Tony La Russa guided the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series title and retired three days later. From managing. Not baseball.
La Russa won 2,728 games with the White Sox, A's and Cardinals, ranking third all-time behind Connie Mack and John McGraw. At 67, the Alamo, Calif., resident is open to a new career, so long as he keeps his gig with his beloved Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Q: What are your plans now?
A: I'm hoping and guessing I'll stay in baseball some way. You'd like to help a club try to compete and pursue the dream, a chance to play in October and win a championship. That's the best dream going. People think I'm kidding, but I'd also love to go into business and wouldn't hesitate to open a bookstore.
Q: What about a front-office job with the A's or Giants?
A: I signed with the A's and managed the A's. I've been in the National League, so we played a lot in San Francisco, and the Giants have been outstanding to me over the years, particularly with ARF-related requests. I'd like to find a club where there's a fit, and I don't know if the A's or Giants need any help that I would provide. Both are very solid.
Q: What was your best team?
A: It depends on what you mean by "best." If you're talking "most talented," the '89 A's. That group could play against anybody, anytime. But "team" means 25 guys, even 35 guys, over a season committed to doing their best. We had several in Chicago -- '83 was special -- and Oakland, and we had a nice run in St. Louis. I appreciated all of those. But as far as a pure baseball team, the '89 A's. I didn't manage that club. I just pushed buttons. Told them what time the game started and moved aside.
Q: Your take on the "Moneyball" movie?
A: It might've been entertaining some. But if you're trying to get some credibility on how the A's won 20 in a row and went to the playoffs, the movie says it's because (Scott) Hatteberg moved to first base and a couple of trades. No, they won because of three great starting pitchers (Tim Hudson, Mike Mulder and Barry Zito) and two franchise players, (Eric) Chavez and (Miguel) Tejada. The movie doesn't show that. It does the opposite. It disparages scouts and player-development guys, and the Philip Seymour Hoffman character doesn't represent Art Howe. It's a nice story, but not accurate.
Q: Your successor in St. Louis, Mike Matheny, announced his staff, and it includes Mark McGwire as hitting coach. You brought him back to the game, defended him and took some heat for it.
A: I feel terrific for Mark. A lot of people thought I was being friendly bringing him in last year. It had nothing to do with it. I just know he's got a coaching gift and passion. I'm happy for him. He did a great job. They wanted him back.
Q: Any regrets? You were the manager for Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire in the steroid era ...
A: The discussion of steroids almost completely disregarded the effect of creatine, which isn't a banned substance. In those early days, when you saw guys getting bigger and stronger, a lot had to do with creatine. No doubt at some point steroids were in use. You need to track the introduction to creatine -- the use of it and the belief by teams, front-office people and managers that it was and still is an important factor for some of the strength.
Q: What would you change if you were commissioner for a day?
A: You can't have two sets of rules for one major league. I would say no to the DH. I remember Sparky (Anderson), a great mentor, telling me I'd enjoy managing in the National League. It's a different brand of baseball. He was right. I enjoyed the National League, St. Louis especially.