Post Game Thread: The Rasmus-LaRussa Connection

After another uninspiring game from the Cardinals, we're treated with this quote from Tony La Russa regarding Colby Rasmus who was unexpectedly benched minutes prior to game time:

"He's had all the work," La Russa said. "He's never backed off the work, taking batting practice. I think it all has to do with what his concentration is, and what his focus is. I do believe that, you just watch his swings in batting practice and in the game, I think he is convinced that he helps us more if he just yanks the ball out of the park. That normally is not the case, because you're limiting yourself to a side of the park and you're vulnerable to too many pitches. We really push, 'Just play the game.' That's what Jon [Jay] does. He plays the game. take a single, take a walk, let the home runs come."

I just wanted to take a minute and try and have some kind of more sober analysis of the quote. My initial reaction to this was intensely visceral dislike. Colby Rasmus has been an extremely important component of the club this year and is by virtually any advanced statistical measure, the third best position player on the team. Jon Jay has been quite good to date and he's also been lucky. But there's just not a lot of evidence or opinion that Jay is the better player.

This quote almost certainly isn't based on Fangraphs wOBA or another set of numbers.  It's about a feel for the game and La Russa is of the opinion that Jon Jay exceeds Colby in that area. Let's say for a moment that that is true. Jon Jay can do all the little things right. He can hit to all fields. He's willing to "take what he's given" be it a single or a walk or a home run. Let's just accept that premise as 100% accurate. Does it matter? It's an argument that seems to advocate for players who have a varied set of skills rather than a good set of skills. Is there evidence that we should prefer that kind of player?

I'm inclined to say no. Looking at the totality of a player's contributions and capabilities, it seems patently absurd to ignore the things that Colby is really good at in order for him to correct flaws that haven't, as far as I can tell, seriously inhibited his game to date.  There's good evidence that shows Colby is, predominantly, a pull hitter. So is Chase Utley. Would anyone argue that he needs to work on hitting the ball to all fields?

So let me try and move past this a little more. Maybe Colby is really even better than what we've seen to date and TLR knows that and thinks the only way for him to understand that is to get a little extra time off to relax. Colby needs more time to process the instruction he's received (and La Russa does praise his work ethic) in order to achieve the potential that's there.  Ignore the stats; ignore the idea that baseball is a collection of independent events rather than a complex mental game. Does Tony's statement become more palatable there?

For me, the answer is no. I'd even go so far as to say that we've been cleverly distracted by the issue at hand. This is not a Jon Jay versus Colby Rasmus argument. The answer is BOTH. They should both be playing. Instead, we see Colby Rasmus benched in favor of . . . Skip Schumaker? Aaron Miles? I can't see a valid reason why you can't play Jon Jay and Colby Rasmus at the same time.  Wasn't that the point made when Ryan Ludwick was traded?  So Tony is pulling a bait and switch when he draws the Jon Jay comparison. Don't accept it -- it's not the crux of the decision.

So l find myself in a situation where I can accept that, yes, perhaps Jon Jay is more "consistent" than Colby.  I don't find that to be mutually exclusive with the idea that Rasmus is still the better player. But none of this offers me a good explanation as to why Colby Rasmus was pulled moments before the game started on Sunday afternoon.

While I don't consider myself to be a conspiracy theorist, there's just too much to this ongoing saga between Rasmus and La Russa that seems difficult to rationally explain away. If this was an isolated incident, I'd be more inclined to let it go. Instead, it has the feeling of something more distressing. It's starting to feel like the Dave Duncan and Anthony Reyes rift of a few years ago. (I'm hesitant to even mention that situation give the outcome.)

I sincerely hope I'm wrong about this. The "#intrigue" hastags and tweets from Bernie like:

I have no idea what's going on between La Russa and Rasmus, but this is very strange, and it must end.

do little to assuage my concern over the relationship between Colby and Tony. It increasingly difficult for me to set aside these suspicions as the circumstantial evidence and hearsay continues to accumulate. Colby Rasmus is the best product of the minor league system in the last 5 years outside of Adam Wainwright. He's vitally important to the teams' financial health and ability to win during the next 4-6 years.  If, and I don't know for a fact that there is, but if there is a disconnect between Colby Rasmus and Tony La Russa, it' needs to be fixed. It needs to be mended. It's simply crucial to all parties involved with the organization that those two find a way to cohabitate that includes Rasmus being on the field as often as possible.

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