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Payback for Tony?

Not that this is any great proclamation, but the Cardinals are going to be awfully tough to beat at this point. I mean, even the elements are on their side. A slip by Curtis Granderson in center field and a double by David Eckstein that’s an out if its six inches to the left were the two key moments in St. Louis’ 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series. Stuff like that happens, and a team starts to get the feeling of destiny, and that makes them even better than they normally would be. Picture the 1988 Dodgers.

Anyway, you watch these two plays take place on television, as I did, and you see how excited Tony La Russa is in the dugout. It’s as if his pure desire to win briefly blocks out the intensity La Russa usually exudes. It’s a great look. And you can’t really begrudge a La Russa-managed team that luck, because the truth is, La Russa has dealt with more than his share of buzzard’s luck.

In 1988, his A’s club ran into Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson, but they also were victimized by the likes of Mickey Hatcher, Mike Davis, Tim Leary and so many other average players who played above their abilities as the team’s luck crescendoed. Everybody remembers that.

But nobody remembers the Game 2 loss in 1990 against the Reds, when Billy Bates’ grounder off Dennis Eckersley kicked up chalk and won it for Cincinnati in extra innings. There was the Roberto Alomar home run in 1992 (also off Eckersley), the blown 3-1 lead in his first NLCS trip as the Cards manager, and a whole share of early-round losses. He’s taken his lumps from folks who have said he can’t manage in the postseason.

Well, guess what! La Russa is on the verge of joining Sparky Anderson as only the second manager ever to win a World Series in the American and National leagues. He has adjusted his managing style at times, stuck with his original guns at others, and now is getting a healthy dose of luck. Which is what he should get because luck is the result of relentless attack, and if nothing else defines a club managed by La Russa, it’s that club’s ability to go relentlessly day in and day out.

Looks like after all these years, it will finally get the reward it deserves.

Joe Stiglich