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La Russa’s coaching legacy: Part two


In part one of this article, I introduced the question of whether a factor in assessing a manager’s lifetime impact should include the number of future managers he developed. It is an not an area in which St. Louis’ Tony La Russa has excelled compared to some of his most prominent peers.

More prolific MLB managerial breeders such as Bobby Cox and Mike Scioscia were cited as well as a look at several more expansive coaching trees in the National Football League.

In La Russa’s 31-year managerial career, he has employed at least* 41 different coaches. Only two of them later became first-time managers, Jim Leyland and Jim Lefebvre. Neither occurred in the last 20 years.

Also note the ages of these gentlemen. They are contemporaries of La Russa, not younger men mentored by the manager.

Current age Years managing
Tony La Russa 64 30+
MLB manager post-TLR Current age # years with TLR Hired mgr
Jim Lefebvre 67 2 before, 2 after 1989
Jim Leyland 64 4 before 1986

Since 1979, La Russa also employed four others who had been Major League skippers prior to joining his staff.

In one case, that of Rene Lachemann, the individual returned to coaching for La Russa after having been fired as a skipper elsewhere but later left the staff for his third MLB managerial shot. Two of them, Doug Rader and Bobby Winkles, were only with La Russa for a short time some years years ago.

Current Cardinals hitting coach Hal McRae managed both Kansas City and Tampa Bay in the past. He is now in his fifth season in St. Louis. Notice again the ages of all these coaches compared to La Russa.

MLB manager pre-TLR Current age # years with TLR TLR years
Hal McRae 63 4+ 2005-current
Rene Lachemann 64 9 87-92, 97-99
Doug Rader 64 1.5 1986, 1992
Bobby Winkles 79 3 1979-1981

The positive side of this story is related to the clear benefits received through a staff that has remained together over a very long time. Yet some see it as ideal with no downside to La Russa’s approach.

I disagree.

It has been years since the Cardinals organization has rewarded one of their minor league coaches with the visibility of a spot on the big league staff. Specifically, it hasn’t happened since Joe Pettini (front left, pictured with La Russa) joined in 2002. Technically, he had been minor league field coordinator since last coaching in the minors in 1996, La Russa’s first year in St. Louis.

When La Russa added a new position to his staff prior to last season, assistant hitting coach, he brought in one of his former Oakland players, Mike Aldrete, instead of promoting from within.

I have no way of knowing why La Russa adopted this approach, whether it is his legendary attention to detail, tenacity or something else, but I do see this as one area in his sure Hall of Fame career in which he has lagged behind.

Even when third base coach Jose Oquendo is given his managerial chance, it will not dramatically open up La Russa’s notoriously dry pipeline.


Bonus:
Following are the year-by-year details of La Russa’s 31 years of coaching staffs. The ages of the current coaches are noted in parentheses below. Those who were MLB managers at some point are in bold.

StL Pitching Bench 1B 3B Hitting Bullpen
2009 Dave Duncan (63) Joe Pettini (54) Dave McKay (59) Jose Oquendo (45) Hal McRae (63) Marty Mason (51)
2008 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Hal McRae Marty Mason
2007 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Hal McRae Marty Mason
2006 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Hal McRae Marty Mason
2005 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Hal McRae Marty Mason
2004 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Mitchell Page Marty Mason
2003 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Mitchell Page Marty Mason
2002 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Mitchell Page Marty Mason
2001 Dave Duncan Mark DeJohn Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Easler/Page Marty Mason
2000 Dave Duncan Mark DeJohn Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Mike Easler Marty Mason
1999 Dave Duncan Jose Oquendo Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Mike Easler Mark DeJohn
1998 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Dave Parker Mark DeJohn
1997 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Rene Lachemann George Hendrick Mark DeJohn
1996 Dave Duncan Ron Hassey Dave McKay Tommie Reynolds George Hendrick Mark DeJohn
Oak
1995 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Tommie Reynolds Jim Lefebvre Art Kusyner
1994 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Tommie Reynolds Jim Lefebvre Art Kusyner
1993 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Tommie Reynolds Greg Luzinski Art Kusyner
1992 Dave Duncan Tommie Reynolds Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Doug Rader Art Kusyner
1991 Dave Duncan Tommie Reynolds Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Rick Burleson Art Kusyner
1990 Dave Duncan Tommie Reynolds Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Merv Rettenmund Art Kusyner
1989 Dave Duncan Tommie Reynolds Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Merv Rettenmund Art Kusyner
1988 Dave Duncan Bob Watson Rene Lachemann Jim Lefebvre Jim Lefebvre Mike Paul
1987 Dave Duncan Joe Rudi Rene Lachemann Jim Lefebvre Bob Watson Mike Paul
1986 Dave Duncan Bob Didier Dave McKay Ron Plaza/Joe Rudi Bob Watson Jeff Newman
ChW
1986# Dave Duncan Ed Brinkman Doug Rader Joe Nossek Art Kusyner
1985 Dave Duncan Ed Brinkman Mike Lum Jim Leyland Joe Nossek Art Kusyner
1984 Dave Duncan Ed Brinkman Dave Nelson Jim Leyland Joe Nossek Art Kusyner
1983 Dave Duncan E. Brinkman/L. Babe Dave Nelson Jim Leyland Charlie Lau Art Kusyner
1982 R. Schueler/K. Silvestri Dave Nelson Jim Leyland Charlie Lau Art Kusyner
1981 Ron Schueler Dave Nelson Vada Pinson Bobby Winkles Art Kusyner
1980 Ron Schueler Loren Babe Orlando Cepeda Minnie Minoso Bobby Winkles Art Kusyner
1979 Fred Martin Joe Sparks Bobby Winkles

* I said “at least” because I relied on Retrosheet data for the identities of La Russa’s staffs in Oakland and Chicago and that information was not always labeled clearly, especially when changes were made during the season. Also as a result, the coaching roles in the 1980’s and late 1970’s may not be completely accurate, though I have no reason to believe the names are not.

# Two additional coaches in 1986 were hired (and later reassigned out) by then-Chicago White Sox GM Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Moe Drabowsky and Willie Horton.

One Response to “La Russa’s coaching legacy: Part two”

  1. [...] few years back, I did a detailed two-part analysis of those who had coached under La Russa back to his start in Chicago in 1979, noting how few of [...]

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