Pretend time machines are real. And pretend that you and I happen to jump into one and head back to 2006, particularly the week after the regular season ended. As irritated as you get with reporters, I’m sure you remember it … they were particularly brutal that year. The Cardinals (after losing nine of the last 12 games) won the division, but were called the worst team to ever make the playoffs. You then successfully led them to the NL pennant and, oh yeah, a World Series title.
Worst team to win or not, you won. They won. And Cardinal Nation won. Because that’s what St. Louis Cardinals do — win. Or at the very least play for nothing less.
Back outside the imaginary time machine, let’s look at today. Particularly the part of today that I watched a video of you walking out of a post-game press conference because the reporters got under your skin, simply by asking (yes, multiple times) why the first week of this season is eerily similar to most of last season. And even more particularly to the part where you said, essentially, that last year wasn’t so bad. We should be happy with finishing second in the division.
Pardon me, but since when is the Cardinal organization — much less Cardinal Nation — satisfied with second best?
Since when are you — a world class manager — comfortable with a 2-4 start, yes, even in the first week of the season?
Since when is it not acceptable for reporters to ask the questions we all would love to have answers to?
No, I’m not asking you to panic. We’re six games into a 162-game season. Things can, and most likely will, change. But still, a winning team needs an indescribable, insatiable determination to win, starting with the one calling the shots (hint: that’s you!).
In the last week or so, I watched a college basketball team from Virginia do something no one imagined they could do. No one, that is, but their coach, and consequently, the players. And guess what? They made it from the First Four to the Final Four, taking out teams predicted to compete for the national title along the way.
Then, I watched (with far more personal interest, I might add!) a Cardinals game that started out under control. But then Jake Westbrook got into trouble, and walked in a run.
Jason Motte came in and walked in another run — on four pitches, three of which could have gone either way.
Then, I saw you, standing stoically. Saying nothing. Not even flinching. Just watching as a 3-3 game turned into a 9-3 game.
What’s my point, you ask? Simple. I wanted to see something, anything that let me know you at least cared. That you were the slightest bit frustrated. Or that, as Shaka Smart proved last week, your determination to win could ignite your team with a power capable of overcoming all odds.
I wanted to see the Tony La Russa who not only knows how to win, but is determined to do so. I wanted the Tony La Russa who understands that he may, in fact, be the Most Valuable Person for the team this season.
But … I got nothing.
Here’s the thing, Tony. We’ve got a great team here. You’re playing in the best baseball city in America, with the best fans a guy could ask for. Is it too much to ask that you at least act like you believe that?
I’ve spent a lot of time defending you in the past. I believe you are a fantastic baseball manager. And right now, I’d really like you to prove me right.
This season depends on it.
Follow Tara Wellman on Twitter, @tarawellman