Inspired by the Yunel Escobar trade, I cobbled up the Bobby Cox All-Stars, a lineup of the best single-season performances that Cox has received at each position over the course of his 30-year managerial career. Due to a massive storm of requests–well, one guy, but I assume he stands for an army of millions–we now move on to LaRussa's best, culled from 33 seasons of managing. As with Cox, LaRussa's latest is for the most part his best–I couldn't find a place for early players like Chet Lemon 1980 or Harold Baines 1984. Those guys were very good, but didn't tower over their leagues the way some of Tony's later, possibly jet-fueled, hitters.
Once again, the format is borrowed from Bill James' The Bill James Guide to Managers, which contains several of these "teams" for various historical managers. I've mostly relied on offensive measures to rank players, but did consult WARP, which does include defense, in the case of two similar players. I needed to do that here far more than with Cox; LaRussa has had so many good performances (everywhere except second base) that I had to add a DH and still didn't have room for everyone:
I've got notes again:
- As with Cox, this ranking is premature given that LaRussa doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
- LaMarr Hoyt won a Cy Young for LaRussa in 1983. He wasn’t even the best pitcher on his own team (that was Richard Dotson). LaRussa’s best White Sox starting pitcher was Britt Burns in 1980 (7.1 SNLVAR). His best Sox reliever was Bob James in 1985 (5.9 WXRL).
- Bob Welch’s 27-win season of 1990 was a 5.3 SNLVAR. Despite his Cy Young, he wasn’t the best pitcher on the team either. Dave Stewart was not only better, he was one of the five best starters LaRussa has had.
- Albert Pujols was, at least on an offensive basis, also LaRussa’s best third baseman and left fielder. I opted to list him only once. You can decide which year and which position I should have picked; the one I went with seemed the best choice, but there are no bad Pujols years.
- It didn’t seem right to have Mark McGwire eliminate Pujols, or have him force Pujols to a position at which he played only transiently, so I added a DH.
- Second base could have gone to Delino DeShields 1997 (.295/.347/448), but since his TAv of .283 was equal to Bordick’s, I decided to give the benefit of the doubt to the player I felt was the better defender.
- At 5.2 SNLVAR this year, Adam Wainwright seems likely to displace himself on the starting pitcher’s list. Chris Carpenter would have gotten another season if I allowed more than one from a player.
- How good was Rickey Henderson in 1990? Almost as good as Pujols and McGwire, that's how good, and WARP says he was better–Pujols '08 rates 11.1, McGwire '98 9.4, but Rickey is a golden 12.