Mets

Hartnett: La Russa Is Sucking The Fun Out Of The All-Star Game

La Russa Drops The Ball By Not Starting Dickey
Manager Tony La Russa  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Manager Tony La Russa (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

Only Tony La Russa could suck the fun out of the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.  By not starting knuckeballing phenomenon R.A. Dickey, La Russa is depriving the 83rd Major League All-Star game of one of its main attractions.

Fans nationwide were hoping to see Dickey’s knuckleball flutter and dance past some of the most dangerous hitters in the American League.  It would be genuinely intriguing to see Dickey matched-up against Josh Hamilton or David Ortiz, especially if Dickey’s knuckler can get a feared slugger to produce any ugly cut — or two.

I could imagine Ortiz swinging at air and chuckling back at Dickey.  That’s what the All-Star Game is meant to be.  Don’t let the “This One Counts” promoting deceive you.  It’s still an exhibition that isn’t meant to be overly serious.  Baseball fans want to see match-ups they don’t see every day.

At the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards, Randy Johnson knew that Phillies’ first baseman John Kruk feared facing him.  Johnson unleashed a maximum effort first pitch fastball that hit the backstop and gave Kruk a scare.  Kruk stepped back into the batter’s box sweating in fear with his heart palpitating.  He went on to take three ugly hacks en route to an embarrassing strikeout.

Up to that point in his career, I never saw Randy Johnson lose his game face or even crack a smile.  ‘The Big Unit’ couldn’t help but burst out laughing as he left the pitcher’s mound.

Who wouldn’t want to see Dickey go up against fire-balling American League starter Justin Verlander?  The knuckleballer against the flamethrower would’ve been a great way to kick-off the 2012 All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium.

Unfortunately, La Russa is probably the only manager who could have caused such controversy.

Dickey is a 12-1 starter with an ERA of 2.40.  National League starter Matt Cain is undoubtedly having a fine season, but his 9-3 record and 2.62 ERA isn’t on par with Dickey’s statistics.  In addition, Dickey’s 123 strikeouts are 5 more than the harder-throwing Cain.

Any way you slice it, Dickey’s numbers are superior to Cain.  Dickey’s 0.93 WHIP is best of all qualified National League starters.

More than that, Dickey’s story has captured the hearts of fans across the nation.  He’s come to symbolize an underdog Mets’ team that wasn’t expected to be anything better than cellar dwellers heading into the 2012 season.

La Russa will probably call upon Dickey for one relief inning to save All-Star catchers the embarrassment of a passed ball.  That’s the whole problem here.  La Russa is so focused on winning and making the 2012 All-Star Game his perfect farewell, that he’s killing the joy of the All-Star Game.

After winning the 2011 World Series, La Russa was given a moment to embrace the spotlight and walk away from the game in a moment of glory.  I would have applauded.  He was a genius in the dugout and a shoo-in Hall-of-Famer.

But he chose not to.  He could have humbly stepped aside and let current Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny manage the National League roster in Kansas City, but that’s not Tony La Russa’s style is it?

La Russa always has a way of making things about himself.  He angered Reds’ manager Dusty Baker by not selecting deserving All-Star candidates Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips because of a 2010 brawl with the Cardinals.

With an ERA of 2.39, Cueto has a better earned run average than All-Star starter Matt Cain.  His 10 wins are also one better than Cain.  Phillips already has 10 home runs and 48 RBIs at the All-Star break, unusually-good production for a second baseman.

Baker pointed out that the 2010 brawl between La Russa’s Cardinals and Baker’s Reds factored largely into La Russa’s decision to not bring Phillips and Cueto to Kansas City.

“Somebody always gets snubbed,” Baker said. “It just kind of looks bad that Johnny and Brandon were at the center of our skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of the Cardinals that aren’t there anymore are making some of the selections.”

La Russa’s response was typically ‘holier-than-thou.’  He spoke on The Dan Patrick Show last Thursday.

“I feel betrayed by him,” La Russa said. “Professionally is one thing, but that was personal. I’m really upset about it.  That was a knife in the back there that I don’t think I’ll forget.”

In his latest controversy, La Russa didn’t even place a phone call to inform Dickey that he was going with Cain to start the All-Star Game.

John Harper of the Daily News reported Monday afternoon that La Russa failed to inform Dickey of his decision.

@NYDNHarper: “Dickey diplomatic but made a point of saying he expected a call from LaRussa either way, and didn’t get one. Not thrilled about that. “

Unfortunately, La Russa has his tentacles all over the 83rd edition of baseball’s mid-summer classic — an event that isn’t supposed to be about the manager, but instead about putting on an entertaining exhibition for the fans.

Is La Russa killing the fun of the All-Star Game?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.