after the first month of the season and has been absolutely dominant.
While no one can deny that LaRussa has had considerable success as a manager, he also had some great talent playing for him that covered up his mistakes. It was LaRussa who came up with the trend of batting his pitcher eighth instead of ninth, even though the stats bear out that this had no positive effect with the lineup.
As a Mets fan, I see my team as a surprise contender for a playoff berth, so the fact that the All-Star game determines home-field advantage means something. I'm sure the fans of the Braves, Nats, Pirates, Giants, Reds and other contenders would agree.
By contrast, Ron Washington seems to have a more logical squad. Even though some have criticized him for having too many Rangers, my question is, which Rangers (not counting the fan votes) would you omit?
Anyway, LaRussa may be gone from the game full-time, but I hope he doesn't have one final bad management job left within him.
TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: If you aren't into baseball, then cable offers some choices: "Rizzoli & Isles" and "Franklin & Bash" from 9-11 p.m. on TNT; "White Collar" and the season premiere of "Covert Affairs" from 9-11 p.m. on USA; and "Pretty Little Liars" and "Jane By Design" on ABC Family from 8-10 p.m.